“It’s all food!” Ana exclaims as we overlook the acres of forest that surrounds us.
Chickens cluck at our feet and the farm dog chases them back into their coops. We walk paths lined with berry-adorned katuk, a green even more nutritiously dense than spinach, and nibble on the nutty leaves like goats. Trees boast heavy papayas and fiber rich yucca protrude from the soil. Ana gathers bright purple hibiscus leaves and white ginger flowers and places them in a basket. “For our lunch,” she smiles.
The path weaves through rows of chili peppers, tomatoes, and fresh herbs until we arrive at the bungalows where students of the Permaculture school reside. Ana explains how the bungalows are built in the traditional indigenous method from locally sourced bamboo. Aesthetically they appear clean, simple, and beautiful; harmonious with the abundant jungle that surrounds them.
Adjacent restrooms boast hot water showers with better water pressure than most of the hotels in nearby Puerto Viejo. Yet the water isn’t heated by electrical wires or gas tanks, but by the energy created from compost in a bio-digester. I shake my head in disbelief.
We make our way back to the kitchen where Ian, Ana’s husband and co-founder of their farm project Finca Tierra, sits with the Permaculture students advising them on their designs. In the course they consider how to build sustainable infrastructures employing local resources, rainwater catchment, food forestry, and renewable energies. They turn first to the cues that nature already provides.
Ana and I unload our basket of treasures from the forest and perfume the air with fresh ginger, turmeric, and wild cilantro. I chop the aromatics while Ana makes coconut milk from scratch.
While we let the curry simmer, Ana and Ian explain their ingenious processes in creating entirely sustainable air conditioning and refrigeration for a fraction of what most businesses spend on conventional methods. Ian demonstrates how he creates fertile soil by mixing his own activated charcoal in with the preexisting infertile clay. Apparently this process creates a rich topsoil that will continue to proliferate for generations. I sit in their beautiful gourmet kitchen sipping homemade lemonade and reconsider my belief that first world comforts come at the cost of the environment.
When lunch is ready we sit at the large live edge wood table in the garden and dine on a superfood salad of wild greens and berries and devour our fresh vegetable curry. One of the Permaculture students approaches me and offers chocolate that he made earlier that day from local organic cacao, coconut oil, and raw honey. Forget farm to table, this is earth to mouth.
The time comes for me to make my way down the hill into Puerto Viejo. I look back at the table where my new friends sit chatting and smiling, drinking fresh lemongrass tea. One afternoon spent at Finca Tierra and I feel even more hopeful about the future for mankind.
Caribbean Jungle Curry
2 tbls fresh minced ginger
1 tbls fresh minced turmeric
1 chopped habanero pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
1 diced yellow onion
1 tbls raw organic coconut oil
any veggies you want (peppers, sweet potato, broccoli, zucchini, and pumpkin are my faves)
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (use one can of organic BPA free or see my recipe for fresh coconut milk)
pink himalayan sea salt (or other high quality salt)
Heat the coconut oil over medium heat and saute the ginger, turmeric, onions, habanero pepper, and garlic until soft and the smell fills the room. Stir in the coconut milk and let it come to a low boil. Add whatever veggies you want in the order that they take to cook. When I use pumpkin or sweet potato I usually steam them first before adding them. Season with salt. Let simmer for about twenty minutes or as long as necessary to cook the veggies. Stir in fresh chopped cilantro at the very end.
When ready to serve, spoon it over quinoa or have it in a big bowl like a soup. I love it with my Plantain Ceviche.
Dice one sweet, ripe plantain and stir with minced red onion, minced red bell pepper, lime juice, salt, and cilantro. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour to marinate.