A round table overflowing with dishes of colorful Yucat
Traditional Yucatecan dishes. Made with ingredients from the milpa and Maya garden. © Ivan Lowenberg

Maya Forest

Harvesting Flavors of the Maya Forest

Chefs and experts from the field explain how sustainable agriculture practices are good for both your taste buds and the Maya Forest.

The Yucatan Peninsula is known for its ecological and cultural splendor. Any visitor is captivated by the turquoise cenotes — natural swimming holes — connected to one of the largest underground river systems in the world, the lure of lush tropical forests where the great jaguar roams, and the ancient ruins of the Maya Civilization. 

As if this natural beauty weren’t enough, the Yucatan Peninsula is renowned in Mexico and worldwide for the authentic ingredients that distinguish its unique cuisine. In their search for delicious ingredients, chefs are increasingly becoming culinary champions for sustainability. Everywhere in the world, cuisine is rooted in a rich history that’s based on what the landscape produces, and food should ultimately be good for the region that’s producing it.  

The Nature Conservancy has worked in the Yucatan for more than 30 years conserving nature while aiming to create a sustainable food future. Our work engages a variety of partners to protect the Maya Forest by implementing best practices in ranching, agriculture and forestry. Recently, the Conservancy has teamed up with Mexican chefs to take a look at the Maya Forest behind the dishes of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Immerse yourself in the beauty and culture of the Maya Forest with our video features about food and its production.

·         Apiculture. Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita shares his passion for Mexico's rich biodiversity and his reverence for bees and the benefits they provide. Watch.

·         Milpa. Chef Regina Escalante sources local ingredients from traditional milpa systems to support urban farming projects and her French-style cuisine. Watch.

·         Maya Garden. Traditional Maya gardens produce a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and legumes; ingredients sought by chefs such as Roberto Solis. Watch.

·         Wood-Saving Stoves. Chef Luis Barocio has made the Tuumben K'óoben wood-saving stove a centerpiece of his Mexican Gastronomy class. Watch.

·         Sustainable Ranching. Chef Jorge Vallejo pursues ethical and sustainable alternatives to ranching that increase livestock per hectare to preserve surrounding forest. Watch.

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