Soursop Tea, PermaTree

Soursop uses and recipes

Ok we all know about the amazing health benefits of the soursop fruit and leaf by now. In case that you missed the health benefits a quick summary: Soursop contains more than 200 chemical compounds in its pulp, leaves, and stems that contribute to its many health benefits. It’s particularly rich in alkaloids, phenols, and acetogenins. The average soursop fruit is full of vitamins and minerals like magnesium, vitamin C, potassium, thiamine (or vitamin B1), calories, protein, carbohydrates, fiber and more.

But what about uses and recipes. Lets dive into all the tasty and ideally healthy products we can make from organic soursop. As you know we at PermaTree focus on healthy stuff. So – no sugar, no milk, nothing that destroys the natural superfood that the soursop is. You must know that for example milk destroys the antioxidants.

Antioxidants are substances that prevent oxidation. Antioxidants are produced in your body and can be found in your diet. They help fight free radicals, which can damage cells and contribute to aging and disease. Some research has shown that mixing milk with antioxidant-rich foods and beverages may reduce or block their ability to fight free radicals.

Source

And other classical additional ingredients like sugar. Well… we don’t need to elaborate on all the negative health effects of sugar. Best is to just focus on natural sweet foods like banana, sweet potato etc…

Possible uses of the Soursop fruit

General Soursop Consumption:
1. Eating the fruit raw.
2. Drink it.
3. Cook it.

Soursop Fruit-Pulp:
Pulp, Juice, Wine, Yogurt and Ice-cream. Also semidried Fruit or Fruit Powder.

Soursop Seeds:
Oil.

Soursop Leafs:
Tea.

Also soaps, domestic cooking oils, essential oils, herbal medicines, alcohol, fertility drugs, and insecticides

Soursop Recipes

Most important recommendation here is that you keep in mind that: Less is more. What ever recipe you have use it as inspiration. But keep in mind that less ingredients is normally healthier option. And all the health benefits of the soursop or the cacao are not destroyed by adding lots of not needed additional ingredients…

The Soursop Juice

The Soursop being a super healthy tropical fruit needs no additional ingredients except water. Peel the soursop fruit removing the green skin. Mix 50% ripe white soursop flesh without the seeds with 50% water. Blend the white soursop flesh for about 30 seconds.

Photo: 100% Fresh Soursop Juice
Photo: 100% Fresh Soursop Juice

Tool of choice would be a blender. Don’t strain the white soursop flesh (you would miss the health fiber). Also no need add any flavoring ingredients or use ice. If you want the juice to be cold keep it in the fridge for a while.

If you got a organic Soursop it should be naturally super tasty. The best tropical juice ever should taste like a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with a hint of creaminess and sour citrus.

Drinking a 100% organic Soursop will give you the following health benefits: High levels of vitamin C keep the urinary tract clean, and vast amounts of fiber improve digestive health. The fruit juice also contains a number of other nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, thiamin, copper, niacin, folate, iron, and riboflavin.

The Soursop Tea

Firstly you will need dried or dehydrated organic Soursop leafs. The Soursop fruit tree is normally managed while adding foliar (leaf) and soil fertilizer. Why is this relevant? Because if the fertilizer or the treatment is not organic you will be drinking that in your tea. So be sure to get it from a transparent farmer or a source you can trust. Good luck. Secondly you will need to heat up some water until its boiling. Then you will add something like a spoon (2 -3 leafs) of the dried Soursop leafs which are most likely not in their leaf form but in smaller pieces.

Practitioners of herbal medicine use soursop fruit tree leaves to treat stomach ailments, fever, parasitic infections, hypertension and rheumatism.

Soursop Photos

Bamboo Potential for Regenerative Micro Enterprises

As of March 2019 we have our 3rd anniversary at PermaTree. Living on-site and off the grid in this very unique tropical climate, we are now, better able to understand what works best. We try to focus on less work. Even if thats not visible yet 🙂 but hopefully in the not so far future, it will be. Anyway. For us it its now crystal clear that Bamboo is one of the most promising regenerative resources. Im a bit surprised that bamboo is not more talked about and used in permaculture theory. Because from a permaculture philosophy bamboo is predestined to be a key element in any permaculture design.

Stacking Functions

In efficient permaculture design we speak about getting many yields (outputs) from one element (thing) in your system. This is often called “Stacking Functions”. Every function is served by multiple elements and every element serves multiple functions. Elements are parts of a system. They can be plants or animals (wild or domestic), structures (tree-nursery, access road, house), or even established systems (chicken cop, fruit orchard, fishpond). Functions have to do with movements, they are everything an element does, wanted or unwanted.

For example wild snakes passing by our farm are on occasion an element. And among its functions is to take wake up our dogs and eat the young chicks and scare the chickens. But the same element (snake) also serves other functions. That are more directly use-full for us, for example keeping the rat population and venomous snakes in check.

Stacking Functions of Bamboo

Bamboo provides shade, filtered water, shelter for wildlife, carbon fixation, produces mulch and building materials, be a wind break, fertilize the soil (the leafs are nitrogen fixer when they break down), erosion control, natural water tank, slow down water flows across surface, provide a consistent supply of food, charcoal, construction material, etc. The Bamboo grass is ideal because of all the stacking functions. It can do a lot of different work for us in our system.

Next part is even more exiting. Because with Bamboo providing a consistent almost never ending supply of raw material we can start to create use-full things. From edible bamboo shoots, to music instruments, construction and medicine. Even beer, accessories and furniture. But also textile fabric, paper, cardboard, floorings and the best is innovative people are discovering new applications for bamboo everyday.

