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Ishpingo leaves

Helene Mbaididje: Forest Conservation Intern

Ocotea quixos, also known by its Kichwa name Ishpingo (more commonly referred to as canela, due to its cinnamon-like aroma), is a tree from the Laureaceae family. This 8-12 meter high tree is endemic to the Amazonian tropical forest of Ecuador and southern Colombia. It can be found at an altitude of 310-1250 meters. Traditionally, it is used to flavor meals or teas, though some extract oil from the leaves can be used for various medicinal purposes such as gastric and intestinal relief. Anti-fungal properties have also recently been discovered. Not only does it have interesting aromatic properties, but it’s also a fascinating botanical species as it can grow roots from cuttings and eventually become a complete tree.

As a mean to expand farmers’ incomes and add a new non-timber forest product to an international fair trade market, Runa Foundation is investigating the other potential properties of this plant. Additionally, there is a potential to investigate and improve exploitation practices (planting, trimming or leaves’ harvesting).

Among the communities with which Runa Foundation work, is the community of Puni Ishpingo. In the first week of February, Ian Cummins and Gonzalo Torres, chief of production at RunaTarpuna, went on a morning trip to Puni Ishpingo to discuss their new plan with the local farmers. They wanted to see which variety was already being grown and how many plants currently existed in the community.  There is a known wild population presence that would require development of further strict management plan to ensure sustainable harvest. They also wanted to get a geographical knowledge of the areas where Ishpingo was present by taking GPS points for each plant.

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Drying the leaves

Unfortunately, the weather forced them to postpone the data measurements to another day. They did, however, buy two full bags of leaves to be tested by Daniel, RunaTarpuna’s Quality Control Manager. In order to assess of the quality of the plant and the physicochemical properties that give it its odor, color or taste, Daniel must do a series of tests. Therefore, back at the factory, the technical staff processed and dried the leaves before they conducted the tests.

To follow…

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