Lonely Planet Writer

From rainforests to the table - sustainable produce that may soon be on the menu

Edible produce from rainforest could be soon on our tables as leading chefs gather at Bolivia’s Madidi National Park seeking new possibilities in the food industry.

The fauna and flora in Madidi National Park is being catalogued by experts using indigenous people to tell them if produce is edible or not
The flora and fauna in Madidi National Park is being catalogued by experts using indigenous people to guide them on edible produce  Image by Hanumann / CC BY 2.0

In the capital La Paz, the top gastronomical figures from latin America have set out to see if there is a demand among themselves for such edible produce as oreja de mono mushroom or wild cacao.

The Guardian reports that they also wanted to assist communities in these areas in commercially expanding the flora and fauna that is part of  daily life. Rob Wallace, of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), said that could only be done by documenting and understanding what was available there.

Amazon rainforest in Peru and Bolivia could offer produce that becomes part of what we eat in which the Boiling River flows
Amazon rainforest in Peru and Bolivia could offer edible produce that becomes part of what we eat
Image by Craig Nagy / CC BY-SA 2.0

With his team, he has examined and catalogued a greater amount of animal and plant species in Madidi than any similar national park on the globe. They used native guides to check out edible produce and those that were not.

So what have they found to tickle our taste buds? A cherry-sized fruit called camu camu has emerged from the forest. It was found to have over 30 times more vitamin C than an orange while a palm fruit, majo, can produce a milk to offer a way out to those who are lactose intolerant.

Kamilla Seidler, who is the head chef of the Gustu restaurant in La Paz, told the indigenous women that there was a market for their produce but it was difficult to connect to what they had.

She said they could work together to improve the quality of what they were offering.

Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, a well-known Peruvian chef who is part of a Rainforest to Table organisation, spoke about a product he encountered in a village in the Peruvian Amazon.

Last year his restaurants in the capital, Lima and two kitchens of his Amazon cruise ship bought 40,000 soles of the ají negro product. This totally changed the village’s wealth while also improving the value of their culture.

He believed there could be aspirations for a similar model in Madidi to take off as well.