Bamboo Added Value Products

Image: Use-cases of Bamboo products

Now we could say the same thing about oil and one derivate which is plastic which has many use-cases. Whats the big difference? Bamboo is truly regenerative. Obviously oil and plastic are not at all regenerative. It will be a big challenge for future generations. To get rid of all the plastic trash produced in the last 100 years. Why is Bamboo regenerative? Well Bamboo can be harvested continuously in a sustainable manner. Did you know that: edible bamboo shoots appear from the roots every year. And grow to harvestable condition in just 4 or 5 years. Far faster than slow-growing hardwoods. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet. This is because Bamboo is part of the monocotyledonous flowering plants family known as grasses (Gramineae) and is not considered a tree. There are more than 1500 endless Use-cases of Bamboo (!!)

Yearly Bamboo Plant Cycle

The Yearly Bamboo Cycle

Bamboo Micro Enterprises Opportunities

Bamboo Project Timeline

The Bamboo plant has a very strong potential of being transformed into a number of high-value products. This is one of the many reasons why bamboo deserves more attention. From decision-makers striving to bring new economic growth potential to their countries. Bamboo offers a range of business opportunities to private sector entrepreneurs and local economies. Income generating and micro-business uses range from crafts to furniture, from flooring to textiles, bicycles and even beehives. And, with increasing urbanisation in much of Africa, bamboo is a valuable resource for construction. As strong as steel, but renewable and with a far lower carbon footprint, bamboo can be an excellent and affordable building material. Particularly – but by no means exclusively – suited to areas prone to earthquakes. In China, emerging industrial applications for heavy industry are showing how bamboo has ideal strength properties to replace concrete and PVC for grills needed for cooling high temperature steam in many industries.

Is bamboo industrialization profitable?

Example from Colombia: At what scale is bamboo industrialization profitable?

There is a great analysis from Jörg Stamm regarding the profitability of the bamboo industrialization. This essay begins with the experiences of the author in the civil construction with bamboo and the craft manufacturing of laminated guadua angustifolia in Colombia, South America. With the data obtained in these experiences on input costs and small-scale returns, there are projections on a medium production scale. Such as bamboo industry machinery in China of the Woven Strand Board (WSB, also called “Strand Woven Board”). Also larger scales with automated wood industry lines in “commodities” such as the Oriented Strand Board (OSB) and Middle Density Fiberboard (MDF).

Surprising and very challenging, on the other hand, is the fiscal policy environment, which punishes industrial development with various types of direct and indirect taxes. The report also names niche markets with high added value and research, which propose the use of bamboo fibers with epoxy resin. For replacement of steel bars in concrete constructions by high density compounds. An analysis of different technologies with the natural Bamboo as natural resource. Read the full industrial bamboo potential (2016) from Jorg Stamm here.

Environmetal use of Bamboo

Bamboo for land restoration, a valuable environmental asset When it comes to restoring degraded land, bamboo is a powerful ally. Wherever it grows, bamboo protects and rehabilitates the surrounding environment. By conserving soil and water and improving the quality of the land. The plant grows rapidly slowing degradation and repairing damaged ecosystems. It is particularly suited to reforestation, afforestation, agroforestry and watershed protection.

Photo: Bamboo for land restoration

Its robustness and ability to thrive on the poorest of soils. Means that bamboo will thrive where other plants cannot survive. This makes it perfect for rehabilitating land damaged by erosion or industrial activity. Bamboo is used to help repair severely degraded land and ecosystems, while producing new revenues for local communities.

Bamboo also provides rapid reforestation. And in in doing this, contributes significantly to combating climate change, offering large-scale carbon sequestration. As a versatile material that can replace timber for the manufacture of a wide range of products. Bamboo will play an ever-increasing role of relieving pressure on timber forests.

Adaptive Contour Access Path (ACAP)

With the Adaptive Contour Access Path (ACAP) our focus is:

  1. Enabling improved manual access to the crops.
  2. Enhancing the soil quality with nitrogen fixing plants – Arachis Pintoi.
  3. Let the microorganisms do their magic with the soil – Vetiver Grass.
  4. Reducing erosion on a micro and macro level.
  5. Slowing down the water flow. Tropical rainfall can be extremely abundant quantity of water in short time.
  6. High efficiency in food crop production.
  7. Economically feasible solution.
  8. Creating diverse types of mulch material on site.

Experimental Zone Information

Aerial Photo: Experimental Zone (Steep Hill Farming) Information – ACAP

Our test site is located in a area with a elevation is 875-950 meter above mean sea level. Its about 1 Hectare in size. The slope is very steep. Its between 26° and 45° degrees steep! We have a average annual rainfall of 1000-1500 mm per year. The soil consists mainly of – Ultisol – red clay with high mineral content. Within the Köppen-Geiger classification we are in the Tropical rainforest climate.  Monthly average rainfall of 170mm, yearly almost 2000mm.

Adaptive Contour Access Path (ACAP) 

So basically we are using the different inspirations such as: “Contour Hedgerow Alley Intercropping” and the “SALT-System”. With the primary need to enable access within our crops on a literary VERY steep slope. Thats how we came up with the idea of the Adaptive Contour Access Path (ACAP).  Building graduated terraces on the hill with the help of heavy machinery is not always a option, because of the economic cost and the accessibility to the parcel.

So the alternative is to create only the most needed part. In our case that consists in a access path, of 20-40 centimeters width, following vertically the contour elevation within the slope. Now in our case we built it adaptively to the actual contour line. Because its not 100% on contour line. It depends on the procentual steepness of the slope. The steeper the slope, the closer the contour access path should be; conversely, the flatter the slope, the wider the spacing of alleys. To rebalance the difference spacing, we build all the access path adapting slightly up or down the contour lines, depending on the slope steeples.

