Ark of taste
Back to the archive >

Ojoche (Brosimum alicastrum), as it is known in Costa Rica, also goes by many other names, including breadnut or Maya nut. It is a tree that has a wide geographic distribution, from Mexico to the Antilles to South America. It grows best in hot, humid or sub-humid areas, but is also drought resistant. It is very nutritious; it has all the essential amino acids that humans cannot synthesize themselves. It is high in fiber and protein and contains iron, calcium, potassium and vitamins A, B and C. In addition, it is considered a galactagogue, a food that promotes lactation.   Ojoche has a large seed covered by a thin, citrus-flavored, orange-colored skin. The nut can be eaten raw or boiled or dried and processed into a flour or porridge to be consumed. It formed an important part of the pre-Columbian diet in Costa Rica. Stewed, the nut tastes like mashed potatoes; roasted, it tastes like chocolate or coffee. Its nutritional qualities are such that during the great droughts of the 1950s that hit Mesoamerica, this was a food that helped people, especially in rural communities, survive the great famines. There is an area in mid Costa Rica called Ojochal, named for the presence of these trees. The land was uninhabited until the 1930s, but the gradual expanse of livestock farming and logging has nearly wiped the trees out in the area.   It is still used by indigenous communities of Guanacaste and Puntarenas in mid Costa Rica today. One tree can produce 50 and 75 kilos of fruit and nuts per year. In Costa Rica, the commercial market is very small and just starting to be developed. However, in the modern era, it has been marginalized as a source of nutrition and has often been characterized as a famine food. Corn, wheat and rice cultivation and consumption have replaced ojoche in the local diet. Its rarity is also linked with the fact that it takes 25 years for trees to begin to bear fruit.

Back to the archive >


StateCosta Rica