Book Review: Plants of the Mayan World

Traditional Remedies, Food & Art is a treasure trove of colorful photos and valuable information about regional plants.
by Tere Carpinelli

mayan plants
PLAYA DEL CARMENSvetlana Aleksandroff’s grassroots-funded book, Plants of the Mayan World: Traditional Remedies, Food & Art, has won the Mexico selection of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards’ “Best Sustainable Food Book” category.
Placing in this prestigious competition, in which books will be judged against candidates of the same category from other countries, is a testament to the explosive growth of interest in Mayan culture and the region’s plants, from cacao (chocolate) to agave, which have taken root as subjects of interest for the whole world.
With a lifelong love for plants and flowers, Aleksandroff – an excellent photographer and studied herbalist – presents all of the beauty of the Yucatan’s plant-life in some 300 pages. She shares with the reader her knowledge of “Herbolaria Maya” that she learned from an herbalist in Tulum.
svetlanaThough a native of Moscow, Russia, the author has traveled the globe and lived in Vermont in the U.S. before settling in the Mexican Caribbean 12 years ago. Since then she has brought together information about herbal remedies and culinary uses of the myriad plants of the region such as chaya, papaya and squash.
“This book was brought into being with the help of sustainable businesses in the Riviera Maya,” said Aleksandroff. “It’s hard to imagine that this was a homeschooling project in the very beginning!”
Aleksandroff’s exemplary photography of subjects from traditional dishes to local wildlife and her son Vasily’s design expertise made the book an easy proposal for sponsorships from many area businesses involved in preserving the ecological and cultural heritage of the Riviera Maya, such as Grupo Sunset, Xcaret, Xel-Há, La Casa del Arte Popular Mexicana, Mayakoba, Banyan Tree Hotel & Spa, Lomas Travel, Mamitas Beach Club, Playa Associates, Hamacamarte, Hotele Eclipse, Eco Museo del Cacao at Plantacion Ticul, Hotel Las Palapas and Fundación Maroma. The book, released Nov. 15, 2012 has since garnered rave reviews from locals and visitors, and international interest is growing.
So what started off as a way to teach her children, evolved into a joint effort of more than five years of work with her son Vasily taking on the graphic design, and her daughter Anna contributing some illustrations. Now, this second edition comes in an 800-gram soft-cover as well as a hard-cover coffee table book featuring over 1,000 photos.

Svetlana en firma de libroA book signing was held, Wednesday (Dec. 19), at 5:30 p.m. at the Tequilaville Restaurant in Akumal Village (on the west side of the Cancun-Chetumal highway).
Plants of the Mayan World: Traditional Remedies, Food & Art is available at Mundo bookstores and Alma Libre bookstore in Puerto Morelos.
The “Best in the World” Gourmand Awards 2012 will be announced in late February 2013, the ceremonies taking place at the Le Carrousel du Louvre Theater in Paris. To find out more go to Plants of the Mayan World

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