Adaptive Contour Access Path (ACAP), PermaTree BirdView
BirdView-Illustration: Adaptive Contour Access Path (ACAP), PermaTree

So every 5-8 meters we build another Adaptive Contour Access Path (ACAP). In between them we have alleys which we use to plant intercropping 5x5m (triangle) permanent producing fruit trees, shrubs and herbs as well as endemic flowers. In a second phase we will plant alternately perennial crops between the permanent annual crops. Because with the spacing of 5×5 meters until the permanent producing fruit trees grow there is plenty of space. Even once those fruit trees are producing there will still be enough space for different crops, on different food forest levels, thinking in 3D farming. Plant short- and medium-term crops between and among permanent crops.  Now every now and then there is a fruit tree near to the access path.

In between that space we plant Vetiver grass. Like a contour hedgerow. Once the vetiver grass has grown mature, it can be trimmed down to 25 centimes every 3 month. The left over material is ideal mulching for below the fruit trees. Instead of having to buy organic material the cut off vetiver grass will break down within 30-60 days in a tropical climate with lots of sun and rain.

As ground cover we use Arachis Pintoi. Both elements will help within the system to evolve. The Vetiver roots are very dense and deep and will attract microorganisms and thus enhance the soil quality. The Arachis Pintoi is the perfect tropical climate ground cover processing nitrogen from the air and into the soil in a collaborative relationship with soil organisms. This system is holistic because including the endemic flowers such as Heliconias we provide food (nectar) for the birds and insects such as the different type of stingless bees we have on the farm. They will help with pollination of the fruit flowers and will produce. Obviously existing fruit trees such as Theorboma Cacao and Bitter mandarin will be part of the system. 

At the highest level of the ACAP we will plant giant bamboo (Dencrocalamus Asper) to have a constant production of nitrogen fixing leafs landing on the system slowly running down and breaking down. Also the giant bamboo will help filter water and slow down the water flow. Every bamboo stem will be filtering water and will act as a natural water reservoir in case of a dry period.

Adaptive Contour Access Path (ACAP), PermaTree SideView
SideView-Illustration: Adaptive Contour Access Path (ACAP), PermaTree

ACAP Agroforestry Enhancing Biodiversity

So obviously our goal is to enhance the biodiversity. To increasing our food production security not just in a sustainable way – but in a self-sustainable totally renewable way. By enabling all the players to have a mayor positive impact within the test zone. We have planted about 18 different plants – most of them for food production. Planting spacing in triangles 6x6x6 meters to allow maximizing photosynthesis with an average of 12 hours of sun light. Unlike classic agroforestry / syntropic farming practices we have not planted the fruit trees in rows, but have something more like extreme polyculture with a almost random assembly method.

We picked the fruit species randomly with the exception of never planting twice the same species one bordering the other. This should enhance diversity from within. Time will tell. But not only. Also focusing on enhancing the microorganism and mycorrhiza of the soil on different levels with Vetiver and Arachis Pintoi. Or the endemic insects and tropical stingless bees with a diverse tropical flowers: Heliconias, Hibiscus and two local shrubs that have lots of round yellow flowers.

Fruit Producing Bioadiversity Overview

Alphabetical ordering of the plant diversity and its latin botanical name within the ACAP experimental site at PermaTree:

  • Arachis Pintoi (for ground cover) 
  • Avocado, (Persea americana) 5 different type about 50 plants
  • Breadfruit, (Artocarpus altilis)
  • Fruti Pan Cacao (Theobroma) 
  • Cupuacu, (Theobroma Grandiflorum)
  • Giant Bamboo (Dendrocalamus Asper)
  • Guayusa (Ilex guayusa) 
  • Heliconias (flower nectar to attract birds and insects. Pollination and pest control)
  • Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)
  • Lemon Grass Membrillo, (Cydonia oblonga)
  • Quince Moringa (Moringa oleifera)
  • Noni (Morinda citrifolia)
  • Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum)
  • Peach-palm, (Bactris gasipaes)
  • Palmito, Chonta Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum)
  • Snake fruit, (Bali Salak (Salacca zalacca))
  • Soursop (Annona Muricata)
  • Starfruit (Carambola)
  • Vetiver (Increasing soil microorganism activity)
Adaptive Contour Access Path (ACAP)
Photo: BirdView Adaptive Contour Access Path (ACAP) 9th March 2019

Vetiver Grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides)

Vetiver tolerance to the extreme climate fluctuations such as prolonged drought, flood, inundation. Waterlogging tolerance extended to 45 days and the withstand temperature range from-100C to 480C. When planting vetiver will grow each dust (like lemon plants), there is no need to take it (bull spread as reeds). Therefore, when it will grow as time grows planted in rows, not grow rampant as weeds. It features not produce seeds, propagated mainly by asexual methods should not fear the spread uncontrollably. Besides, sharp vetiver leaves and roots of aromatic odor, capable of banishing snakes, rats and other rodents. 

Additionally thanks to the development of deep and dense root system, vetiver has the ability to absorb toxic in water and soil factors such as heavy metals, chemical plant protection.

Perennial Peanut (Arachis Pintoi)

As a nitrogen fixer the rhizomes of the perennial peanut process nitrogen from the air and into the soil in a collaborative relationship with soil organisms. Thus providing a free alternative to the nitrogen salts of chemical fertilizers. With its extensive root system, rhizoma perennial peanut spreads across the ground as a sod grass would perform.

