Re: seed,rice,fruit drying, also neem

>>I saw an interesting posting a while ago that gave a contact in Vietnam for
a small-scale rice drying/storage container and for a fruit drying
technology in Germany.  I lost the posting.  Can anyone help?

>>We have a 20-acre farm in central Thailand and we want to promote cash crop
alternatives among our neighbors to try to stop the growth of sugar cane
cultivation.  People used to grow bananas for drying but the best banana
season coincides with the worst drying weather and I guess they got tired
of watching the bananas rot.  If we can find a cheap way to dry bananas
while its raining every other day, it could tip the economics back in favor
of dry-land banana cultivation.<<

///You would need some sort of fuel to dry the bananas, e.g. ethanol from
sugar cane.  Any good dryer design could be adapted.  Frankly, I don't think
it is a good idea to covert food or food-producing lands to fuel.  I suggest
developing products with fermented banana.  Possibly a fermeted desert or a
drink. Or looking at crops that can be held without rotting.  (Dried banana
isn't that good anyway, in my opinion.  Now dried Mango, that's terrific.)///

>>The banana variety in question requires no inputs of any kind; people
traditionally used scythes to keep down the brush around the banana trees.
We would like to find an intercrop planting that would eliminate this part
of the hard manual labor involved and improve soil fertility/biodiversity.<<

///Have you tried pigeon (pidgen) pea?  What about water spinach to  cover
the brush? Would you want to use the woody weeds as fuel for a dryer?  Then
they would be an asset. ///

>>>Since mangoes naturally ripen during the hottest dryest part of the year,
we are also interested in a good technology for drying mangoes.  Trader
Joe's has the most delicious natural dried mangoes I've every tasted;
anyone know how it's done?<<<

///Slide the mangoes into strips of no more than 1/4 inch (5 mm) and dry on
stainless or plastic screen (galvanized reacts with fruit acids), such as
mosquito netting, in any good drier.  Heat rocks in the drier or around the
cook stove to continue drying at night.  This helps avoid mold.  It also
helps to insulate the dryer at night being careful to allow a small amount of
air to flow through the vents.  Some people add cane sugar to the mango, but
this is entirely unessary for a delightful desert.  I've got a bag of dired
mango in the kitchen right now.  I think I'll stop typing and go eat some!///

>>>The other crop we are considering is neem (margosa).  The leaves are eaten
as a vegetable (talk about bitter!), and the wood seems to be gaining favor
in Thailand as an insect resistant pole crop.  I've heard of using the oild
from the seeds as an insecticide, machine oil, and soap/cosmetic additive,
and would like to learn more.<<

///Neem yields of seed, which is its most valuable crop in commerce, are low
where rainfall is high.  I've not investigated whether there are strains from
wet places that produce seed in wet conditions.  The leaves are useful to
make a tea that can be a mild insecticide for local consumption.  The use of
neem leaves as a vegetable is new to me.  Maybe it would help control some
kinds of internal parasites.  I seem to remember something in Echo
Development Notes about that. A great deal has been written about neem in the
last 10 years and if you can get to a good library, or access one on the
internet, you should be able to get far more information than you want to

///An Indian friend tells me that his people plant Neem at the heads of
springs to protect the water spirit and keep the water pure.  Apparently the
spirit of that spring lives in the neem tree.  I did not know at the time to
ask if these trees produce good seed crops, being so close to water.
 Possibly that is irrelevant in that circumstance.///

I recommend that you go the Echo web page at : http://www.xc.org/echo--echo
and look up their page on neem. If for some reason you are unable to find
more about neem, email me a request and I will give up to one hour of
research for you and your village.  However, please, please, please try
libraries and the net first as this will take me away from other, equally
important projects.

For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since
1982), Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and The Forest Ecosystem
Food Network.  P.O. Box 2052, Ocala FL 34478. 

"We don't have time to rush."