Published on October 6th, 2008 | by Naturally Larry0
Costa Rica’s Environmentally Friendly Organic Pineapple
By 10 a.m. the sun has already covered the pineapple fields of the Corsicana farm in Sarapiqui with its warmth and a tractor decorated with vibrant colors waits to take us to discover the secrets behind the production of the second most important product for export of this country. Rodibar Martínez, a dark-skinned youth, will be our guide. He has worked for four years in different areas of the farm and his knowledge today comes in handy for its current visitors, most of whom have never seen the fruit beyond the shelves of their local supermarkets. This is ecotourism at its best and an agricultural venture that supports the environment.
Sarapiqui is located in the northern zone of the country, which offers ideal conditions for the production of pineapples thanks to the quality of its soil, its high precipitation rate, its stable temperature (which averages 23 degrees Celsius) and its proximity to the region of Limón , the principal port of export in Costa Rica. “But the Corsicana farm is not just another pineapple plantation,” Rodibar quickly clarifies. “It is also the world’s largest certified farm,” with 95 percent of its production certified organic and only 5 percent conventional. Conventional methods utilize agro-chemicals for production; in the near future, all the pineapple produced on the farm will be organic and in harmony with the environment.The farm is fair trade certified and donates a percentage of its earnings to educational projects within the local community. Among the great extensions of the blue-colored crowns of the pineapples, which fade into the horizon line, grow sections of forest. According to Rodibar, approximately 35 percent of the farm’s 1,100 hectares are dedicated to the protection of the environment through the conservation of rivers and the regeneration of forests. A total of 75 acres have been reforested with endemic trees, many of which are in danger of extinction, that represent an important habitat for birds and other species such as monkeys and sloths.
The sun is now sufficiently hot and it is time to try the refreshing flavor of a recently cut pineapple. Rodibar slices the fruit into little pieces with the skill of a master chef while we rush to take a piece. The surprise was palpable. What we tasted was nothing less than the sweetest piece of pineapple we had ever savored. The fact that it has been organically grown adds to the flavor and enjoyment, one that is further complemented by the guarantee that no agro-chemicals were used in its production, thus eliminating the chemical compounds, such as aluminum sulfates, that are responsible for the characteristically acidic taste of conventional pineapples. The result is a pineapple that is environmentally friendly and 30 percent sweeter!
On a later section of the journey, we encounter a group of field workers harvesting these oh-so-sweet pineapples while being assisted by transportation bands. It seems almost a privilege to enjoy such a taste when only one fruit per plant is obtained during each harvest. Rodibar tells us that Christopher Columbus, upon his arrival in America, tasted pineapples for the first time and was so impressed that he took the fruit back as a gift for the king and queen of Spain. Originally from Brazil, there are many varieties of pineapples in existence today. The Golden Sweet MD2 is the Costa Rican variety.
The process to harvest organic pineapples takes approximately 16 months and the soil must be prepared prior by planting legumes to oxygenate and nurture them. Once the harvest ends, the plastic used to prevent soil erosion and weed growth is recycled. Not all the pineapples are exported, since a careful selection process is carried out. “Some pineapples are too small, some are too ripe to withstand the journey to other countries, while others have malformations or twisted crowns,” confirms Rodibar. Nonetheless, these fruits are not lost; they enter the market in the form of juice or marmalade.
Once we finish the harvesting portion of the tour, we head toward the washing and packaging areas. There, 90 tons of pineapples per year are prepared for export to markets such as the United States, Canada and Europe. The fruit rests at a specific temperature before embarking its journey, all the while boasting its Costa Rican, organic origin seal.
Another sector of the farm is dedicated to the production of ornamental pineapples for export. These pineapples are characterized by their small size and are appreciated for their beauty in Asian and other markets.
Finally, this ecotourism adventure would not be complete without a succulent lunch enjoyed at the farm’s restaurant, where pineapple juice, bits of pineapple and even pineapple ice cream abound—undoubtedly a sweet farewell for pineapple lovers.