When Mauro Chávez became interested in agronomy and plant breeding 21 years ago, the concept of organic food was for madmen and dreamers. He began by creating a small nursery of flowers and vegetables on the outskirts of San Gregario Atlapulco, a town south of Mexico City that was declared a World Heritage Site for its wealth of natural resources. Taking into account the terrible damage agrochemicals cause to land and human health, Chávez began investigating cultivation techniques that avoid them.
Together with a group of farmers in the area, he attended an organic agriculture course in Valle de Bravo in 1998. There he met Jairo Restrepo, a renowned agroecologist and a forefather of organic agriculture in Mexico. From him, Chávez learned about environmental movements, ecological philosophies and sustainable practices that, in an instinctive but less didactic way, he had already applied in his greenhouses. Following this first meeting, he met Francisco Martínez from the Ministry of Agriculture in Cuba, who taught him that sustainable ecological processes are possible even when the means are limited. Astrologer Walter Anliker encouraged Chávez to turn his eyes to the stars to better plan sowing and cultivation calendars. Sebastián Piñeiro, an agronomist and Brazilian forestry engineer, introduced him to the topic of soil mineralization. But, his true vision was not entirely formed until engineer Jack Krakaur, with whom he would forge a lasting friendship, asked Chávez a simple question:
“Mauro, do you know that your flowers can be eaten?”
The mission to grow edible flowers did not take off immediately, but Chávez is the patient and witty type. He was able to wait for the right moment to announce his product at a massive flower exhibition organized by the Ministry of Tourism. He was accompanied by Walter Anliker who provided floral therapy and astrology. The success was resounding. In more than 2200 square meters of exhibition, there was only one person who proposed “organic flowers with gastronomic intention.” Among the curious observants was the chef de cuisine of two of the best hotels in Mexico and Chávez’s first great client, who was fascinated by what he would later call a “product of the future.”
After a long journey of experimentation and specialized studies, Chávez now sells his flowers to the best hotels and restaurants in the country, to dozens of internationally renowned gastronomy schools, and now has the idea to export them abroad. Most are different species of begonias, beautiful and rendering excellent antioxidants. They have an acidic flavor that accompanies salads, fish, seafood and desserts, although they are best when made into jams. He also grows borages, marigolds, dahlias, chrysanthemums, roses, bougainvillea, violets, primrose and cempasúchil.
Mauro Chávez knows the intimacy of his creations and the influence the stars, solstices and equinoxes have on their development. He uses an ionization system that purifies irrigation water and strengthens it against diseases and he follows the lunar calendar at every stage of cultivation. Thanks to this fascinating biodynamic model and his healthy plants, he has been able to verify that agrochemicals and their greenhouses are absolutey dispensable. Now Chávez is most interested in sharing his discoveries with future generations by writing the first book on florifagia in Mexico.
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Text and Photos: Guénola Bally