From its historical foundation with the sugar industry, agriculture has expanded significantly in the last half century, thanks to the commitment and investment of the private sector as well as strong government support. Based on the research by economist Carlos Despradel and the detailed work of a group of photographers and illustrators who focus on the natural world, Interior highlights the riches, the abundance and the diversity within this industry. The book shines a light on the crops and the products that have traditionally been a part thereof, as well as the potential for investment and production in our present and our future.
The coffee plant, an evergreen shrub, is native to Ethiopia. It grows in mountainous areas, as it requires elevations higher than 1,000 meters and temperatures between 20o and 25o C. The country had its first coffee plantations in 1735, and today farming takes place in our four main mountain ranges: the Cordillera Central, the Cordillera Septentrional, the Sierra de Neiba and the Sierra de Bahoruco. In the latter, Barahona is well known for its high-quality coffee production.
Native to the highlands in the center of Mexico and Guatemala, avocado can grow anywhere from sea level to 1,800 meters. The Dominican Republic has more than 8,250 avocado producers, who work with 19 distinct varieties: the Semil-34 leads with 64 percent of our total production; it’s followed by the Hass variety with 13 percent, which grows in high-altitude locations such as Calimete, Elías Piña and San José de Ocoa.
The tobacco plant is native to the Andes area in the American continent. It fares better in tropical regions, with warm and humid climates. The first Dominican plantations date back to 1531, and today the most popular variety is the Piloto Cubano (Havanensis), which is used for cigar manufacturing. Its production has doubled in the past 40 years, thanks to a wide range of technical updates in the way the crop is farmed and processed.
Experts can’t seem to agree on its origin: some point to South Asia while others speak of the African continent. It requires warm yet not excessively humid weather. In the Dominican Republic its production is rather widespread, although Montecristi holds the largest crops, mainly featuring the Cantaloupe and Honeydew types.
This annual grass plant, native to the southern Himalayas, grows in humid soil, submerged in water. It is a tropical and sub-tropical crop. It’s a food staple for the Dominican population, with an annual per capita consumption of up to 110 pounds —covered by our national production. The largest farming regions are the Cibao Central, the northeast, Bajo Yuna, the Línea Noroeste, San Juan de la Maguana and the eastern region (Miches, Nisibón and Sabana de la Mar).
The oldest references to plantain crops come from 500 BC India. Growing the plant requires low and humid soils, as well as temperatures that range from 21o to 30o C. Some of the most popular hybrids in the Dominican Republic are the Musa acuminata and the Musa balbisiana. The Musa AAB plantain subgroup is the origin of the most recognizable varieties in the country, such as the Barahonero, the Enano Dominicano (Dominican Dwarf) and the Bolo.
There’s evidence to the theory that corn was part of the menu in the American continent more than 5,000 years ago; it was the nutritional foundation for the Aztec, Inca and Mayan cultures. It requires temperatures ranging between 18o to 24o C and heavy sunlight. We grow traditional varieties such as the Long French and Fine Husk, and the largest production area is in Luperón, a town in Puerto Plata.
Native to the American continent, cassava was one of the main crops in pre-Columbian times. It grows in a wide range of tropical conditions, but it usually prefers warm and humid tropical lowlands; its ideal temperature ranges from 18o to 35o C. The most important productive areas in the Dominican Republic are Espaillat, La Vega, Valverde and Salcedo, which together account for approximately 80 percent of the crop’s national production.
Native to Polynesia, coconuts made their way to Central America and the Caribbean. Its trees require warm and humid climates with little variance in temperature —around 27o C. The country mostly grows two varieties: the Malaysian Dwarf and the highly resistant PB121 hybrid. Crops can be mostly seen in the coastal areas of the Samaná peninsula and in the provinces of María Trinidad Sánchez, El Seibo and La Altagracia, as well as smaller-scale crops in Barahona, Cabral and Neiba.
This plant, it is believed, originated in Central Asia. In our country, the best output comes from temperature ranging between 20o and 25o C, good sunlight and low humidity. Onions are the most widely used vegetables in Dominican cuisine, and as such it has become an important crop for economic purposes. Up to 50 percent of its production is concentrated in the southern region, specifically in Peravia and San Cristóbal.
Native to India, pigeon peas are now inseparable from the Caribbean’s culinary traditions —in our country, they are usually eaten with rice. This plant can tolerate a wide range of soils and its ideal temperatures can go from 20o to 28o C. Pigeon peas are the second largest leguminous crop in the nation after kidney beans, and they’re mostly grown in our central region: the Distrito Nacional —that is, the capital—, San Cristóbal, Baní and San José de Ocoa.
Carrots were found in the wild more than three millennia ago in Central Asia; it was first grown as a food crop in Afghanistan. It’s typical of cooler climates, with ideal temperatures ranging between 18o and 25o C. In our country, 78 percent of the crops hail from the North-central region and 17 percent from the Central region; it can be mostly seen in Constanza, Ocoa and Jarabacoa, due to their high altitudes.
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Art director and designer