Situated on the western coast of Panama, bordering with Costa Rica, Chiriquí is the second most developed province in the country, and it is also the most fertile. Nicknamed by many as the breadbasket of Panama, Chiriquí’s unique terrain, rich volcanic soil and balanced climate, meaning that food can be grown all year round, all play an important role in the region’s bountiful harvest of coffee, fruits and vegetables.
The majority of the coffee that Panama produces comes from Chiriqui, some of which has been frequently judged as being the finest in the world. The majority of the coffee farms in the region are still run by families, who are responsible for everything from planting to harvesting to bagging. Some of the province’s most notable coffee plantations, many of which are open for visits and guided tours, include Finca Lerinda, which also offers panoramic views from their elevated height of 4800 feet above sea level, Café Ruiz, where coffee has been grown since the late 1800s, the Jansen Family Coffee Farm, known to produce some of Panama’s best coffee, and Los Miracles, which features handmade equipment and eclectic production techniques resulting in a coffee that the Japanese are crazy about.
Thanks to the volcanic ash that enriches the soil of Chiriquí, the region produces exceptionally high yields of fruits. In addition to the more common tropical fruits, such as the papaya, mango and pineapple, Chiriquí’s soil produces an awe-inspiring array of the more uncommon fruits. From the tree tomato to the rose apple to the guanabana, if you see any of those fruits at a market near you, there is a large chance that it actually came from Chiriquí. The region is also well-known for its bananas and melons, exporting them throughout the United States and Europe. One of the best ways to sample the diverse range of tropical fruits grown in Chiriquí is by visiting a local market, as vendors are more than happy to offer a taster, and you never know what new favorites you may discover.
Just like with coffee, the majority of vegetables grown in Panama come from the highlands of Chiriquí. Many farms understand the benefits of using organic growing techniques, meaning that a number of the vegetable varieties that come from Chiriquí contain the minimum level of chemicals. From beans to squash to corn to yucca, the advantages to being able to grow fresh produce throughout the year can be seen all over Chiriquí. While the native varieties produced in Chiriquí are mostly for domestic consumption, the region also produces a number of fruit and vegetable varieties that are foreign to the province, but are grown specifically for export.
The food in Chiriquí is grown for the way in which it tastes, rather than the way in which it looks. Thanks to the unique natural elements that Chiriquí enjoys, from its rich soil to its ideal climate, harvests here are always lush and plentiful, supplying Panama, and the rest of the world, with the variety of nutrients necessary for a healthy mind and body.