Wednesday, May 30, 2007
My main interest at Bosque Santa Lucia has always been that of keeping it in native trees and palms of this region. As such, I've never planted corn, beans, rice and other crops that keep rural people alive, well and happy. I suppose my egocentric ways were showing because Cleuson, the young man who helps me out at the Bosque on a part-time basis, took it on his own to plant manioc at the beginning of this rainy season. So now I'm the proud owner of maybe a dozen plants scattered between my three year old palm trees in front of the reception center. I think I'm right in saying that nothing is more basic to the Brazilian diet than manioc (Manihot esculenta). The Indians were planting manioc maybe thousands of years before the Europeans made their way into South America. The newcomers from across the big waters were probably hungry for anything resembling food but they came to adopt the byproducts of the manioc root as their own, especially the toasted sawdust-looking meal called farinha. In upcoming blog posts, I'll be presenting more images of manioc and short descriptions of how it's processed into traditional foods appreciated by the Brazilian population. In the attached image you can see a young manioc plant that's now about two feet high. Although manioc produces seeds, the reproductive unit is that of stem cuttings. In this case, Cleuson planted a short segment (5-6 inches long) of stem material, all underground. I don't remember how long it took to germinate and come up out of the ground but I think in the order of 3-4 weeks. The plant will reach a height of 2-3 meters before the roots are large enough to harvest.