BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 21 Apr '15

Emma Fry reveals the virtues of Guatemala’s vegan-friendly cuisine

Guatemala’s history goes back four thousand years, when the Mayan civilisation emerged. Its legacy is still evident today in the lives, traditions and culture of the locals. 

So what’s the link between the Maya, chocolate and vegan-friendly holidays? Why should we be grateful to this ancient Guatemalan civilisation?

Because, after years of cultivation and farming, they discovered and developed many foods which are on the vegan-friendly favourite list all over the world.

Avocados and guacamole

Panza verde (green belly) is the nickname given to the locals in Guatemala due to the amount of avocados they eat. Avocados are native to Guatemala and plentiful, a treasured crop and source of income for many. 

Guacamole is not complicated, but it is amazing: mash up some ripe avocados with a fork, add a little lime juice, season to taste with salt and pepper, chop up some fresh cilantro and get stuck in with some fresh corn tortilla chips.

Chocolate

How do you like yours? I like mine so thick that I have to eat it with a spoon! The Maya, who, let’s remember, have already got the guacamole going on, went on to achieve a greater (vegan-friendly) thing: chocolate.

They were the first to roast the seeds of the cacao plant to make what we now know as hot chocolate, but they didn’t add sugar to theirs – just a few chillies every now and again.

Cacao beans were thought to have been used as a currency and the drink would have been more medicinal in its use. We actually have the Spanish to thank for sweetening the hot chocolate, as upon their arrival in Central America in the 1500s they began adding sugar and milk to make the kind of hot chocolate we are familiar with today.

Jugo de Jamaica

You’ll see this on nearly all menus and lunch tables in Guatemala. Jugo de Jamaica is a hibiscus flower tea made by infusing the hibiscus flowers and hot water – the perfect refreshing drink.

Corn tortillas

Fresh corn tortillas are an essential part of the indigenous Mayan diet, and the perfect accompaniment to arroz con frijoles, Guatemala’s vegan-friendly staple dish: rice and beans.

All tortillas start with a kind of dough, known as masa, which is just corn flour and water moulded into a ball and then flattened into small neat circles. They are then cooked on a comal, a wood-fired iron cooking device.

Emma Fry, The Vegan Biker, is the owner and founder of Veganbnb Travel. To find out more about these vegan-friendly holidays in Guatemala and Spain, click here.