Arachis Pintoi can be seen as living mulch (ground cover growing around the fruit trees). This is an management strategy that improves soil quality, reduces ground clearing weed maintenance by growing into a dense ground cover.  

SALT (Sloping Agricultural Land Technology)

SALT is system on soil conservation and food production, integrating different soil conservation measures in just one setting. Basically, SALT is a method of growing field and permanent crops in 3-meter to 5-meter-wide bands between contoured rows of nitrogen fixing trees. The nitrogen fixing trees are thickly planted in double rows to make hedgerows. When a hedge is 1.5 to 2 meters tall, it is cut down to about 75 centimeters and the cuttings (tops) are placed in alley-ways to serve as organic fertilizers.

SALT is a diversified farming system which can be considered agroforestry since rows of permanent shrubs like coffee, cacao, citrus and other fruit trees are dispersed throughout the farm plot.  The strips not occupied by permanent crops, however, are planted alternately to cereals (corn, upland rice, sorghum, etc.) or other crops (sweet potato, melon, pineapple, castor bean, etc.) and legumes (soybean, peanut, etc.). This cyclical cropping provides the farmer some harvest throughout the year.

Soil Erosion

The greatest problem man will encounter when forest trees are cut extensively without replanting and improper farming of fragile, sloping lands is soil erosion. The erosion of the topsoil. That thin upper crust on the earth’s surface on which man plants his food crops. Is an extremely serious issue in the amazon basin of South America.

First Giant Soursop (Annona muricata) fruits

As of the 25th of December 2018 we have had the first 60 Soursop fruits which are growing and starting to ripe now. When we first planted 100 different fruit trees, back in 2016, the soursop stood out because of its rocket like growth. Compared to the citrus fruit trees all of the Annona (Soursop, Rollina) and Artocarpus (Jackfruit, Breadfruit) fruit trees have grown extremely faster within our tropical climate. Later on we learned from a CEDAMAZ study that the Annona Muricata fruit is endemic to our Valley of the Fireflies (Valle de las Luciérnagas) here in the Zamora-Chinchipe region of Ecuador.

Did you know that the English name, “soursop” is derived from the Dutch “zuurzak”? Which means “sour sack”. In the German language the Soursop is known as “Stachel-Annone”. “Guanábana” is the local name in Ecuador.

The Soursop is a extremely tasty tropical fruit. With an average Brix value of unconcentrated natural fruit juice of 17.2° (degrees) it is sweet. It has flavors that are a combination of: Strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus flavor notes that contrast with its creamy texture, which is similar to the flavors of coconut and banana.

One of the very first Soursop (Annona muricata) fruit juice. Farm To Table in Ecuador
Image: One of the very first Soursop (Annona muricata) fruit juice from the PermaTree Farm in Ecuador

Although the Soursop rind is quite bitter, the fruit’s flesh is soft, smooth and sweet. It provides healthy carbohydrates as its major nutrient. The soursop also contains a significant amount of vitamin C and several B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. Along with a high amount of alkaline forming calcium, an important mineral for bone health.

The white pulp segments of the soursop fruit (75.6%) are primarily seedless, although it has an average of 171 seeds (5%) per fruit. Bark and seeds are toxic and contain poisonous alkaloids such as anonaine, muricine, and hydrocyanic acid. The seeds are also used for medicinal purpose of killing certain parasites.

The edible white pulp can be eaten raw. But it is also used to make fruit nectar, smoothies, fruit juice drinks, as well as candies, sorbets, and ice cream flavorings.

Giant Soursop at PermaTree in Ecuador (2018) tropical fruit
Mid December 2018 – one of the very first Giant Soursop tropical fruit ripening at the PermaTree Farm in Ecuador.
Not only the fruit is very healthy but also the Soursop Leafs are often used as medicinal herbs.

Research program on Amazonian Fruit from CEDAMAZ

Image: From CEDAMAZ – The Spanish name of the Annona muricata is Guanábana. In our region of Zamora-Chinchipe it grows within the 800 to 1000 m.o.s.l. It can’t grow lower than 800 m.o.s.l because its the lowest part of the valley base where the river Zamora flows. You can read

Not so long ago found some interesting data from the Nacional University of Loja in Ecuador (Universidad Nacional de Loja). It stated that a few years ago the CEDAMAZ started a research program about Amazonian Fruit (FRUTAMAZ). To identify, characterize and propagate the most promising native fruit species. With a focus on high nutritional importance as an agricultural crop alternative for the region.

Within this research program, at the end of 2010, the CEDAMAZ had identified, 31 promising fruit species originating from different corners of the province of Zamora-Chinchipe. The main species are: Moriche/Buriti palm (Mauritia flexuosa), Sacha Cherimoya (Rollinia Mucosa), Breadfruit (Artocarpus Altilis), Borojo (Borojoa Patinoi), Cacao Theobroma, Wild Cacao (Herrenia sp.), Camimito (Pouteria caimito), Peach Palm (Bactris Gasipaes), Cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum), Guaba (Inga sp.) and last Soursop (Annona Muricata).
Source: CEDAMAZ vol 2 (2012) PDF

Image: The soursop interior pulp as a base for smoothies, milkshakes, and other chilled drinks. You can also roast large sections of the pulp or eat it raw in cubes.

Health Benefits of the Soursop (Annona Muricata)

Practitioners of herbal medicine in Asian, African and South American countries have used the bark, leaves, root, and fruits of the soursop tree. To treat infections with viruses or parasites, arthritis, depression, stomach ailments, fever, parasitic infections, hypertension and rheumatism. The Annona Muricata fruit is also used as a sedative. Read more about all the additional Healing Benefits of the Soursop.

