Going Organic in Santurce

Puerto Rico’s tropical climate and fertile soil makes it possible to grow a wide variety of produce all year around, and yet the island reportedly imports more than 80 percent of its food. This is something the co-owner of El Departamento De La Comida (Department of Food), Tara Rodriguez, would like to see change, and she is leading by example with her organic food store in the neighborhood of Santurce, San Juan, where customers can enjoy fresh organic produce grown by local farmers.

Modern farming methods often rob the soil of nutrients, which are then replaced with chemical fertilizers, with more chemicals being used to control pests. This leads to fresh produce being laden with chemicals and lacking in flavor. Growing organically is beneficial for the soil, farmers and consumers. Using organic and companion planting principles, a variety of crops are grown together in the same field, thereby doing away with the need for toxic chemicals and artificial fertilizers. Farmers deliver their produce directly to the store and customers are assured of quality produce grown on the island they call home.

Customers are invited to speak to employees at the grocery store with regard to where and how the produce is grown, as well as for information on preparing healthy foods that don’t harm the environment. To encourage customers to try new foods and to include a variety of fresh foods in their diet, El Departamento de Comida prepares ‘harvest boxes’ with a selection of fresh produce for the week which customers can order for delivery.

El Deparamento is located in a renovated warehouse where customers can choose their organic produce at leisure, and enjoy beautifully prepared dishes at the store. In addition to an appetizing array of fruit, vegetables, herbs and locally grown coffee, they also have books and literature on healthy eating and plenty of advice on how to prepare the ingredients they provide.

After studying and practicing architecture in New York, Tara Rodriguez returned to Puerto Rico where she now promotes growing food without damaging the environment. She also opened a social venue, El Local en Santurce, which is dedicated to promoting local talent and creative events. She is the head designer for El Molino Studio and co-owner of El Departamento de la Comida with her design partner Olga Casellas.

So, if you have the good fortune to be living in or visiting San Juan, be sure to spend some time in the Santurce neighborhood and enjoy the tasty delights at El Departamento de la Comida, knowing as you do that you are supporting local farmers.