Yesterday we were walking through the streets of San Pedro, Belize, looking for local cuisine and we found it. It was at the restaurant called El Fogon. The restaurant is open, thatched roof, dirt floor, wooden benches with tables with the real Island feel. They make their food the old ways, as they were taught from their parents.
I saw the massive pots over the fire, where they use natural and native ingredients from around the island like fish, beans, rice, food cooked in banana leaves, and then there is chaya water. This is tea made from “wild spinach”!
Suzanna, the owner and chef of the establishment spent time to explain how she began the restaurant and what drives her now. She loves to keep the old traditions and ways alive. The menu is small – tomatillos with chaya, fish balls, soup, lobster, lime water and a few other things.
Chaya water/tea is the water that comes when you steam the chaya leaves. Chaya bushes with lots of large green leaves grow wild in Belize. It is something like spinach, but it is way more nutritious. You steam or boil the chopped leaves in water for 20 minutes, cool, and add squeezed lime if you like. Here is a picture we took.
Chaya water/tea is loaded with healing properties. Suzanna told me that it helps build up your blood and give you amazing energy, people on chemotherapy seem to come back to life. She raved about it lowering blood sugar for diabetes, and also help for arthritis. It is also said to be a natural diuretic and liver cleanser! It contains protein, fiber, iron, Vitamin C and other great nutrients. Suzanna maintains that everyone should drink 1-2 cups per day to really be healthy.
She must have been reading my mind, because she called to the back and presented me with a glass of the warm greenish chaya water to drink. It actually tasted great.
In addition to the tea, chaya can also be eaten like a vegetable, or to make tomatillos. The chaya plant is only to be eaten cooked (not raw). Here is some good news about the Chaya (wild spinach) plant. It is drought resistant, bug resistant, grows very quickly, and is easy to plant. Sounds like a miracle plant to me! Wouldn’t I love to get some seeds and start growing it myself!
Here’s what I came away with. People from around the world have native plants that provide unique nutrition and healing for the people in those very areas. It was very exciting to me to watch and to experience in person, right there in Belize.
Here are some links I found that even make you want to check it out further!