Steep Hill Tropical Agroforestry Soursop Zones

soursop plantation overview map - permatre, Ecuador
Image: Our Soursop plantation overview map. As you can see we have been organizing all the plantation in different zones. Between the soursop zones we have different food forest zones and lots Bamboo. As Ground cover we use Arachis pintoi – which is a great forage plant. Should help us in connection with the 15’000 Vetiver grasses matts we have planted within the access path to slowly improve the soil quality.

Giant Soursop Fruits come in all shapes and sizes

Clearing zone-G for additional Fruit Tree PolyCultures

When we talk about cutting pasture grass. It’s not the same thing in a non tropical climate like in Europe. The grass here is GIANT Elephant grass (the African Pennisetum purpureum, also known as giant king) which grows up tu 3 meters tall and is very thick up to 1cm! Check out the photos.

 

So it’s a real challenge to cut it. Even more to get rid of it. The only natural solution we found so far after doing various experiments over the period of 24month is, 1st cut it and 3 weeks later when it has grown back to 20cm high, we fumigate it with a natural solution which contains urea (Chemical formula‎: ‎CH4N2O) / nitrogen (N). Then the nitrogen will be sucked up by all the Gramineae (family of monocotyledonous flowering plants known as grasses,) and within 14 days the Gramineae-plant starts to dry out. We have a success rate of about 90%. So after a while we have to go back once or twice to get rid of all the grasses. Which obviously 🙄 are not endemic to this region and where brought with the idea of removing all the Amazon jungle forest to make space for more cattle farming … Since the beginning of the colonization in the 1960s, around 15% of the Amazon forest has been removed through agricultural practices. Source 2003 – Cattle ranching in the Amazon rainforest

 

The giant grass will be replaced with the following polyculture according to our previous learnings with the adaptive keyline access path with Arachis Pintoi & Vetiver grass.

 

Drone Bird View Video

Adaptive Contour and Erosion Control with Vetiver grass and Arachis Pintoi

Tropical Permaculture

Here we have a A-typical climate at PermaTree at the edge of the amazonas region in Ecuador. Most of the year too much rain. Too much water. Lots of issue with erosion and high difficulty of access with very steep hills.

Access path with Vetiver and Arachis Pintoi

So to improve this we have implemented something like access path in conjunction with vetiver grass on the falling hill side and additionally been planting Arachis Pintoi to first or foremost cover the soil.

Birdview: Adaptive Contour Access Path

With our very humid climate, swales make no sense. So here its not about the classic water harvesting.
Our focus at PermaTree in the amazonas region is clearly about:

  • Slowing down the water flow (lots and lots of tropical rainfall)
  • Reducing erosion on a micro and macro level
  • Enabling better manual access to the crops (Soursop fruit can get up to 15kg in weight!)
  • Improving the soil quality with nitrogen fixing plants like Arachis Pintoi and Vetiver grass

Adaptive Contour

To be honest ideally we should of have build first the access path on contour lines  and then plant the crops also on contour hight. But hey … we are learning on the hard way here 🙂

This is why we call this “Adaptive Contour”.

Using contour plantings such as vetiver grass to hold soil on steep hillsides with crops integrated between rows of contours.

Adaptive Contour Access Path

PermaTree: Adaptive Contour Access Path

As you can see on the image we have two keyline points / water holes which flow into a pond to store the water. Along this creek we have planted lots of bamboo to again slow down the water flow and increase soil quality with the bamboo root system and bamboo leafs which are a great source of nitrogen.

Also you can see the very green spot – there we initially planted the Arachis  Pintoi – its so green because it has already spread very well there. on the left side you side that it is still growing and needs some more time to get to the same level of green. On the left side you can see there is no Arachis Pintoi yet, so we will need to transplant it there too within the next rainy season.

If you look closely you can see where the excess water from the saddle dam is traveling down into the valley towards the pond where the grass is greener and vetiver grasses have been planted. Currently its summer so we cant do any transplanting.

Adaptive Contour Access Path

Image: Adaptive Contour Access Path

Video Adaptive Contour Access Path

Contour Hedgerows

Example of a hill with slope also using Contour Hedgerows. Using contour plantings such as vetiver grass to hold soil on steep hillsides with crops integrated between rows of contours.

Vetiver

Vetiver grass = Vetiver is native to India and is one of the best management practices to control erosion. This non-fertile, non-invasive perennial grass as a dense web of roots that binds soil and penetrates vertically to 15 meters.

Arachis Pintoi

Arachis pintoi is a forage plant native to Cerrado vegetation in Brazil. It is native to the valleys of the upper São Francisco and the Jequitinhonha rivers of Brazil.

Keyline = Keyline design is a landscaping technique of maximizing the beneficial use of the water … of Yeomans’ Keyline design system is the Keyline Scale of Permanence ( KSOP), which was the outcome of 15 years of adaptive experimentation.

Swale = A swale is a low tract of land, especially one that is moist or marshy. … Artificial swales are often infiltration basins, designed to manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration.

Contour line = In cartography, a contour line (often just called a “contour”) joins points of equal elevation (height) above a given level, such as mean sea level. A contour map is a map illustrated with contour lines, for example a topographic map, which thus shows valleys and hills, and the steepness or gentleness of slopes.

Adaptive Contour Access Path - Steep Hill Farming

Cacao Fino de Aroma

 

We produce Cacao Fino de Aroma

At PermaTree we produce Cacao Fino de Aroma. Fruity and flowery aromas and flavour with nutty malt notes. This is the characteristic flavour of Cacao Fino de Aroma that distinguishes it from other cocoas in the world. The Fino de Aroma denomination is an International Cocoa Organization (ICCO)* classification, which describes an exquisite aroma and flavour.

