Boom! Knowledge

Hey y’all! Life at La Iguana is chugging along just fine, thank you very much. I’ve passed the halfway mark (makes sad face)! At this point, I’ve accumulated enough photos and knowledge to write a post about how we’re so divorced from our food sources that we have no idea how real food looks or tastes. The following are a few examples of foodstuffs we grow and process by hand from the finca.


Before this trip, I had only ever encountered turmeric as a powdered spice that I usually skip in recipes, since I didn’t know what it did and didn’t want to spend $5 to find out. As it turns out, turmeric is a root vegetable. One root sprouts three or four finger-like offshoots, and when they’ve been harvested the smallest ones get stuck right back in the dirt to germinate again.

The rest of the turmeric gets a nice little scrub-a-dub-dub and the fingers get broken off into separate pieces, then sliced by volunteers who are too tuckered out to continue hauling gravel or digging trenches. When sliced, it looks a lot like someone wrapped a baby carrot in ginger root skin. It also stains like henna, so my fingertips (and my arms, from where I scratch my mosquito bites; and my laptop’s keyboard; and all our clothing) now boast varying shades of yellowish-orange.

01 turmeric

From here, the turmeric sun-dries on a tarp, and then gets dehydrated on a bed of netting stretched across a wooden frame, and covered with transparent plastic to protect it from the rain and magnify the sun. We hand grind it in the same grinder we use for the sun-roasted cacao beans, and generally one harvest produces enough of the spice for the Salazar family for a whole year. The powder also works great as an organic tie-dye, much to my excitement!


Did you know that cashew nuts look like this?

01 Cashew on Fruit

Did you know that when you spend several hours crawling through the underbrush, ripping cashew nuts off overripe and molding fruits on the orchard floor (FDA, please close your eyes and ears), that the sickly sweet smell of the fruits sticks to you way longer than all the spider webs that you walk into during the “harvest”?

02 Shelling Cashews 03 Cashew shells

Did you know that you can’t eat cashew nuts raw because most humans are allergic to the oils inside the nut; that if you persist in eating them raw you run the risk of blindness; or that when you are hand-cracking and hand-peeling each individual nut, then scraping the nut-meat out of the shell, and then you scratch a bug-bite with a gloved hand covered in the aforementioned oil, you will regret it like a bumblebee regrets using his stinger?

And are you familiar with the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize that the giant sacks of nuts you harvested, cracked, shelled and toasted produce hardly enough actual nut-meat to make a batch of cashew butter?


So it turns out that beans don’t grow in cans, and that they actually don’t contain manufactured iterations of corn and sodium in massive quantities. I cannot confirm whether real beans come with their own Jacks and Giant Beanstalks, but I do know for sure that a harvest looks like this when it’s laying out to sunbathe:

01 sunbathing

I also have learned that I would like a zen garden made of beans, large enough for me to walk across and then to eat for dinner. And that ticos take this poem‘s sage advice literally:

Beans! Beans! They’re good for your heart!
The more you eat, the more you fart;
the more you fart, the better you feel,
so eat your beans with every meal!


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