Sunday, August 9, 2009


Why Does it Rain?Printe-mail this info

Rainfall in Costa Rica follows a predictable pattern and it's relatively easy to understand.

From May through September the tilt of the earth creates long, warm summer days in North America and brings the sun directly overhead in Costa Rica.

Where the sun shines straight down it heats more, warm air picks up moisture near the surface, then rises and expands. Expansion cools the air forcing the water out, first as tiny droplets that form clouds, then as the droplets combine into drops, rainfall.

Earth Seasons
From May through August the area of greatest heating and convective rainfall is north of the equator, over Costa Rica creating the rainy season. (©Toucan Guides)

The rainy season in Costa Rica corresponds with this period of increased heating during the northern hemisphere summer (Ticos call these months winter, see seasons). By November the earth has realigned and the sun shines directly overhead somewhere south of the equator, moving the band of intense rainfall with it. This marks the beginning of Costa Rica’s dry season.


So none of this does much good as far as explaining the dry summer we've had thus far. Up on La Union where I house-sit, one tank is completely empty and the collection tanks needed to take the house through the dry months from mid-November until June are less than 10% full. Most of the year round residents rely on water collection systems and we are all hoping that we get the September and October that we need. Has there been rain and has it been fierce? Yes there has been and fierce doesn't even begin to describe it. But it hasn't been delivered in the quantities that will supply us through that long dry season.

The rain on our coast is unlike any I have ever lived with. We sit here on our cliffside perch and watch the storms develop to the south over the Corcovado Parque Nacional, and within minutes, sometimes, moments; watch the storm rage up over the ocean and pass right in front of us, streaming and racing to the north. The winds howl and cry; blowing table settings off the tables, knocking over flower stands, brochure holders and even blowing out the pilots of the stoves in our sheltered kitchen.

And the rain? It doesn't fall, it doesn't pitter patter; it hammers down, soaking all in it's path. It moves sideways in the wind and in the 30 seconds it takes me to run out to roll up the windows in the car it soaks me to the bone. It enters our covered, but open, dining room in sheets, drenching the tables and floors. Within minutes the puddles around the outside of the kitchen are deep enough to envelop my entire foot and the ten second scurry to the bodega for supplies is tantamount to taking a shower. I recall being at the Lookout Hotel and watching the pool fill up so rapidly that the pool toys floated right out of it and down he hill. Bye bye.

We have two seasons here; dusty and muddy. In the dry months of our summer (Northern Hemisphere winter) the roads are dusty and powdered red from the clay soil here. The dust is fine and clings to most everthing equally tenaciously. It clouds up when you stamp your feet and your dusty footsteps follow you on every surface you tread upon.

But the mud; the mud, the mud. Red again; rich, soft, gooey; building and forming instantly beneath the pelting rain. Within moments that dirt parking lot you got in and out of your car in with complete impunity is now a swamp. Your feet sink into the sludge and purchase is nearly impossible. You cautiously raise one knee to lift yourself into your parked vehicle, hoping so desperately that the mud doesn't pull down your planted foot and heave you into the swamp. The dust you tracked during the dry season is nothing compared to the goo and mire that you track in out of the mud. Every road you drive on is marked in red by the tires that have slid over it. It sticks to your legs, stains your clothes and cakes the soles of your shoes. And yes, the rich red color is everywhere you go; the floor of the mercado, the floor mats of your car, on the back of your legs. The rainy season.

So we wait and hope that the rain will come. It always does, just look at the handy pictures at the top of this page. As usual we have science on our side helping us to understand. It is with certainty that I believe that this afternoon, just after four, the skies will open and we will receive that hour of drumming, thrumming rain. It will stop just in time for the sunset and the skies will be glorious for it. But soon, it will rain like that all day, every day.

I can't wait.