Only around 8% of the cocoa produced in the entire world is Cacao Fino de Aroma.

76% of Cacao Fino de Aroma produced in the world is grown in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru.

Origin & History

Drinking chocolate dates from pre-Colombian times to the Native American civilizations that populated Central and South America. It was particularly favorited by the Mayans who considered it a sacred gift from the gods.

Traditional knowledge and practices related to cocoa cultivation, consumption, transport and marketing are part of a process of historical and cultural construction that have remained unchanged over centuries. Recent studies in Palanda, county in the province of Zamora Chinchipe, show that at least one variety of Theobroma Cacao has its origin in the Upper Amazon, according to archaeological evidence found in the culture called Mayo -Chinchipe where confirmed use of cocoa from 3,300 BC in Santa Ana -LaFlorida site located 1,040 meters above sea level.

 

Ethical & Authentic

There are plenty of delicious chocolates around the world, but when choosing the ingredients, one should not only look at the price, but also at the quality, and whether the raw material comes from an authentic and sustainable source.

If you consume Starbucks or Nestle (global big brand) chocolate, most likely its not ethical because:

1. Labor Practices
Child labor, and in some cases, child slavery, are common practices on West African cocoa farms, where 75% of the world’s cocoa is produced. Children on cacao farms may endure long workdays, using heavy and potentially dangerous tools to harvest cacao pods.

2. Ingredients

Safe bet is to choose chocolate bars and chocolate-containing products that do not contain palm oil. Try to buy chocolate with no sugar much more healthy. Also try to eat chocolate with no diary /milk because studies have found that by adding milk this actually blocks the absorption of antioxidants in chocolate(!) While processed chocolate may taste delicious, the benefits of cacao are only found in the raw form.

3. Production Practices

Nearly all cacao is grown in West Africa or Latin America, and additives like vanilla and cane sugar are also grown in far-away places like Madagascar, Indonesia, South America, and Thailand. Keep in mind that consuming chocolate certainly doesn’t make your carbon footprint any smaller. It is also important to recognize that chocolate is a luxury and enjoy it as such. Make the best, most informed decisions you can, and savor each bite of it.

Currently in Ecuador its a real challenge as small organic cacao farm to live from selling cacao. We hope we can help and change this for the future. Let us know if you believe you can help us in this endeavor.

BTW previously we wrote a blog article step by step guide of cocoa to chocolate

 

Where is PermaTree in Ecuador?

PermaTree is located at the edge of the Andes mountain range and the amazon basin. The Amazon river system has its sources in the eastern flanks of the Andes. The Andes are the longest exposed mountain range of the world, and the second-highest after the Himalayas. The Andes mountain range is the highest mountain range outside Asia.

From this picture you can see on the top left the pacific ocean where the city of Machala is. On the right top side you can see Ecuador biggest city with about 2 million habitants which is Guayaquil. The brownish part in the center is the Sierra. Here on the right side is the colonial city of Cuenca which also has a airport. From the farm to Machala it can be a good 9 hours car ride. If you take the bus it can be longer.

On this picture you get an idea of the elevation and mountains which are around us. Also you can see part of the farm property location. Its not a flat farm 🙂 Lowest part if 800 m.o.s.l. and highest part is 1300 m.o.s.l

Keep in mind the river you see is the Rio Zamora which has more a less an elevation of 800 meters over the sea level. All surrounding it is higher. On the top of this picture you can see some peaks which most likely are some of the many active volcanos of Ecuador. The top of Mount Chimborazo in the Ecuadorean Andes is the point on the Earth’s surface most distant from its center. Mount Chimborazo is an inactive volcano in Ecuador, which last erupted over a thousand years ago.

Above is a updated touristic map of the canton de Yantzaza. PermaTree is located in the center where it says “Los Encuentros”. To be fair we haven’t seen 1% of all the things which are displayed here because we are busy building the farm and if we do have a few hours to chill we rather go and have a swim in our own natural pool 🙂

 

The Oriente – Ecuador’s Amazonian region

Amazon River Basin

Amazon River Basin
Image: Amazon River Basin

The Amazon rainforest of Ecuador or “El Oriente” of Ecuador is the country’s largest region. Nothing is just ordinary in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Ecuador’s Amazonian jungle, one of the country’s most thrilling destinations. At first glance, the rain forest is a vast green wilderness. However, as one observes carefully, this ecosystem is full of surprises for its visitors.

This area has the highest biodiversity in Ecuador, with more than 800 species of birds, more than 2500 types of insects and more than 450 species of endemic flora.

No other Ecuadorian habitat overwhelms the senses like the tropical rainforest, with its cacophonous soundtrack of birds and insects, the rich smell of steaming foliage and teeming soil, the glimmer of fluorescent birds and butterflies in the understory, or the startling clamour of a troop of monkeys clattering through the canopy above.

To give you an idea just how great the Amazon is, there are islands in the Amazon River that are nearly as big as the country of Switzerland in Europe. 

This is the Oriente’s star attraction, and what most visitors are here for – though the region, which occupies a massive area covering almost half the country, contains a good deal more besides. The alto (high) Oriente starts on the eastern Andean flank, where the high, windswept páramo steadily gives way to dripping montane forests, swathed in mist and draped with mosses and epiphytes, as the elevation decreases. Waterfalls plunge into broadening valleys, and temperatures rise the further you descend. Down in the foothills, poised between the sierra and the lowlands, lies a beguiling landscape of rippling hills and verdant, subtropical forests, home to a startling diversity of birds. Continuing east, the mountain ridges eventually taper away into the bajo (low) Oriente like talons sinking into the deep velvet of a vast emerald wilderness.

