Garden Tour: How We Use the Plants Grown in our Community Gardens

In last month’s blog post, you learned about the importance of medicinal gardens in rural indigenous communities of Guatemala. This month, we are going to take you on a mini garden tour to show you some of the native plants you would find in our community gardens and how they are used. 

Jardín Nahuaá

Before we discuss specific plants, we should first talk about what it means to be sustainable as a Fair Trade organization. Fair Trade principle #10 is respect for the environment and part of respecting the environment means consuming and producing as ethically as possible. Coincidentally, June 18th was “World Sustainable Gastronomy Day”. We chose to use that day to make a post on Facebook about the sustainability of one of people’s most beloved foods: avocados. The point of our post was to highlight the importance of knowing where your fresh produce comes from and consciously making an effort to buy local and in season. 

In this blog post, our goal is to show you what sorts of plants we grow in our community gardens and how we use them in a sustainable way. Part of our community garden project is also to preserve traditional Maya practices that utilize native plants for medicine, thread dyeing, and of course cuisine. Something we did before establishing any of the gardens was consider the climate, soil type, and the needs of our desired plants before going ahead and adding it to the garden plans. Each plant in Maya Traditions artisan partner gardens either have a medicinal or culinary use and most of them are plants that would traditionally be used in the Mayan culture as they are plants that have historically grown in the area. Approaching gardening in a sustainability centred mindset ensures that you are working with plants that will be easy to manage for your garden’s particular conditions. Furthermore, planting useful plants ensures means that the benefits of your garden will not only be aesthetic, but also tangible. This is really what sustainable gastronomy is about; working with your natural environment to do what you can with as little as you can. 

Now on to a mini garden tour! If you were to step into any one of the Maya Traditions community gardens you would find the following plants (amongst other things): Spearmint, Camomile, and Sacatinta. 

Spearmint for Culinary Purposes

Spearmint plant








Spearmint or hierbabuena is a plant that can be used for several purposes. Most commonly though, this plant is used by Maya Traditions artisans in teas and as a spice in guacamole. 

 (plant for food, ie: tea, spices, etc)

Chamomile for Medicinal Purposes

Chamomile plants









Chamomile or Manzanilla is not only beautiful; it has many traditional medicinal uses in teas and tinctures. Maya Traditions partner artisans use Chamomile in a “no more pain” tincture to help with menstrual cramps and muscular pain. As well, Chamomile is an active anti-inflammatory ingredient in the digestive tincture made by the artisans.

Avocado Seed for Textile Production Purposes

Avocado pit dyeing process
Samples of textile dyed with avocado pits.







As you may know, avocados are native to Guatemala. Beyond the delicious taste it adds to many traditional dishes, the Avocado Seed or Semilla de Aguacate can be used to dye cotton threads used in textiles. Avocados pits contain tannin in the seed that acts as a mordant that binds the colour contained in the pit exceptionally well to cotton fibres. The result of the process can be a light pinky brown or a deeper variation of those tones.

I hope you enjoyed our mini garden tour and have been inspired to learn more about the native plants in your area and how you could incorporate them into your food or self care regimen! As well, I hope you now have an increased understanding of the tangible benefits of our community gardens– whether it be for health or product production. And if you are in Guatemala and you feel you’d like to learn more… contact Maya Traditions to join San Juan artisans for a tour of their medicinal garden!

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