Grow-zomi

Live Dirty, Eat Clean

One morning a few weeks ago, the group at Punta Mona, the jungle Permaculture community at which I have been living, took a pre-dawn hike to see visit our neighbor Erlin and his dramatic sunrise lookout. Beautiful and dramatic it was!  He keeps horses, goats, chickens, ducks, and dogs on his cliff-side property where he grows his own food and other rare plants such as Indigo (where the ink comes from!).

Visiting Erlin at his home has made me think more about standards of wealth around the world and how skewed they can seem.  From any outsider’s point of view, this man is living the dream! Pristine property with a million dollar view—beautiful animals and an abundance of food. And yet as he explained, he is an expat of Honduras, where he left 40 years ago and still dreams of going home. This is not the type of wealth that he has. 

As Erlin delved into his beautiful theories on life, happiness and harmony between humans and the earth, I saw so much youth in his presence and existence.  Thanks to my innocent engagement and attentiveness, I slowly realized that he was hitting on me! But with such respect that I did not feel uncomfortable in the least and nodded my head in gratitude. 

Despite my limited ability to respond in Spanish, I felt a deep understanding of Erlin’s words. Wisdom does not only come from past experiences, but also from the willingness to listen to others, no matter what your age.  I politely declined his invitation for a formal relationship, but was happy to accept a platonic coconut refreshment. 

So these are some of my absolute faaaaavorite new fruits.

Dark orange one: Mamay-zapote, which tastes like a super sweet yam but has the consistency of avocado and grows right out of the trunk of the tree;

Yellow spikey one: biriba, which inside of its cute spikeyness has a goopy yogurt/soft-serve ice cream-like inside;

Little pink one: manzana de agua, which are crunchy, mostly tart little poppers, every so slightly sweet—they are what I would imagine fairies to snack on. 

Unfortunately, as these fruits are native to the Amazon and tropics, I don’t think I will be getting the chance to experience them elsewhere—but when in the jungle, make the best of what you’ve got! I actually blended up the Mamay-zapote with banana and froze it in our tiny jungle kitchen freezer for vegan ice cream!

Here are just a few shots of the lovely things that I have been given the opportunity to taste while living at Punta Mona. We were so lucky to have had a bountiful catch of Jackfish, as pictured, caught fresh off of the Punta Mona beach by one of the tenured employees, Adolfo—Don Adolfo! These fish have razor sharp fins all over and he was able to catch 14 of them with only a hook and line. We cooked these up really simply with only chili, garlic and garbanzo bean flour for some crunch!  Absolutely fantastic and doesn’t get fresher than that :)

A little brutal perhaps but this is life—fresh, live food straight from the source.  A moment of acknowledgement for every breath outside of my body that allows for me to take my next one. 

Lunchtiiiiime!!
I picked out this juicy crustacean from the net at a little beachside restaurant shack at Starfish Beach on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, Panama. I biked about 10 miles to get there through jungle road, and by the time we arrived, I felt the dish was well deserved!  It was a dream, followed by swimming with starfish in crystal clear waters—not bad for a days adventure. 

Although most US travelers to Costa Rica are automatically given a 90 day pass to explore the country, for some reason, immigration only wanted to give me 35 when I initially entered the country (8/20).  Annoyed by the fact that I would have to leave the country within that time to do a ‘visa run,’ it in fact was a blessing in disguise: I got the chance to travel to Panama and explore the area called Bocas del Toro! This is an archipelago in the northern area of Panama, very close to Costa Rica. 

From Punta Mona, the Permaculture education center in Costa Rica, at which I have been living, I walked along the beach for nearly an hour, and then took a 15 minute taxi ride to the immigration border.  Once into Panama it is required of anyone wanting to reenter CR to wait 72 hours.  I was accompanied by a few other volunteers, and we rode to the island of Bastimentos, part of Bocas del Toro. Bastimentos is known for its hidden beautiful beaches and slightly less ‘touristy’ atmosphere.

I felt a bit as if I had traveled back in time.  The Panamanians here speak Patua—a language that blends Spanish, English, and something in between. This tiny town is composed of a few restaurants, small delis, a school, a church, a few hotels for tourists, and the rest seemed to be simple, family homes.  It was quaint, quiet, and beautiful, although littering seems to be a major problem. Life here is slower, simpler and seemingly more carefree.  As movement and opportunity are unfortunately lacking, I do not wish to trade positions, however it was nice to take a peek into the lives of this island’s residents. 

After traveling around for a few weeks now, I have finally arrived at Punta Mona, a Permaculture center located on the Caribbean coast within hiking distance to the Panama border! I had contacted the organization before leaving the states as a potential place to reside and work for a while. I was greeted by the Co-Director and medicinal herbalist expert, Sarah Wu in Puerto Viejo, before taking a beautiful private boat ride around the cove and over to the otherwise remotely inaccessible center. 

What I have walked into is some sort of tropical paradise, and I have not yet even seen it all.  Punta Mona is a space for permaculture education and living with the land.  There are plants, animals and insects of every kind, cohabiting and thriving in this lush tropical land where as a human, I no longer feel as if I am at the top of the food chain.  In less than 24 hours now I have seen growing: plumeria, cacao, papaya, starfruit, cardamom, biriba, passionfruit, coconuts, at least a dozen salad greens, and have not yet even stepped foot in the edible forest garden.

 For those of you who are not familiar with the principles of permaculture, in a nutshell, it is a system of functional agriculture which mimics natural habitats, while also creating calculated zones of work for human oriented efficiency.  It employs many techniques to live comfortably with minimal compromising of Earth health.  Although it can look messy by conventional farming method’s point of view, in its essence it is a practice of care and nurture.  I have much to learn here.

