We traveled to Puerto Rico this month for a getaway before the farming season gets underway. I raise my family and my farm business with a mission to teach where our food comes from. To get to the source of it, find it, participate in it, own it, understand it, tend it, dig it out of the dirt and harvest it. So how do you travel with this intention, of eating locally and connecting to your food sources? Noah loves to know his food sources, just like his mama. Jonah loves star fruit, so we knew that we’d need to find a starfruit tree. We set on our Puerto Rico trip, with a mission to eat fruit not far from the tree.
I went with an eye for an adventure, to dig a little deeper into the culture and find food from the source. The typical grocery stores in Puerto Rico mainly stock food from the continental US. Just like back home, you have to dig deeper to find the local sources.
We stayed a night at The Fajardo Inn in the easterly little harbor town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. The owner of this little resort inn has a personal interest in tropical fruit trees. They start their own seedlings, propogating them around the property and selling some plants. I got all excited when we went down to the juice bar in the morning and the juice bar guy starting pulling little baggies out of the freezer to make our smoothies. He told me they freeze the fruit from around the property in individual serving sizes for the smoothies. I know it was true, because he mumbled about how difficult it is to peel and cut mangoes. I bet that is some work when the mangoes ripen all at once. My kids followed another employee who was giving a tour of the fruit trees and he gave them starfruit. Did I mention Jonah loves star fruit? He eats them whole, but when you cut them into slices, they look like little stars.
I asked locals in Fajardo where to buy local fruit and sent Phil to the pueblo’s fruit stand to stock up on papaya, avocado, oranges and bananas. They pressed a little bag into his hand full of a local fruit they called kiwi but they tasted like baked pears. It was a mix of local and elsewhere, but we were getting close.
Our local quest became a source for some adventure and brought us closer to the local people as well as the local food. In the little beach town of Esperanza on Vieques island, we asked our driver where we could get local fish. It took some pressing to explain we didn’t want to go to a restaurant, we wanted a fish market so we could cook it ourselves at our rental home. He shook his head, thinking, and then his face lit up. He drove us to the fisherman’s house! Phil arranged that the next day, the fisherman would save four red snapper for us from the day’s fishing. It was delicious and same day fresh, cooked on the grill. After a couple days, we made friends with our local neighbors as well, who shared mangos, starfruit and aguanabo (maybe guava?) with us from the trees in their yards.
We also stayed at a private rental accommodation called Coqui’s Hideaway, just outside of El Yunque National (rain)Forest. We chose this rental because they grow acres of tropical trees. What a beautiful wonderful accommodation! I highly recommend it. Our hosts, Ray and Gwenn, welcomed us with a basket of goodies and a big bowl of fruit from the garden. Beautiful flowers and delicious fruit trees surround a little pool and gorgeous views of the rainforest expanse. Ray gave us a fantastic snacking tour. We learned about all the trees and picked two kinds of bananas, lime, coffee beans (taste like a berry fresh!), starfruit, papaya, plantains, sugar cane, and more. Here Ray is holding Jonah up to cut down bananas with a machete. Bet you he will always remember how bananas grow, and appreciate that memory every time he eats one now.
We took our collection of fruit from the property back to our kitchen and enjoyed the fruit fresh, and blended some into smoothies with coconut milk. I tried several fruits new to me, including Abiu, which was too starchy to eat straight up but really delicious in smoothies, tasting like mangos. I even topped my pizza with papaya. A new favorite!
With Coqui's Hideaway as our home base, we drove into the El Yunque National Forest for hikes. We stopped at a little refreshment stand that sold coconut water in a drilled coconut. After we drank the sweet coconut water, they cut the coconut open for us so we could eat the coconut meat. Sitting there in the rainforest, with this view, eating coconut at the source...it was a localvore's finest pleasure.
Traveling? Find travel accommodations for your next trip on Flipkey. Don’t forget to check the reviews to make sure you found a good one. And don’t get too stuck on the internet … internet travel planning is great, and availability is often on a chart right there. But I also found it easy to get lost in the internet sea. Sometimes, picking up the phone is very informative.
Photo 1: Starfruit platter. Photo by Ilene Freedman
Photo 2: Ray of Coqui's Hideaway lifts the author's son, Jonah, to cut the bunch of bananas. Photo by Ilene Freedman
Photo 3: The author and her son, Noah, drinking fresh coconut water right in the coconut. Photo by Jonah Freedman
Sequel blog post coming on:
Homemade pizza crusts on vacation?? Grow-your-own on vacation?? Homemade gluten-free dairy-free pancakes on vacation? Spices from my home garden on vacation? Yep. Crazy? No, easy!
Ilene White Freedman operates an organic CSA farm with her husband in Frederick, Maryland. She blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at http://blog.houseinthewoods.com, easy to follow from their Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to http://www.houseinthewoods.com.