One day in 2016 I was driving with a friend down a back street in San Pedro and stopped at a local business. Next door was a man sitting on his porch with 3 big black boxes on the ledge of his veranda and little plants growing out of them. This is no small task. This isn’t like ‘drop seeds into the soil and watch them grow’ – like we’re in Grade 1 primary. To the contrary this is a science when you live along the coast of Belize. Maybe other countries too but I have no idea.
The wind that blows off the sea has sand in it, as well as salt. The sun is scorching. The tap water is full of chlorine. The soil is sandy and salty. One can usually get a little plant to grow from seed but as soon as it gets bigger it withers up and dies. So to see all these little plants got me very curious.
After living in Belize for several years I’ve come to learn that there are indeed many cultures who don’t frown at strangers talking to them lol So I called out to him – which is also acceptable in Belize – “What are you growing?” His reply “Micro greens, swiss chard, red oak lettuce, arugula, basil, mint” I was shocked! You can usually get in Belize mint and basil year round but all the other herbs and plants is rare! So how’s he growing them?
The gentleman comes over and I realize I’ve seen him around a lot lately, but out windsurfing! Myself and friends would be sitting where he went out to sea and each time he went out he was so pleasant and conversational. He also has a unique, nice sounding accent, slightly Germanic to my untrained ear, and what’s even weirder is when he brings out, full-on, proper, Belize Kriol. Hmmmm…this guy is quite intriguing! He introduces himself as Markus and his beautiful wife is Melanie. My name too 🙂
Well to get to the point, he and Melanie have an aquaponics greenhouse on the island and grow all these beautiful greens to sell. The amazing thing about them is on two separate occasions I forgot I had a bag of greens in my fridge. One bag of dill and another time a bag of Kale. On each occasions it was 2-3 weeks before I found them and in both cases the greens were fresh, green and crisp! I couldn’t believe it.
For my job and my personal love of food, finding this golden nugget was amazing. I’d been a personal chef for 3 American families, I had my own family to care for and I was moving into a new career as a food blogger. So this was really important that I not only be able to find these ingredients but that they be fresh, that they didn’t turn to mush and rot within a few days of purchasing, and that procurement of ingredients would be consistent.