Apparently home made Kimchi is like, the easiest thing to make—ever! And as a naturally fermented food, it has great health benefits and works great as a digestive aid.
If for some reason, you have an abundance of raw cabbage, or just want to make a delicious side dish that is also great for digestive health—try this recipe. I made it last week and after just 3 days you have pickles to last for weeks!

RAW VEGAN KIMCHI 
1 head of Cabbage (any color!)
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped or grated
1 teaspoon of red chili flakes (or more for more spice!)
1 tablespoon of salt


Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mash with a wooden spoon. 
Literally that’s it.
Mash until the cabbage begins to break down. It will settle under about a one inch layer of liquid produced from the cabbage mixture itself. 
Transfer to a mason jar or another container that can be sealed.
Leave in a cool, dry, dark place for 3 days.
ENJOYYYYYY!

Apparently home made Kimchi is like, the easiest thing to make—ever! And as a naturally fermented food, it has great health benefits and works great as a digestive aid.

If for some reason, you have an abundance of raw cabbage, or just want to make a delicious side dish that is also great for digestive health—try this recipe. I made it last week and after just 3 days you have pickles to last for weeks!

RAW VEGAN KIMCHI 

1 head of Cabbage (any color!)

1 clove of garlic, chopped

carrot, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped or grated

1 teaspoon of red chili flakes (or more for more spice!)

1 tablespoon of salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mash with a wooden spoon. 
Literally that’s it.
Mash until the cabbage begins to break down. It will settle under about a one inch layer of liquid produced from the cabbage mixture itself. 
Transfer to a mason jar or another container that can be sealed.
Leave in a cool, dry, dark place for 3 days.
ENJOYYYYYY!

Tonight, the universe gifted me with the perfect dining experience at Veronica’s in Puerto Viejo. I had found reviews both in my guidebook and online about a wonderful restaurant specializing in vegetarian, vegan and even raw foods, but when I followed the map, I ended up walking in circles with no Veronica’s in sight. Just as I was about to give up, I stumbled upon a sign pointing the way down a quiet street off the main drag.  Here was Veronica’s Homestay, and it is where Veronica and her husband have lived, raised a family and shared their love and knowledge of sustainable food for decades. 

I was warmly greeted and it was explained that although the restaurant I had found listed online had recently closed after 6 years of operation, their home kitchen operates as a family style dining experience offered any night of the week.  They also offer rooms for rent for individuals and for parties of up to 5! 

When I initially arrived, Veronica and one of the volunteers in her Permaculture garden program were in the kitchen preparing tonight’s dinner of vegetable coconut curry (of course with hand pressed coconut milk) over a delicious and local root vegetable that resembled the Taro potato, Caribbean style gallo pinto (rice and beans),  served with salad and fresh Cass juice (local citrus fruit). I was told to return a little after 6pm when dinner would be served.

After taking another dip in the Caribbean sea, I strolled back over and was given the divine opportunity to converse over dinner about Veronica’s philosophies around food, love and providing nourishment for those searching for something pure!  The food was perfect and the shared wisdom, so valuable. 

I even returned the next morning for family style breakfast of fresh fruits salad, banana porridge and home made tofu!  If you find yourself in the Puerto Viejo area, Veronica’s is a must!

http://veronicasplacepv.com/ 

Nothing beats some rich Carribean style cooking when in the tropics! My cousin Viviana, shared with me her recipe for a delicious dinner—we made it with Red Snapper, but try it with other white fish as well :)

Costa Rica Caribbe Style Rice and Beans with Red Snapper

Marinate the Snapper filets with roasted garlic, bomba (a Caribbean spice mix), curry powder, banana vinegar, olive oil, ground black pepper, salt

{For the Rice and Beans}

Mince: 1 onion

2 stalks of celery

A couple of cloves of garlic

And sautee in a fryingpan with 1 cup of cooked kidney beans

Add a dash of All Spice and ½ cup of water

Hot peppers can be added at this point to taste!

Add ½ cup of coconut milk* to the pan and a few sprigs of fresh Thyme

At this point, measure out 2 cups of rice and and add it to the pan

Followed by 4 cups of coconut milk

Cover and simmer until the rice is cooked through

{For the Fish}

Chop and Sautee: 1 onion, 3 stalks of celery, 2 carrots, 1 bell pepper, 1 cup of cauliflower

Add 1 medium sized tomato, chopped, along with a few sprigs of fresh thyme and hot peppers to taste!

Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally

Sautee the marinated Snapper filets in olive oil and ¼ cup of coconut milk until mostly cooked

Add the sauteed vegetable mix on top of the fish filets and cook over low heat 3 min.


*coconut milk is best when freshly made, however, you can buy it in most groceriy stores in a can—go for organic when possible! There are lower fat versions of coconut milk too

Now this is what I call farm to table, SLOWW food.  I visited Gaia Aguas Termales, an area developed by Silvio Bonomelli as a biointensive garden and thermal hotspring campsite.  It is located about an hour outside of San Jose, in the mountains between San Isidro General and Cartago.  Silvio has created a haven for himself and has worked with the land to grow coffee, and on a smaller scale, vegetables for a line of incredible dehydrated ‘raw’ products.  

I spent a few days camping here, helping out in the building sized dehydrator, which sources heat from the natural hot springs, and collecting my own vegetables from the garden. The only cooking stove is wood burning, the process of preparing the days meals in this way has made me think about the luxury of a gas range stove!

Wild mushrooms, fairy princesses, enchanted forests and seemingly serendipitous traveling companions are a few of my favorite things. Thank you travel gods—there are many lessons I have yet to learn! (at Gaia Agua Termales)

Wild mushrooms, fairy princesses, enchanted forests and seemingly serendipitous traveling companions are a few of my favorite things. Thank you travel gods—there are many lessons I have yet to learn! (at Gaia Agua Termales)