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Welcome to delicious Destinations, a GourmetStation blog. Through the charater of T.Alexander and occasional real-life guests, our aim is to share with you light-hearted fun ideas about food, gift giving, entertaining and culture. At the same time we would love you hear from you. Please share your experiences from home or abroad.

It's a jungle out there - A Taste of Belize - Day Two

Posted: October 13, 2010
by: Mark Stine

In spite of hurricane warnings for surrounding areas, the hurricane never
materialized and my belief in the weather service is now seriously
challenged. Not even a decent breeze greeted our little group when we met
for breakfast - just calm seas, clear skies and warm smiles. A continental
breakfast kicked off the morning at the Coral Inn, with tasty local fruit
and a very good strong coffee.


Out the door at 9: 00 AM as our trusty guide Bruno Kuppinger from IBTM
tours, met us with his van. Bruno is originally from Germany and has been
in Belize for over 15 years. How one wonders did he end up here, in a
country of 350,000 people? We wondered that too and so we asked
Bruno. His response was sobering, in that he had lost close friends who
did not get to fulfill their dreams and he looked at his own life and
decided he would see the world. He got as far as Belize. Hard to argue
with paradise -eh Bruno?  So with that gut decision he settled
in and now runs a guide and tourism business.

Bruno provides a wealth of knowledge on his tours and I gained a sense of
how rich the local flora and fauna is when he regaled us with tales of a
Jaguar that visited his farm. Let's just put it this way..Jaguar -10
..sheep -Zero.  The fun part was when he received permission to trap and
tranquilize the Jaguar and relocate her to another more Jaguar friendly
area.  The place suggested was a good 11 hour drive...can you imagine
driving with an unhappy jaguar for 11 hours in the back of your SUV?  He
couldn't either so he found a spot much closer and only endured a few
hours of snarling cat - needless to say his farm is more gardening
oriented now, but if you want to experience a  place with varied wildlife
in pristine settings, then southern Belize and the area around Punta Gorda
is for you.


We journeyed out from Punta Gorda into the hinterland of the Toledo area.
Passing the Caribbean sea on our right, we then veered inland and soon
found ourselves surrounded by jungle on all sides, great scenery and
surprising hills rising up the further we moved inland from the sea. Only
about thirteen miles on mostly well paved roads brought us to our

This trip is all about experiencing the Taste of Belize and as I blogged
yesterday, Belize is a magnificent blend of cultures and food styles. So
what was our agenda for the day? Well a local and well known Mayan farmer
was going to trek us into the jungle and we were going to sample some
local fare right in the natural habitat.

If you are old enough to remember Johnny Carson- then you might remember
an old geezer who would appear on his shows and talk about survival eating
in the wilderness. His name was Euell Gibbons and he always ended every
story with his classic line "many parts are edible". Well that is
what I learned from our next host, Eladio Pop, who owns "Agouti Cacao Farm". 

We pulled up next to a jungle trail and mysteriously a man caring a rather
large machete appeared on the side of the trail to greet us.  Machetes are
not something I am used to seeing, especially as long and sharp as
his but we were soon put at ease with his generous smile and warm
personality. He does jungle farming without traditional slash and burn
techniques, which depletes the soil within a few years, leaving a barren
landscape behind.


Pictured Above: Eladio Pop

Instead, Eladio spreads his plants and trees along a well tended jungle
path ( hence the machete which comes in handy for all sorts of exercises
along the trail)  and even gains help from the agouti, a local oversized
rodent that ends up spreading the seed from  the trees and plants it

Off we went - the jungle was surprisingly cool and soon we saw cacao
trees.. .with large ripening pods. Those with the darkest red color were
ready for harvest and we sampled some with the juice and milk still
surrounding them.


Pictured Above: Fresh Cacao

Later we ate fresh heart of palm...chopped and prepared in seconds with
that large machete and much better than the heart of palm you get in a
can! We also had heart of banana from inside the pseudo stem of true wild
bananas, which don't produce a banana as we are used to and instead the
inner core is eaten much like heart of palm. The machete came in handy
for preparing this item as well.


Pictured Above: Morgan, Bruno & Larraine

Several varieties of domesticated bananas were growing abundantly
alongside the trail and the flavors were much richer and more intense than
US store bought bananas forcibly ripened with ethanol at the grocery.
With over 30 acres of jungle gardens, Eladio plants without disturbing the
natural trees and vegetation. This is healthier for the plants as they are
less likely to be affected by disease and it keeps a natural balance to
the forest. Eladio was almost reverential in his respect for the land,
homage to his parents who had passed it on to him.  We also saw fresh
ginger and a plant with dark blue fuzzy berries that we sampled. It seemed
almost everything was edible or useable in some fashion; hence my
thoughts turning to Euell Gibbons.

It was amazing that we could have such variety of food all natural and
organic picked fresh during our jungle hike. Coconut trees also provide a
staple item, used with rice grown locally, all in all a very self
sustaining venture.

A hike up to the highest point on the property revealed panoramic views of
jungle laden hillsides with such intense greens, unlike my desert Las
Vegas vistas, where we were also treated with sampling some jungle grown
limes; a tart but refreshing break before we made our way down the trail
and back to the SUV.

The next stop on our trip was the highlight - a visit with Eladios family
where we participated in roasting freshly dried cacao beans, crushing
them and then grinding them up with a stone on the fire fueled griddle.


Roasting the cacao beans

Once this was done...the beans were tossed slightly in the air allowing
the husks to blow away, while the heavier beans fell back into the bowl.
Next came the grinding which produced a rich thick cacao paste.  Our group
of course was sampling cacao each step of the way.

Lastly, a quantity of cacao paste was mixed with warm water to provide a
natural chocolate drink.  A delicious lunch followed with spiced chicken,
spiced beans and rice with pumpkin squash, accompanied with freshly
squeezed citrus fruit. And lest I forget, we each participated in
fashioning homemade corn tortillas and roasting them on the outdoor


Pictured Above: Virginia- wife of Eladio and guide Bruno

The whole family participated  in some fashion and we made new friends.
Eladio has dreams to educate all who visit his farm and we hope to see
those dreams of his come true with his vision of ecotourism and low impact
sustenance farming. He has a warm and loving family and you sensed that
with each member you met.

We took many pictures, bought a few handmade items from his daughters and
then headed back towards Punta Gorda and the Coral Inn.   We made a few
more stops but the first part of the day was so fulfilling,I will leave
the rest of our adventures for another blog. Back at the Coral Inn...I hit
the deep and long lap pool situated oceanside, sipped a Belkin Belizean
beer (with the Mayan temple on the logo) and enjoyed the blue skies.  I
think A Taste of Belize applies to many aspects and not just the food!


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Your Comments

Hey Mark - Sounds like a wonderful trip! Beautiful scenery and fresh food! I didn't know our bananas were forcibly ripened with ethanol!? No wonder there is so much disease! And I remember Euell Gibbons. Didn't he do a commercial for Grape Nut Cereal?
Hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip! :-)

Posted by: Laura at Oct 26, 2010 11:10:34 PM