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Home » “Plants are our allies”: Chef Rodrigo Pacheco on climate-proof foods

“Plants are our allies”: Chef Rodrigo Pacheco on climate-proof foods

Pacheco says they rely on indigenous and local knowledge to create a means of food production that benefits the planet.

Here, he’s planting native food species among native plants to create what he calls an “edible forest.” The result is a lush, biodiverse environment, where there was once a barren land. Now he hopes to cultivate the largest edible forest on the planet.

CNN spoke with Pacheco about her love of plants and the strong connections between cooking, culture and climate.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Pacheco says they rely on indigenous and local knowledge to create a means of food production that benefits the planet.

CNN: Your approach to cooking is very much focused on sustainability. You call it “regenerative gastronomy”: what does that mean to you?

Rodrigo Pacheco: Regenerative gastronomy is a type of gastronomy that aims to transform, reconnect landscapes and people. It’s about knowing the cycle of life, the planet, the plant.

Climate change is here, and this is a form of gastronomy that seeks to combat climate change. The gut plays an important role in the good health of the ecosystem.

CNN: What are edible forests and how are they key to your work?

Rodrigo Pacheco: All the elements that work in a normal forest, we try to replicate them in an edible forest. They are native species: we are not creating artificial ecosystems. We simply collect all the edible species and put them in one place.

Read: This British farm went from a “biological desert” to a biodiversity hotspot by letting animals take control

When we got here, it was a completely flat and empty ecosystem and … nine years later it became a forest. We grow spices exclusively of Ecuadorian origin, such as purple potatoes, corn, cacao, papaya, black pepper, pineapple, avocado, chili, pumpkin.

We’re trying to do the best we can with what we have here. We’re using the land wisely, adapting to what’s already there, but we make sure we leave the place better than we found it.

CNN: Why is it important to use indigenous methods to improve sustainability in food production and what can we learn from indigenous food traditions?

Rodrigo Pacheco: I learned on Amazon that they use papaya straw. The papaya branch is completely hollow inside, so they use a huge straw to drink chacha. [a fermented yuca drink].

When I found out, we replaced our restaurant bar with these straws and have been serving over 40,000 for nine years, where we completely banned plastic straws, much of it inspired by these. comes from .

Using agriculture to replace plastic items used in hospitality, I think that’s amazing. And we are learning from these native cultures.

Pacheco grows edible plants within natural ecosystems.

CNN: What are the main issues facing agriculture right now?

Rodrigo Pacheco: If we all close our eyes and take an x-ray of our refrigerators, no matter where you are in the world, we’ll find the same products. There are 1,000 types of edible plants in the world and we use 20 of them. So we need to rethink this model, we need to rethink and change our habits and try to discover all these beautiful plants that have so much to say.

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