Published on Friday, September 10, 2021

By Victoria Torley

A friend suggested that we visit a farm where the owner advertised that he would show us the edible plants of Costa Rica.

I envisioned walking through jungle trails, looking at wild vegetation whose parts were edible. No such luck. Instead, we toured his carefully planned two acres where he showed us bananas, mandarinas, sugar canes and other tropical plants he was cultivating.

Still, not a total loss.

He certainly knew his stuff and we discussed his recent loss of his coconut palms to the palm beetle. Like me, he had planted his palms close together which just made it easier for them to get from palm to palm and infect all of them. He showed us one of the beetle – a nasty big bug – and killed it. We discussed his next palm plantings and talked about distance between palms being key to their survival. All in all, a pleasant two hours, but what about those edible native plants I was hoping for? I decided to look them up. Project Noah  looked promising and led me to the Bromelia pinguin.

Now there’s an interesting plant and I have probably seen it close to home. It sounds like a remarkable food source. The young leaves at the base of the plant can be eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable. The inflorescence is used as a fried vegetable. The fruit is described as sour and is made into vinegar or – and I have to assume that it is mixed with another fruit – drunk as a refreshing beverage. That’s a lot of uses for a homely-looking plant.

That led me to the Bellucia grossularioides, commonly called the triana, which is listed simply as “an edible wild fruit” with a slightly acid flavor. It isn’t planted for its fruit, however, but for its fragrant flowers. Not much help if you’re hungry.

Of course there is a favorite in native edibles – the fruit of the passion flower. Here’s an edible Costa Rican plant that I can really support (usually on a trellis). Thirsty? Just open the ripe fruit and sip the liquid and seeds. Want a fancy dessert? There is a great recipe for passion fruit cake on the net (Passion Fruit Recipes | Food & Wine ).  Want to serve something different? Use passion fruit as a glaze on meats. Love smoothies? Add passion fruit. Making fruit salad? Add passion fruit. Love lemon meringue pie? You will love it even more if you add passion fruit.

Plant of the week

So, there are some native wild plants out there you can eat and I just mentioned some of the odd ones (except for passion fruit). I look forward to finding a farm that raises native plants for food (and trying some passion fruit recipes). Passion flower  photo provided by

Editor's note: More information on this article, Ms. Victoria Torley, gardener columnist, can be reached at


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