Cultura, Food

Recipe Book Gives Native Seeds of Guanacaste a Comeback

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Bertilia Romero put on her shoes, grabbed an espeque (a wooden pole used to get seeds down as well as serving as a walking stick) and was ready to go out with her mother to look for seeds in the mountains. They left early with one of the 12 brothers who was not working.

Among the trees, they found ojoche or Maya Nut (Bromisum alicastrum), yanju (similar to coffee), flor de piñuela (Bromelia pinguin) and other plants from which they yo extracted the seeds needed to prepare food.

Bertilia believed that her mother had special powers in front of the stove. “She would have a little of something and she’d quickly invent a dish so everyone at home could eat well,” she tells us 60 years later, as part of the coordination team for Sol de Vida (Sun of Life), a non-profit organization that seeks to revive native foods of Guanacaste.

Every time Bertilia tells us about the dishes prepared by her mother, she rubs the palms of her hands together. “They tasted so good,” she says.

Now she spends her days in the organization creating a sanctuary of seeds to fight against the increase of fast foods in the province that, according to her, have gotten young people away from traditional foods.

We asked her to give us some recipes that contain native seeds and that were ani essential part of the Guanacastecan identity.

Many of the seeds can be found at the farmers markets in Guanacaste or perhaps in the yards of people’s houses.

Corn Ball Soup


500 grams of traditional corn dough

1.5 liters of milk

1 medium onion

1 bell pepper

Local cilantro (called culantro de coyote) to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon of butter

250 grams of grated cheese



  1. Boil the milk with the condiments and half the pepper, onion and cilantro.
  2. Mix the corn dough with the cheese and the rest of the pepper, onion and cilantro.
  3. Form the corn mixture into balls and fry them.
  4. Put the balls in the milk and wait for them to become spongy.

Hot Ojoche beverage

Atol de ojoche


1 glass of milk

3 tablespoons ojoche

3 tablespoons of sugar


  1. Toast and grind the Ojoche seeds.
  2. Boil the milk.
  3. Once the milk is boiling, add the sugar and the ojoche.
  4. Stir the mixture until it is thick.

Piñuela stew

Guiso de piñuela


1/2 kg of chopped piñuela flower

1 medium onion

3 garlic cloves

1 bell pepper

1 turmeric tip

Salt and pepper to taste

200 grams of corn dough

1/2 cup of milk

3 tablespoons natilla (sour cream)

Grated cheese to taste

Guineo plantain cut in strips


  1. Fry the plantains.
  2. Cut the piñuela flower into small squares and boil it in water for ten minutes.
  3. Saute the onion, pepper and garlic.
  4. Cook the sauteed mixture in milk on low heat with the piñuela flower, turmeric and natilla.
  5. Separately, mix the dough with a little milk until consistency is uniform.
  6. When the piñuela flower is soft, thicken it by adding the dough with milk.
  7. Serve the dish, adding the fried guineo plantain and grated cheese.

Yanju as a substitute for coffee

Café de yanjú


Yanju seeds


  1. Toast the Yanjú seeds.
  2. Afterward, grind the toasted seeds.
  3. Prepare the drink just like preparing conventional coffee.

Bean Candy

Cajeta de frijol


1/4 kg of beans

1 block of dulce (unrefined whole cane sugar)

3 cinnamon sticks


  1. Cook the beans until they are soft and tender.
  2. Boil the dulce and the three cinnamon sticks in a cup of water.
  3. Blend the beans.
  4. When the water is boiling, add the blended beans and stir the mixture until it hardens.
  5. Let the mixture cool.