By Patsy Bracy
At Xbalanque, we believe in supporting sustainable farming and being stewards to the land that provides for us. Lotus restaurant draws inspiration based on the season and what we can harvest fresh from our garden and farm. We strive to use ethically sourced natural ingredients for our menu, many of which we grow ourselves.
Our farm is located on Brasil Hill, the tallest mountain on the island. Along with its breathtaking panoramic views, the hills are rich with fertile soil making it the perfect place for growing native fruits, vegetables, and even coffee beans. Vicente is our resident farmer and has cared for our crops since the beginning. He uses many ancient Mayan farming techniques that were passed down from previous generations, sometimes even relying on superstitions. He rotates the crops depending on the season, ensuring that not only is he being responsible with the land, but providing the freshest produce. The rolling landscape of Brasil Hill is dotted with crops like bananas, plantains, mangos, avocados, limes, and guava. We also grow quite a few fruits and vegetables native to the island that you may not be familiar with. Each is quite unique and you’ll have the chance to try something you haven’t had before. Here are just a few that fascinate me most.
Many people eat cashews without ever realizing how unique they really are. A cashew tree is a tropical evergreen that produces a cashew apple, resembling a pear or plum. The cashew seed grows outside of the fruit, sprouting from the bottom. The plum is edible, but it’s very delicate and usually isn’t transported away from the tree. When raw, the cashew seed contains a toxic barrier and must be roasted before it is safe to eat. Vicente begins this process by first drying out the seeds on a clay floor. Next, he roasts them using a metal barrel, the most traditional way to prepare cashews on the island. It’s a very tedious process and a lot of care goes into safely bringing delicious cashews to your plate.
Another plant that is native to the tropical region is the breadfruit. It’s a very large and heavy fruit that grows from a tree. It’s a very starchy plant much like a potato. It can be baked or
boiled, but is typically fried.
Noni is a medicinal fruit that grows wild on the beach. Noni grows on trees and are part of the coffee family. We have several right here on the Xbalanque grounds. Although it does not have a pleasant taste, the juice of the noni plant is believed to have powerful medicinal properties. When I was recovering from knee surgery and experiencing a lot of pain, my caretaker gave me the leaf of a noni and told me to wrap it around my knee. I was amazed at how much it made my knee feel better, so I can personally attest to its healing power.
In addition to the crops we maintain on Brasil Hill, we have almond, coconut, hog plum, and coco plum trees growing wild on the Xbalanque grounds. We have even planted a garden up the hill where we grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and carrots. Take some to stroll the grounds and see what is growing around you.
It takes a lot of effort to ethically and responsibly bring fresh food to the table. Most things on your plate crossed many hands before making it to your plate. We believe in taking the time to think about what we are eating, where it came from, and who lovingly grew it.