February 26

An Encounter with Ramón

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The Maya nut, also known as: Ojite, Ojoche, Capomo, Jushte, Ash, Ox

In 2014, I travelled to Chiapas and was hosted there by a young couple doing work under an NGO in a rainforest community. They explained to me that part of their project was to develop ways to make use of the seed from a tree they called ramón. Since the early 2000’s, NGOs in Central America (Guatemala, Nicaragua)had been working with communities to make best use of this resource, and, as this couple told me, it was important for Mexico to follow suit.

The fruit and the seed from the tree were both edible, but the seed, although well-understood by the Maya elders to be highly nutritious, was under-utilized. During periods of famine it had been valued as a food source, but once the desperation for food was relieved, one could suppose that the process of drying, roasting and grinding them may have been considered more trouble than it was worth.

Instead, they explained to me, the trees were being felled for lumber. This unsustainable practice was endangering an eco-system where a great many foraging animals depended on this tree for their food. Some of the indigenous Maya did continue to glean the fruit, and themselves used the seeds, consuming them with corn, either as a drinkable gruel (atole) or made into tortillas.

With a little research on Google, I was able to conclude that they were talking about what would be called in English the ‘Breadnut’, or ‘Maya nut’ tree. Brosimum alicastrum. Though interesting, I was there to explore fruit and vegetables that were more likely to be encountered by foreigners in local markets and this didn’t fit that criteria. I filed the information away for later.


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