Field Study and Service-Learning MediaBlog

11 March, 2008

La Fortuna: Medicinal Plant Garden

'El Jardin' (Medicinal Herb Garden)
This organic herb garden located in Fortuna was founded by a woman named Christina and is now maintained today solely by her and her husband. The herbal garden was created about fifteen years ago. The institution Andar came to a community in Catarata to teach people how to grow plants and medicinal herbs for a group called GEMA (Grupo Ecologico de Mujeres de El Abanico), where Christina learned how to grow her plants. GEMA is a womens’ group based in Arenal that produces organic teas, spices, and medicinal herbs, and they buy the dry herbs Christina produces. Also, the University of Costa Rica helped teach the women of GEMA about medicinal herbs and gardening. The garden is open to visitors and Christina sells herbal teas made from her plants and other GEMA gardens, along with her own Shampoo.

Medicinal Plant Education
Christina gives tours of her facilities: The garden, a shaded area for her plants, her verma composting (worm composting), her kitchen where she produces her shampoo, and her cows whose milk she sells. Her small finca (farm), approximately 6 hectares, provides the local community with fresh milk, herbs to naturally cure most ailments and shampoo. She maintains it while educating around 40 people a month from all over the world, including France, Germany, and Australia on her sustainable practices. Two companies from France and one from Germany purchase her products. Additionally, her farm provides an ecosystem haven for many birds, such as toucans and hummingbirds, who come because of certain flowers. Also, there were many nests in her garden that were hanging on the trees of her property but the wind knocked them over so she picked them up and hung them in her garden patio.

Medicinal Plant Samples
Depicted above are a few of the things that the herbal garden contains. To the left you can see aloe Vera, which is good for your skin. You can put it on your sun burns and cuts to help your skin heal. On the right is pepper. It looks beautiful, but caution--it is spicy if you take too much in at once.
Pepper is an example of one of the spices in the garden.

Medicinal Plant Products
Shown here are dried herbs (left) and the shampoo that Christina makes & sells (right), which is made with organic herbs from her garden. All of the shampoo is produced in her home and is mostly sold locally. Her shampoo helps with dandruff and hair loss and is also said to strengthen the hair and revitalize its natural shine. The label on the shampoo is presently 'Eco Verde' something she came up with. However the name will soon be changed to 'El Jardin la Aroma-Tica' (the name of her garden) which translates to 'The Tica perfume or fragrance', in order to unify her projects and get more advertisement out. She is also currently working on getting a certificate that will allow her to sell her products to local hotels.

Drying and Shading the Plants
Before sending the herbs to GEMA, Christina dries them (the image of the drying room is to the left). Then someone from Abanico, the main GEMA sight, comes and picks up the dried products for packaging, and labeling. Some herbs are made into teas and some are made into spices. Some plants, according to Christina, need to be sheltered from the strong Costa Rican sun, so she has built a shaded area to protect
some of these plants. This is also the site of the vermicompost.

The Vermi-Compost
Vermicomposting uses earthworms to turn organic waste into a very high quality compost, in this case Christina uses the manure from her cows. The worms digest the manure, and the result is a rich, dark, earth-smelling soil conditioner. The great advantage of worm composting is that it can be done indoors and outdoors, thus allowing year round composting.

Institutional Connections of the Garden
Fundecooperation para el Desarollo Sostenible provided the group GEMA with money which helped them with their group effort. Fundecooperation was founded in 1992; there mission is to help improve social working conditions of the general Costa Rican public. They focus on sustainable tourism, environmental drive, clean technologies, sustainable agriculture, and fairness in general.
Vaccaciones con Familias Campesinas is a group of families in small communities of northern Costa Rica that accommodate tourism by trying to show tourist how they live their daily lives. Visitors can stay in a home stay and live like the locals. Some of the things that tourist can do are: Milk cows, fish, or help with the agriculture production. The organization also offers trips from one side of Costa Rica, the pacific, to the other, the Caribbean, which can last up to 21 days.

Author: Rosalinda Gonzalez