Eating the Rain Forest

Whenever I travel through Costa Rica because I´m guiding a several days Natural History tour, or because I´m taking a care of a shore excursion in Puerto Limón or Puntarenas, I keep on getting amazed by the beauty of my country; such a big variety of landscapes in a short travelling distance, the extreme biodiversity inside every forest you visit, the never ending new forms of Life I discover almost every time I walk through any ecosystem.

I must add I feel great once I start to realize I know how to identify plants and some other forms of life, I may actually be able to survive some time if I ever get lost in the rainforest by eating fruits and other parts of some plants, I also know –and this is very important- which genus of plants definitely avoid trying to eat, because they tend to be poisonous.

Fruits belonging to the Melastomataceae family are all edible in Costa Rica (the ones I´ve seen not edible is because they are not fleshy but woody fruits).

The heart of stems of Cyclanthea carludovica are edible, the floating bulbs of Eichornia crassipes, the fruits of Calatola costarricensis, stems of Begonia are actually good flavored, (peel off the skin) mostly all Passifloraceae fruits (one or two are mildly narcotic), the tender inner parts of petals in Hibiscus are actually good tasting because they usually have a drop of nectar, while the rest of petal is also edible but flavorless. Quararibea asterolepis also yields edible and a bit tasty fruits, many of the Ingas will yield also good tasting edible fruits, a tiny plant (Oxalis) wrongly known as clover in Costa Rica (it´s very similar) is completely edible and good tasting, I should also recommend the sometimes very good tasting Costus, (peel off the skin) but you should know is a very efficient diuretic. My recommendation: don´t fool around with any Solanaceae, because many of them are poisonous, but it´s interesting to know that Winteringia cocoloboides yields tiny fruits you may eat and actually protect your stomach from getting sick. Almost all heart of palms are edible, but some are huge, so without a machete it´s impossible to turn it down to eat the heart, plus it’s a very exhausting job, but there are plenty of dwarf palms that are easy to get like the following genus: Geonomas, Chamadoreas, or you may get young Welfias (very good taste), young Euterpes (this is known as the best) and young Iriarteas (very good taste). There are some more.

Confused by so many scientific names? So come and visit us in the rainforest, let us show you the same you read but real, and we may skip Latin names.

Javier Martín

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