Two weeks ago, I went on a full-day excursion organized by CEUTA, a Uruguayan NGO dedicated to promoting sustainable techniques within the area of agro-ecology, to visit ¨edible forests¨ east of Montevideo.
Unlike the majority of participants of the excursion, many of whom are currently enrolled in one of the educational programs of CEUTA and are learning how to grow their own organic vegetable garden or fruit orchards, I went on the tour with no previous knowledge at all. But the idea of a tour dedicated to learning about edible forests, autochthonous Uruguayan plants, new locations and people called my attention.
Our first stop wasÁrea Indigena, a private nature reserve approx. 85km east from Montevideo. The mission of the reserve is to protect native flora and fauna and to create general awareness regarding its preservation. The reserve consisting of 130 hectares is home to carpinchos (capybaras) and ñandues (rheas) and also has a ¨native plant nursery¨. Here you can find red and yellow arazá, guayabo, guaviyú or pitangas, native plants that I had never heard of before and many Uruguayans have forgotten about...
The guayabo tree (Acca sellowiana), for example, produces small green fruits with a sweet and sour tasting pulp.
¨Guayabos have more vitamin C than kiwis¨, says chef Laura Rosano when she shows us around her ¨chacra¨(=small farm) Ibirapitá. Laura is the coordinator of the slow-food movement in Uruguay and is one of the driving forces behind the intent to reintroduce native plants into the Uruguayan cuisine. At her place we enjoyed a delicious lunch with organic ingredients and new flavors thanks to the native fruits – everything was extremely tasty!
Afterwards, we headed to Isla Verde, a farm run by a German family who grow fruits and vegetables using permaculture principles. I was very impressed by their project and the variety of fruits they are planting – they even grow bananas, papayas and other tropical fruit that I thought would never grow in Uruguay´s temperate climate. The excursion ended with an amazing dinner at Isla Verde.
Soon you will find similar eco tourism and educational tourism options on my website! :)