Population

One of three regions (the costa, the sierra and the oriente), the Oriente contains nearly half of the square footage of the country, but less than 5% of the 12.5 million population of Ecuador. Zamora – The City of Birds and Waterfalls If you’re looking for a destination in Ecuador with a difference, Zamora might just be what you had in mind. With only about 16,000 people living in the entire Zamora-Chinchipe province, this is one of the most sparsely populated parts of the country.

Southern Oriente

Ecuador’s southern Oriente is less developed than its northern counterpart in every way, with fewer roads, fewer towns, fewer tourists and less oil activity. The region’s two main population centres are Puyo, the provincial capital of Pastaza, and Macas, 129km further south, capital of the province of Morona-Santiago. Settlement by colonists is largely confined to a long, thin strip flanking the Troncal Amazónica (the Amazon highway), which runs from north to south through the region, in the selva alta, parallel with the eastern flank of the Andes. This road, mostly paved between Puyo and Limón, is virtually the only road in the southern Oriente, with access east into the heart of the tropical rainforest possible only by boat along the numerous rivers coiling through the forest, or by chartered light aircraft.

Climate

The climate in the low Oriente is what you’d expect from a rainforest – hot, humid and plenty of rain. The wettest months are April to July, but expect cloudbursts most days year round, usually in the early afternoon. Average daytime temperatures are around 25°C, though daily highs can be over 32°C. With such consistent conditions, the Oriente doesn’t have a high tourist season; at slow times of year, when there are few tourists in the country as a whole (Feb to mid-June & Sept–Nov), it’s worth asking for discounts.

History

Human settlements have existed in the Oriente since sometime around 2450 BC.  Early indigenous of the Oriente lived in a region rich in natural resources: rivers, plants, tropical fruits and of course–gold.

The Quijos region east of Coca was well known to the Incas, who ventured downhill to meet lowland tribes in peace and battle. It was also the first area east of the Andes to be penetrated by the Spanish. The anniversary of the European discovery of the Amazon River (February 12) is still celebrated in jungle cities with markets and fairs. Within a few centuries after European contact most of the region’s tens of thousands of inhabitants had fallen victim to smallpox and cholera.

Rumours of the jungle being el pais de canela (“the land of cinnamon”), a place of abundant fruits and spices, and the legend of El Dorado, the “Golden Man”, drew the early explorers here, suggesting to them a land of staggering natural riches.

The first Europeans to venture here soon found this fabled earthly paradise had a nightmarish underside; their parties were plunged into an impenetrable green hell (“el infierno verde”), teeming with poisonous snakes and biting insects. A string of catastrophic expeditions in the early colonial period quickly discouraged the Spanish from colonizing the Oriente at all.

The name itself “El Oriente” has its origins from back in time. The great province of Oriente was created during the first government of Gabriel Garcia Moreno in 1861, under a character of Special District with capital in Archidona. The province consisted of two cantons, the Napo canton whose capital was Archidona and the Canelos canton whose capital was Canelos.1 The Oriente was dissolved on December 15, 1920 in the Napo Pastaza and Santiago Zamora provinces by the government that presided over the José Luis Tamayo .

In 1861, just thirty years after Ecuador had declared its independence from Gran Columbia, the territory called the Oriente was designated after Ecuador and Peru signed a treaty defining each other’s borders. In 1941, Peru grew ambitious and invaded Ecuador occupying more than half of its territory in the eastern Amazon basin in a 10 day war. A treaty was negotiated in favor of Peru a year later. The U.S., Brazil, Chile, and Argentina agreed to act as guarantors of the peace treaty. The U.S. Air Force completed mapping and marking most of the borders of the Oriente by 1947. But because of the hope of finding gold, uranium, and oil, there was no resolution in Ecuador’s mind and in 1995, war flared up again between the two countries. It was not until the 1998 that Ecuador finally acquiesced and allowed Peru to keep the territory–putting to end one of the longest territorial disputes in the western hemisphere.

Even until the 1960s, most people, save for a sprinkling of missionaries and pioneers, kept away, leaving the forests and its inhabitants well alone. This all changed in the late 1960s following the discovery of large oil and gas reserves, now the country’s most important source of wealth. The Oriente was divided into 200-square-kilometre bloques (blocks) and distributed between the companies, who proceeded to drill and blast in search of black gold. Roads were laid, towns sprouted virtually overnight and large areas of rainforest were cleared. The Oriente was transformed into a “productive” region and colonists streamed in on the new roads, looking for jobs and levelling still more land for farms.

But it was in the 1990’s that yet a new “gold” was discovered in the Oriente: whitewater rivers and the promise of tourism. Already a paradise in its untouched, cloud forest/rain forest setting, tourism in the Oriente still mainly consisted of adventurous souls looking to explore Ecuador’s Amazon area with trips to such jungle retreats as Cuyabeno. The majority of Ecuadorians still shuddered at the thought of traveling to the Oriente–for fear of wild indians, giant snakes and unpaved roads. But the discovery of Ecuador’s whitewater treasure brought a whole new type of traveler into the tourism mix: kayakers and rafters.

Zamora-Chinchipe

The southernmost province in El Oriente, Zamora Chinchipe is the mining centre of Ecuador, with gold mines at Nambija, Chinapinza, and Guayzimi. The provincial capital, Zamora is accessed by the road from Loja, and Podocarpus National Park in the cloud forest between Loja and Zamora is popular with hikers.