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Wednesday May 13, 2009 La Cusinga and Me

This words below are from our website describing La Cusinga.  The story, however is much deeper and much richer than these introductory words can describe.  La Cusinga represents a noble and successful effort to preserve this section of unspoiled coast and to keep it alive as a model of what true ecology can accomplish.  The dreams and visions of John Tresemer, the owner of La Cusinga and the Finca Tres Hermanas that surrounds it, have been realized here in what is a true example for all who would preserve and protect what remains of this, or any natural wonder. 

La Cusinga 
La Cusinga Lodge is a coastal rainforest eco lodge dedicated to marine and terrestrial conservation and environmental education. Its location on the southern Pacific coast provides guests with sweeping ocean views and a relaxing beach vacation. In addition La Cusinga is part of a private nature reserve that supplies the visitor with an unparalleled look at Costa Rican wildlife and rainforest. The reserve consists primarily of 250 hectares of virgin rainforest that borders thousands of more acres of privately protected forest. On Costa Rica’s still wild south-western Pacific coast, La Cusinga Lodge borders Ballena Marine National Park which was developed to protect the humpback whales that frequent the coast. La Cusinga Lodge was established in order to share the unique site with Costa Ricans as well as international visitors. Besides getting exposure to rural Costa Rican culture and beautiful vistas, visitors have access to highly prolific areas of primary tropical rainforest and unspoiled coast, all conveniently accessible. 

i returned to La Cusinga this past January, 2009, with a dream in mind.  I wanted to create a cuisine for our guests that would bridge the gap between what La Cusinga offered physically and spiritually, and what they were putting in their bodies when they ate here.  I knew from having previously lived in Costa Rica for over two years that there were organic farmers and that sustainable agriculture was being practiced, but at that time it had been limited in its scope as well as its distribution.  

My first steps upon returning were toward the local Feria to seek out and communicate my ideas with the growers and vendors who could provide me with a local, organic and sustainable product.  The fertile valleys of San Isidro that lie over the coastal mountains and to the Northeast of our Pacific location are rich and productive but are only now exploring the potential that they hold.  

I had in mind a vision that would support local farmers, fishermen and food artisans and one that would recreate (or perhaps, create) a new cuisine of Coastal Costa Rica.  I visit the markets each week to talk with growers and to develop the  relationships that I believe will be mutually beneficial as Costa Rica experiences its rapid growth on an international level
Organic farming is a new and not heavily supported concept in our part of Costa Rica.  It is a brave step for farmers to make, as local communities of both growers and consumers have never placed, or not known to place, an importance on farming organically and sustainably.  I feel a responsibility as a Chef here to be at the forefront of those encouraging and supporting these pioneers  

I came to La Cusinga almost three years ago not knowing what to expect.  My first time through here was characterized by a lack of understanding and appreciation on my part as well as an inability to recognize or connect with the local "flavor" that would make for a coherent package for out guests.  I now feel as if I have made a "connect" with the property and the vision.  I am not completely satisfied and hopefully, never will be, until we are able to produce, right here at La Cusinga, the greater share of the produce we serve.  However, the groundwork has been laid with local farmers and the availability and quality of organic produce is impressive.

Now at La Cusinga I serve a variety of organic lettuces and braising greens.  My salads include wedges or slices of rich red tomatoes as well as sweet !00 and yellow pear cherry tomatoes.  I roast organic beets and marinate them in balsamic vinegar to be served alongside the lettuces and topped with a locally made organic goat cheese.

My soups are made from roasted and steamed local organic vegetables and tiny organic yellow creamer potatoes have found their way onto my plates, nestled against filets of locally caught fish.
I am now using a local organic cocoa powder that still contains the nuggets of cocoa butter unlike the fined cocoa powder in the markets.

And better still, I am able to use palmito (hearts of palm), ginger, cilantro and its sawtooth leafed cousin culantro coyote, mangoes, hot and sweet chiles, mandarina limes and yucca root from our own Finca Tres Hermanas to serve in my dining room at La Cusinga.   The connection from jungle and farm to table is evolving.  May it continue to grow.