Growing Medicinal Herbs in Costa Rica
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Rolando Camacho
Posted on: July 01, 2007

What kind of medicinal herbs can we grow hydroponically. Can we grow echinacea, black cocosh, senna, fenugreek, valerian, Saint John’s wort, Camellia sinensis, Boldo,etc.?

Any herb that you need from Costa Rica.

Almost any crop can be grown in hydroponics systems. In your part of the world, you should concentrate on those herbs and spices most easily sold from your world. I have friends who own land in Costa Rica, so I have actually thought about that part of the world. Your primary crop would be vanilla bean (not coffee).

2003 - Current spot prices (FOB NY) have remained consistent at $25.00 to $27.00 per lb. for more than one year. Java origin is up to $32.00 to $34.00. Vanillin, USP in drums is down between $8.10 to $8.50, while Chinese imports remain at $6.25 to $6.40/lb.

Vanilla bean, is the fully-grown fruit of the orchid Vanilla fragrens (Salisb.) Ames (syn. V. plantifolia Andrews). The best cultivar (my opinion) is the Bourbon variety from Madagascar. Growing it in a hydroponics system could be a very commercially significant. There are even a host of monthly newsletters on this subject.

This will grow very well in Costa Rica, as much of it is now imported from that region into most of the world. I think FAS (Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA) even has precise volumes and prices sold within the US. It can be a very profitable crop, with correct marketing access. In fact I could create a list of crops best suited for Costa Rica.

There are numerous books on this subject. The best resources I would begin with would include Gunther’s Essential Oils (6-volume). Then, I would use the Tropical Agricultural Series on Spices (2-volume), Purseglove, et al. Longman House, Burnt Mill, Harlow, Essex, UK, c1981. This is precisely how to begin cultivation and harvests.

Once you have decided on what you want to do, maybe you would like to fly me down for a "vacation?" I am available as an outside consultant, and have always wanted to travel to exotic lands. In that regard, I sort of "shot myself in the foot" when I decided to promote only crops grown in North America. BUT, we don’t cultivate this much in Hawaii as we should, so..

Entering the markets will be your most difficult part of this project. ASTA (American Spice Trade Association) requires a 10% of gross sales -- JUST for membership. "Good Ol’ Boy" club. But, they do have perks - like your pricing is open and can be lucrative. If you sold oil, however. Now you have the makings of a cottage industry, where labor is also important incomes to the community where this is grown. Hence, you should start with Gunther’s works, "Essential Oils," c1935 (6 volumes)

They are out of print, so you will need to go to an inter-library loan. I xeroxed the entire set back in the 80s, just because I use them that frequently. I would begin all projects of this nature as seedling starts, and learn about the various diseases. To my knowledge, no one (yet) is offering a COG (certified organically grown) with this crop.

That would be how I would do it, as Gaia and Whole Foods Markets would be able to sell almost anything you could grow - AND, you would be directly bypassing ASTA with a cottage industry, and no competition..

I have an herbal coffee substitute formula that would market extremely well in North America right now. It would also need Chicory Root, Dandelion Root, Licorice Mint and Stevia Leaf, with this Vanilla Bean. I have a business plan available, including roasters and distributors. The market is ready for this, and Umpqua Dairy now offers French Vanilla Ice Cream as their major top seller (not Chocolate).

Other recent inquires for crops grown in Costa Rica include

PISCIDIA ERYTHRINA BARK (Jamaica Dogwood) (350kg)



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