Just over 1,000 km away, in the town of Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, lives Fabián Rodríguez. This artist has been cooking for about 20 years, of which he has invested the last 15 in his Guásimo restaurant.From the kitchen of his business, Fabián lets his creativity fly to delight his diners with dishes that, some of them, have a special ingredient: the seed of the Guanacaste tree.
Yes, the same one that since August 1959 was declared the national tree of Costa Rica and that grows robust in different parts of the province of the pampas and the plains, of the volcanoes and the beaches, of the typical dances and the roasted tamale or corn rice.
The chef, a native of the department of Magdalena – whose Ciénaga town inspired Gabriel GarcíaMárquez to develop his magical realism – does not travel to Costa Rica to take the seeds to Santa Marta.
It turns out that the Enterolobiumcyclocarpum (scientific name for the Guanacaste tree) is found from southern and western Mexico to northern South America. In Colombia it is known as Orejero or Carito.
And Orejero because, precisely, its fruit is an almost circular pod-shaped legume that resembles the shape of an ear, which has a diameter of between 5 and 12 centimeters. Each “ear” has between 5 to 20 seeds and has a sweet taste.
Fabián says that this tree is present in his homeland. And he is focused on highlighting the flavors, textures, smells and colors of Magdalena, such as everything that the Guanacaste tree offers him.But before preparing a sweet, syrup, cream, crisp or baked goods made from the seed, he and his team spent hours researching its properties and uses.
Once they reached the desired point, the kitchen professional decided to incorporate them into the Guásimo menu.For example: a dish that reminds you of your childhood is a sweet that was prepared at home at Easter. For that, the seed is boiled, then ground and cooked with cinnamon and cloves.
Here in Costa Rica, for example, there are Guanacaste families that use these seeds to make flour. Its seeds are eaten roasted, also in sauces and soups or as a coffee substitute.But it is not something that has spread to the rest of the country. And this is precisely what Fabián wants to break there in Colombia, where there is not much knowledge of the benefits of the seed of the Guanacaste (or Carito) tree.
What’s coming for hisrestaurant
Rodríguez is convinced that Guásimo will continue to offer dishes made with native products from his land, including Guanacaste seeds.And he is excited because for some time here in Cartagena -about three hours away from Santa Marta- there is a restaurant called Celele.
There they also offer options made with the seed of the tree. In view of the fact that little by little this product is spreading in the local gastronomy, there is already a supplier of the fruit of the tree, which can reach gigantic dimensions (between 20 and 45 meters high).
Fabián invited Ticos to discover the innumerable options that can be prepared with the seeds of the Guanacaste tree. “You don’t know what you have and even more so when this fruit is close at hand,” said the chef.
The properties and uses of the Guanacaste tree:
- Adhesive made from the exudate of its sap.
- Fuel (with its wood or ripe fruit)
- Cattle food (use of young stems, their fruits and leaves).
- Wood industry
- Medicine (it is attributed healing properties against rashes, bronchitis and colds)