Greenhouses in El Salvador
Greenhouses in El Salvador
by Gwen May
This was my third trip to El Salvador and when I was asked to write something about my experience I laughingly said I was going to write about food. Little did I know how that topic would touch me. Pupusas are a traditional meal, thick corn tortillas filled with beans and cheese, or spinach and cheese. In our travels we share meals at the homes of our prayer children and many of those meals were pupusas.
We had lunch one day at Karla’s prayer child’s house Bryan who lives with his grandmother. We drove out to the country by some modest tidy homes and we were greeted by a tiny weathered lady who I recognized from the church in Monsignor Romero where we have attended services. We were welcomed into a covered area near the house filled with makeshift tables covered with brightly colored table cloths and the ever present plastic chairs. Several people were busy in the dark smoky kitchen — dogs, cats, and chickens walked in and out of the cooking area. One dog walked out with an egg in its mouth that it had pirated away from the cooks. We never know what we will be served until it shows up at the table and we were thrilled to have a huge stack of chile rellenos brought to the table complete with some spicy sauce, usually the red sauce is very mild yet flavorful. Next a plate of battered and fried green beans appeared as well as squash. How unusual to have a meal of vegetables. We do not eat anything that is not peeled or cooked during our stay in El Salvador. A beautiful fresh fruit salad accompanied the meal.
As we visited with this grandmother, Gudelia, she told us she had grown all the vegetables in her greenhouse and would we like to see it? This petite grandmother procured a grant in order to build some greenhouses. She and other members of the community tend these organic gardens to provide food for the families. They sell the surplus when available. As we walked around the property I was amazed at the scope of this greenhouse project, it was huge and filled with such variety of things tomatoes, green beans cucumbers squash peppers and next to the green house was rows of papayas trees, bananas followed by avocados and citrus as far as one could see. Such a wonderful undertaking for the people of that community good healthy organic produce.
One of our stops was in a town called Santa Marta. We were able to visit a large greenhouse project run by a group of young volunteers. I did a search on the internet about this project and came across a site called WINTA which stands for why is no one talking about. The site also contains other interesting things happening in Santa Marta and worth reading. This greenhouse project was also started by grant money donated by a group from Denmark. There is a large hydroponic greenhouse with some sophisticated equipment challenged by the lack of consistent electricity in the area. The goal of this project is to provide fresh organic food to the community at affordable prices with the long term goal of food sovereignty. A delegation from Oberlin College in Ohio has worked at this site the month of January for the last ten years and we were able to visit with a couple of the students while we were there. As we walked the grounds of this cornucopia of vegetables I was impressed with the perfection and the size of the cabbages and kale. I peeled off from the group and investigated on my own and found eggplant, bok choy, fennel and basil this group continually tries out new varieties to see what grows best. They have tried berms and raised beds out in the open field and our guide scooped up a handful of the rich loose soil to show us how wonderful it is for growing. We were taken to a room filled with tomatoes just picked and saw a wonderful and modern commercial type refrigerator. I was truly touched by the dedication and the energy of the people of El Salvador this trip.