Though the humid heat can be stifling, I loved summer in the South because in my family the season meant a garden full of crunchy green beans, juicy tomatoes, fresh herbs and trips to local farmers’ markets to pick up the fruits and veggies we didn't grow ourselves.
Lucky for me, living in Bocas del Toro, Panama, has been like living in a perpetual summer filled with local agricultural products, many of them new to me! Though I often offer to buy products from my neighbors, it’s also culturally common for me to be gifted any of the local foods in exchange for helping out on the farm or simply just stopping by to say hello. As an extra bonus for me- since I’m getting the produce in my site, I don’t have to hike it in like everything else I eat!
So, what’s available here?
All year round we have cacao coconuts, culantro, bananas, plantains, papaya, a scattering of peppers and rice, and several varieties of root vegetables. Though yucca, dachin, name, and ñampi are prepared similar to potatoes, they have a richer taste (and come in shades ranging from white to purple!)
Seasonally we also have pineapple, pixvae, orange, lemon, guava pods, cashew fruits, soursop, and coffee.
In addition to the crops, most families have chickens for meat and eggs. Families with access to a little more resources may also have turkeys and/or pigs, and the most well off families have a few cattle. Other than chicken, meat is considered a special occasion thing. Add in the fact that we don’t have refrigerators to preserve meat, and that means that meat days are big feast days. Obviously, I’m a fan.