Archives for the month of: October, 2011

A gogoșar is like a bell pepper except that it is short, stout, and thick. It is about half the height of a bell pepper, and 3 or 4 times the thickness. They are also a little sweeter. I prefer them to bell peppers, and this sauce L makes is absolutely delicious. They are harvested in September, so that’s when she makes and conserves this sauce for the winter. It goes great as a dip for breads or even over a pasta.

Ingredients
5 kg (25-30) gogoșari
1/2 kg (7-8 medium) onions
400 grams oil
200 grams honey or sugar
200 grams vinegar
5-6 bay leaves, ripped
10 grams peppercorn
*Salt to taste
15 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bunch of celery leaves, washed, and chopped

Chop the onions, garlic and celery leaves. Wash, clean and slice the gogoșari. Saute the onions in the oil until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the honey or sugar, bay leaves, and peppercorns. *If you are conserving for the winter, add salt without iodine. If it’s just for a meal, regular iodized salt is fine. Add the vinegar and turn the heat low. When it starts to boil, add the garlic and more salt if needed. Add the gogoșari and mix. Put the cap on the pot and turn the heat up to high. Let it boil for about an hour. Just before you put it in jars, add the celery leaves.

Pofta Bună!

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The middle of July may just be the best time to visit Moldova because the fields and fields of sunflowers are in full bloom all over the country. A lot of people grown sunflowers to make sunflower oil, and it makes for a nice rotation crop with corn. It’s easy, hassle-free, and cheap. You can get a pack of sunflower seeds here for 2 lei (17 cents). You can get a liter of sunflower oil at the market for about 20 lei ($1.70). They also make halva, which is basically a block of crushed up sunflower seeds with sugar. I don’t like any of those things, but I do love sunflowers, so it’s one of my favorite times of the year in Moldova.

The sunflowers quickly dry up. The picture below was taken in the middle of August.

And a month later, the middle of September, it’s time for the harvest. This is what approximately one hectare (1 square kilometer) of sunflowers gives you.

So obviously you start by chopping off its head. And I’m still not interested in watching that, so I don’t have pictures of it. Then you dunk the body in a pot of hot water. Pull it out and start defeathering. Once you have the feathers out, torch it to singe the rest of the feathers you missed. Wash it well, the feet and head, and everything. Cut off the legs at the knee. Cut the little claw nails off and discard. Put the feet in a clean bowl. Cut the wings off the body and the tips off the wings (two tips per wing). Turn the chicken on its back and cut the thighs off of the body. Cut these pieces in half at the joint. Now you have just the body. Cut down the body and discard all the things you don’t want to use. L uses just about everything. Once you have all your pieces in a bowl, rinse them with water several times. Now they’re ready to use. It’s a little more detailed than this, but I think you get the idea. Pofta Bună!

Our village library is a humble little two-room get-up located in the casa de cultură (community center). The library is busiest when school is in session and from the hours of 1-3, when the students make their way over there to find information from 30 year old books. Just kidding… kind of. There are no computers. L has been the village librarian for 35 years, so this summer I went over there to snap a few shots and officially fill out my very own library card.

Last week my program manager asked me to write up a short summary of a project that my partner organization completed throughout this spring, summer and fall; so I thought I would throw it up here on the blog as well with a few small changes.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union Moldova’s small rural farmers have struggled to develop profitable agricultural operations with the limited amount of land available to each farmer.  There continues to be a great need for farmers to work together with pooled resources and knowledge in order to create agricultural enterprises that can support rural communities, achieve economies of scale, and compete for international demand.  Approximately 5 years ago in our village–a community of 2500 people close to the Moldova-Romania border–a group of 9 farmers came together to form a vegetable and table-grape growers cooperative.  Their goal was to produce and collectively market quality products.

Since forming the cooperative, the farmers have found it challenging to successfully put all the pieces of the production and sales processes together.  Three years ago they renovated a refrigerated storage unit and planted 6 hectares of new table-grape vineyards; however as time has progressed, the cooperative’s members realized that consistently producing the quality grapes expected by international markets is difficult. To help address this issue, the cooperative’s manager and I developed a plan to train local farmers on proper methods of vineyard care, procure equipment that would help produce quality grapes, use existing equipment more effectively, and sell the grapes at a more profitable time.  Our plan included holding several seminars throughout the summer with a national expert in growing and exporting table-grapes, purchasing a sprayer to help apply protective compounds (a euphemism for chemicals) to vineyards, preserving grapes in the cooperative’s refrigerator, selling the grapes later in the year when prices are higher, and achieving higher profits for all participating farmers.

Overall the project achieved many of its stated goals.  With the help of a $3000 grant from USAID (your tax dollars at work) the cooperative manager, Victor, and other cooperative members purchased the sprayer shown below.  Shortly thereafter the cooperative held its first seminar which was attended by approximately 25 farmers from our village and a neighboring village.  After several more seminars and caring for the vineyards all spring and summer, the results have been a great harvest of beautiful and marketable table grapes.  Unfortunately most of the grapes have already been sold, while only a small quantity were actually stored until prices are higher.  The most notable success has been with the ‘Moldova’ grape variety which has yielded approximately 20 metric tons per hectare as compared the 2008 and 2009 district averages of 4.2 and 11.7 tons reported by www.statistica.md.  Although all of the grapes have not yet been sold, it is clear that the additional costs incurred to better care for and protect vineyards will easily be offset by increased revenue from higher yields and higher quality products, the ultimatel result being higher profit.

Vasile from the “Grape Growers and Exporters Association of Moldova” leading a seminar on how to properly care for vineyards.

Two of the early table grape varieties (Codreanca and Arcadia) just after being harvested in early September.

What an average bunch of Moldova variety grapes look like when NOT properly cared for.

What Moldova variety grapes look like when properly cared for.

Adolescent girls aren’t just “Future Women”. They’re girls, and they deserve their own category.

If you’re not familiar with The Girl Effect, it’s a movement to empower girls in developing countries to actually live the life of a girl. A girl who goes to school. A girl who waits until she is ready to be married and have babies. A girl who takes control of her own life.

Being the youngest of five children, I can remember being so excited to experience the life stages I saw my older siblings experiencing. I remember watching my beautiful oldest sister getting ready for dates in high school and wishing I was old enough to wear shoulder pads and high heels. I remember my brothers bringing over their prom dates wearing puffy teal and light pink dresses with color-coordinating shoes. I wondered if my future date to the prom would be as perfect as my two brothers. I had such a great childhood, and I looked forward to the future because I knew my future was up to me. I was a girl for a lot of years. I only became a woman when I was ready.

  • One in seven girls in developing countries marries before the age of 15.

  • One-quarter to one-half of girls in developing countries become mothers before the age of 18

  •  14 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth in developing countries each year.

  • Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.

What was I doing from ages 15-18? I was in school. I was playing sports. I was healthy. I was applying to colleges. It was finally my turn to go to prom and wear the high heels. (Thankfully shoulder pads had gone out of style by that point.) What were you doing at age 15?

Check out how you can get involved here, here, and here.

Support the 2011 Girl Effect Blogging Campaign by writing your own blog post during the week of October 4-11.