As apprentices at Rancho Mastatal, we take on a Plant Skill, where we each are responsible for a plant variety in our agroforestry system. When we began as apprentices many of us wanted to avoid the Salak palm, as it has splinter inducing spikes throughout the stem and leaves. Following my intention to dive into challenges this year, I decided to take being caretaker of the prickliest palm on the Ranch.
Living in the tropics I found myself surrounded by cocoa trees, which was something you’d dream about as a kid. “Chocolate trees” But like so many things we’re used to consuming we don’t have the knowledge of how to process a raw material into something we can use, within the society we live convenience has removed us from the source. A simple act of making something gives us a connection to our environment.
The need to cultivate a “living soil” that is full of microbes is something I hear frequently in the organic farming and permaculture world. As an apprentice at Rancho Mastatal this year, I have the unique opportunity to look further into the universe of these small and unseen allies. A way into this world was through the Ranch’s process of making organic fertilizer, one that harvests and inoculates the soil with Mountain Microorganisms (MM). This is similar to compost tea, where we create a fermented fertilizer with microorganisms such as manure.
DISCLAIMER: These are my thoughts and experiences on what can be a deeply cultural, charged and personal topic: diet. There is a lot we don’t know, especially when it comes to what a sustainable diet is. For one, most studies have been centred in high-income Western countries (Jones et al., 2016); it’s also still largely unclear exactly what a “healthy diet” should consist of, nevertheless what a truly sustainable society would look like. Integrating all of these concepts is an enormous challenge.
Ever have a challenging time finding your favorite plant in Costa Rica? Or wonder where to get supplies for a new greenhouse? What about organic pesticides? After nearly a decade working in country, our team has compiled a comprehensive list of nurseries, seed banks, botanical gardens, and farm/garden suppliers.
This article was originally published at the Porvenir Design blog.
Salak palm or snake fruit (Salacca edulis or Salacca zalacca) is a high value understory species for tropical agroforestry plantings. Salak palm is native to southeast Asia, where it is commercially cultivated in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Java, in their wet tropical lowland climates. At higher elevations the "Bali" variety can be grown. It produces a delicious fruit, eaten out of hand, with a taste similar to strawberry with an apple-like texture. The fruit transports well and can be stored at room temperature for a week with little degradation in quality.