Valle de las Luciérnagas – Valley of Fireflies

The famous Yantzaza Valley or Valley of Fireflies (Spanish: Valle de Yantzaza o Valle de las Luciérnagas). The origin of its name comes from the word yanzatza in Shuar which means “valley of the fireflies,” due to the constant presence of fireflies in the area. Yantzaza is a town in that region, the Zamora Chinchipe province of Ecuador. Because of its proximity to the border with Peru, some travelers pass through the town on their journey to northern Peru.

Finca PermaTree

Now you know why we choose the amazon part of Ecuador for our project finca PermaTree.

Growing Plants from Seeds, with the right Soil

Soil types at PermaTree

In the beginning of PermaTree, we just used the soil we found around the plant nursery which has a reddish and claylike soil texture. Not ideal for the seeds to germinate, we found out. It makes them hard to thrive, because of the slow drainage rate and therefore the high water-holding capacity.

The main soil we have at the Finca, is a claylike, reddish soil.

So, we were thinking it might be best to mix this claylike soil with compost to become a smoother structure to thrive the seeds an easier way to spread. But at that time we did not had our proper compost soil, so we had to find a vendor – which was only possible by asking around.

We just bumped in to a new raised project in the city of Yantzata where they produce, from organic waste of the garbage dump, compost soil. We were happy to finally find someone who is producing compost soil in big amounts and we liked the idea of the project because people usually do not reuse organic waste. All goes in to the same trash. So we bought a few bags of this compost and gave it a try.

The result was, the compost contained to much nutrition and for the little plants, there roots, got burned and finally they died. Also the compost had a nasty sticky structure. The surface dried out very fast and it got very hard. Inside it was so wet that the soil got moody and by turning the pot over you could smell the moodiness. Even for bigger Plants this compost soil failed in all cases. Plants firmly died by looking at them!

Soil condition in dry state of the compost, humus, fertilizer from Yantzaza.

So finally we had to drop the idea of using this compost soil, nice project, but something was not acting well.

Then we tried a other mixture with sand, which we bought by the river bank nearby and an almost black soil which we discovered near our workers house. A nice and smooth soil. Who thrived pretty well and now, after several times, throwing pots away and start from scratch, we had our first success! YEY!

So, best mixture is 80% Sand and 20% Compost or black soil.

Humus, soil near the workers house.

Sand texture from the river bank.

But there are different sand textures as well. Sometimes the sand is so fine that it sticks together like clay. Therefore, better sand with tiny, tiny stones in it, to keep a loose soil for good drainage so the water can flow through and does not stay to long in the pot, to avoid putrefaction.

With the time we had been talking to all kinds of people about soil and where to buy best, how to make our own fertilizer and by that, we received many, many answers and various techniques, how to make compost soil. Which was also a bit confusing for us and the question was, where to start best?

Our first idea was just throwing all organic matter from the kitchen into an earth hole. But soon we had company from ugly worms and the compost was very watery. Crops and dry components where definitely missing. And probably the hole thing wasn’t helping. So we actually didn’t know how to make a proper compost in a tropical climate like we are in.

Our first contact was a visit at the Japanese community TAKAKURA nearby. They make a soil with fermented crops, and finally the microorganisms break all the organic matter down to a black compost soil. A tradition Japanese recipe like they use it to make compost soil. There are two fermented solutions needed which can be read in a detailed manual they gave us. But still it is kind a tricky if you never got hands on it. We were just missing the insiders. When do I have to mix it how and how long and how does the soil look like, when do we have to add more from them and that? So we were kind a in the situation of not dared to venture.

There was another community near Yantzaza which also restores compost soil. They call it Bukatchi. Also a fermented process a fantastic soil for seeds! But we found it very complicated to produce. The recipe is long! You need lots of ingredients and fermented elements to produce Bukatchi according to their recipe and their stock is very little. You have to cut organic matter in tiny peace which is a time consuming process by hand.

Time passed and we came across with a completely different project the Guanabanas, Soursop a super food fruit which kills cancer cells hundred times more than chemotherapy. This all organic project made us very confident to produce them over large scale. So they told us, when the plant is placed in to the hole, fertilizer must be added to give them a good growing start. Over a other person we found a seller from Cuenca. A very good soil! Two bags we had to mix, one was a compost from leaves and the other was compost with cow dough. But this soil is really only for plants which are higher than 20 cm. Otherwise again, it’s too much nutrition and therefore not for seedlings!

Compost, humus, fertilizer soil from Cuenca.

For seedlings we used only like 10% of this fertilizer and the rest 60% with sand and 20% rice husks until the soil gets very smooth and light. Instead of compost soil we are using now goat dug which works well too. But as I mentioned, just very little because it is high in nutrition!

Goat dug fertilizer.

Dry rice husks, shells.

Why not chicken dug? Because it is very strong and the chicken dug is most likely coming from chickens which are treated with antibiotics, which is anyway bad for the soil. Better use Guinea pig dug or like mention above.

So this whole process took us one-year experimentation to find out what’s the best soil condition for our seedlings. We also found out that Papaya needs a lot of nutrition and Carrot grow best in sandy soil.

Compost soil is still an open project which we are working on it and hoping that hope one day to keep it up and ideally have a Volunteer on board who can support on showing us exactly how to produce smooth and nice black soil!

Plant Nursery, picture from today, 18. April 2017

Young chilli peper plant.

young Noni plant

Young Tomato plant.

Good fertilizer for Tomato, wooden ash!

Young Rambutan, plant

Young Pitahaya, Dragon Fruit plant.