This post is also available in: Spanish
Amazing herbs and vegetables at Playa Bonita
Some hotels in Panama, especially in the interior of the country, cultivate the vegetables and herbs they use in the kitchen. It is difficult to get that sort of experience in the capital city, but in the Westin Playa Bonita, Edwin Pino, manager of the green areas of the Bern Hotels, of which the Playa Bonita is part, has created a space where fruits, vegetables and herbs grow happily in two 500 square meter greenhouses, where temperature, humidity and other aspects that can affect the plants are carefully controled.
The greenhouses are at sea level, a few meters from the hotel entrance, which is close to the sea, and when you enter them it is like going into a different world with planters full of mint, spearmint, coriander, peppers, three different types of basil, cucumbers, lettuce, arugula and even melon. The frangrance is amazing.
Pino, a forest engineer and agronomist, explained that it was decided to build the greenhouses, at a cost of $30,000 each, and grow herbs and vegetables such as arugula, because it was difficult to find and buy them. In addition, this hotel has big kitchens and caters for a 1000 people on a daily basis. On top of that the majority of the chefs prefer fresh ingredients for their dishes and Chef Carlos from the Starfish Restaurant, one of the nine in the hotel is no exception.
The greenhouses are built using an adapted Israeli model with one fan cooling it and another fan extracting the hot air, maintaining a constant temperature between 28 to 32º and they are the only ones at sea level in Panama. They have irrigation and fertilizing systems to keep the plants healthy. Pino and his team produce compost on the premises, which follows the philosophy of sustainable tourism of the Bern Hotels.
The two structures are built with strong perplex plastic, steel frames and fine mesh, which keeps out insects and other plagues. Before you enter, you are asked to disinfect your shoes to avoid harming the plants. Pino explains the process they use to produce herbs, vegetable and fruits as organically as possible. When the tour is finished, you feel inspired to create your own greenhouse.
But the experience does not finish there. Pino invites you harvest spearmint, basil, arugula and other vegetable to be taken to the hotel’s restaurant where Chef Carlos Flores will prepare a delicious and nutritious juice, a salad or even a main dish. All of them are very healthy and part of SuperFoodsRx™ dishes packed with nutrients and energy.
It is important to highlight that the Westin Playa Bonita grounds have coconut palmtrees, oranges and lemons which are used in the preparation of healthy juices and cocktails offered in the different restaurants of the hotel.
Hotel guests can take a free tour of the greenhouses. Schools and non-profit organizations are also welcome to visit them. They only need to write a letter to the hotel’s manager requesting permission to visit. “We want schools to come and see us, so children will learn about the land and create their own herb and vegetable gardens,” said Pino.
If you are a garden enthusiast and want to tour the greenhouse call 204-6600 for information and prices. The Westin Playa Bonita is situated only 15 minutes from Panama City, just after the Bridge of the Americas. It is a great place to dine or simply take a break from your hectic life and enjoy healthy living for the weekend.
By Marijulia Pujol Lloyd