Cuba Agroecology: Patio Pelegrin organoponico in Pinar del Rio, Cuba

Patio Pelegrin organoponico garden beds.
Photo Pam Dawling

Visit to Pelegrin Courtyard (Patio Pelegrin) artist family Community Agricultural Project (organoponico) in Pinar del Rio, close to Viñales, Cuba

Day 6 – Sunday January 12 (journey back to Havana)

This is the continuing story of my Agroecology Tour of Cuba with Organic Growers School in January 2020. Search the Cuban Agriculture Category for more posts about other farms we visited.

Our air-conditioned bus left at 8.30 am to visit Pelegrin Courtyard (Patio Pelegrin) artist family Community Agricultural Project (organoponico).

Pelegrin Patio artist community dolls, Cuba.
Photo Pam Dawling

We were greeted by a group of children singing and performing a short sketch. Then we were given a tour, including a caged crocodile, guinea pigs (food?) a catfish pond (catfish are invasive aliens, which Cubans are trying to eliminate by eating them. [I wonder why they don’t feed them to tourists?]

Pelegrin Courtyard pond with turtles and catfish.
Photo Pam Dawling

We saw their vegetables in beds edged with roof tiles. We saw field crops including sweet potatoes and coffee.

Pelegrin Courtyard sweet potatoes (bonato).
Photo Pam Dawling

Again I saw cilantro and creole spinach. I’m still seeking other names for creole spinach.

Creole Spinach at Pelegrin Courtyard, Cuba. The blue fabric is for organic pest control.
Photo Pam Dawling
Close up of creole spinach in Cuba.
Photo Pam Dawling

Creole Spinach is different from Egyptian spinach (Corchorus olitorius), Lalo, Molokheya, Saluyot, Ewedu, West African Sorrel, Krin Krin, Etinyung, Jute leaves. Also see more about Jute Leaves at this link. Note pointed leaves.

Jute leaves. iStock photo

It is none of these tropical “spinaches” either:

Read about those in the Love of Dirt blog by Nicki McKay. Before you click to buy seeds, know that she is in Australia.

Click here to read what Tom Carey has to say about some of these:

  • Nor is it Callaloo (amaranthus spp), bayam, Chinese spinach.
  •           Nor Okinawa spinach (Gynura crepioides, Hong Tsoi, Longevity Spinach);
  •           Nor Malabar spinach (Basella alba, Basella rubra),
  •           Nor water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica), Kangkong). Watch out, that can be invasive.
  •       Maybe Suriname spinach (Talinum fruticosum, (Talinum triangulareTalinum Spinach, Philippine spinach, Waterleaf, Ceylon spinach, Surinam purslane, Florida spinach)? Florida is geographically very close to Cuba. Similar pink flowers.
Talinum Spinach
(Talinum triangulare).
Photo Grow a Gardener Inc, Vegetable Gardening in SW Florida

Learning about these hot weather greens may be useful as our summers get hotter.

I have a bit more information about the Cuban oregano, Plectranthus amboinicus, I saw at several farms, including Alamar Urban Organic Farm . Cuban oregano is a member of the mint or deadnettle family. It has characteristic thick, fuzzy leaves with a strong pleasant odor. The flavor of Cuban oregano is said to be much stronger than Greek oregano.

Pelegrin Courtyard meprobromato treats anxiety.
Photo Pam Dawling

I also saw meprobromato, a herb drunk as a tea or cold drink to treat anxiety. Meprobromate  was manufactured and marketed in the US as Miltown and Equanil. They were best-selling sedatives/minor tranquilizers for a time, until replaced by benzodiazepines. Nowadays, meprobromate is known to be addictive at doses not much higher than the medication dosages.

Mosaic steps at Pelegrin Courtyard farm.
Photo Pam Dawling

We saw many outdoor mosaics, including walkways, steps and pieces embedded in the walls.

Mosaic bench at Pelegrin Courtyard, Cuba.
Photo Pam Dawling

Inside the galleries we saw pottery, dolls and paintings. I bought a painting of an old man for $25.

Pelegrin Courtyard pottery.
Photo Pam Dawling

There was a big porch with a mural and greetings from groups  who had visited from all over the world.

Porch on the artists’ gallery at Pelegrin Courtyard, Cuba.
Photo Pam Dawling

They have received international support for some of their farming (irrigation) and their farm buildings.

Pelegrin Courtyard, Cuba. Outdoor classroom.
Photo Pam Dawling

4 thoughts on “Cuba Agroecology: Patio Pelegrin organoponico in Pinar del Rio, Cuba”

  1. Lovely to see your photos of travel. I really like the prettily scallop edge of those raised beds made with the roof tiles! I have eaten catfish- it has a very earthy flavor which I don’t care for (my husband however did like it). I am guessing more tourists than not would dislike the taste? I grow cuban oregano and callaloo- which I think has an even better flavor than spinach, and I am looking for more hot-weather greens to grow. Nice to learn a bit more about them.

    1. Thanks Jeane,
      I have written earlier articles and blog posts about hot weather greens, and have a chapter in Sustainable Market Farming. Now I’m learning about some new ones, thanks to my Cuba trip awakening my interest! Pam

  2. Cuba is a great example of how countries can wean themselves of industrial agriculture and the chemical fertilisers and pesticides that farmers have to pay for, as well as the equipment needed for them.
    It’s great that you are describing your travels to this country. This is some detailed information about how they made their transition and the methods the farmers use:
    https://rainwaterrunoff.com/cuba-the-country-that-transitioned-from-conventional-agriculture-to-large-scale-semi-organic-farming/

    1. Thanks Ivan. Your website is a great resource, with many videos about Cuban agriculture. The situation is so complicated. I was aware that a fair bit of the delicious produce was going to restaurants to feed tourists like me. The local farmers market did not have many different crops on offer. Of course, tourism is an important business for Cuba and one very dependent on the changing approach of the governments of other countries (and in 2020 the Coronavirus pandemic). I was surprised to learn that all the fish in the restaurants is imported, and that Cuba does import chicken parts. Despite knowing that the story is complicated, I was very impressed with the transformation Cuba made to feed its people when the Soviet Union collapsed, and how organic vegetable production is working so well there. Pam

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