TPT Meets Svetlana Aleksandroff
Already in its second edition, Plants of the Mayan World, is an essential reference guide to plant botany of the Yucatan peninsula and beyond. We talked to the author to find out more behind the making of her book
Originally from Moscow, and after having lived in Vermont, Svetlana Aleksandroff moved to Mexico to escape the cold. Her curiosity in ethnobotany inspired her to write a book; it became an expression of her passion for photography and botany, and something others could find use in also. She has recently been working on two gift edition reference guides coming out soon “Banyan Tree Nature Book” and “Rosewood Mayakoba Flora & Fauna”.
The Playa Times: Did you know about plants from this region before? Svetlana Aleksandroff:
In Russia we use plant based medicine a lot; living here I wanted to learn what local plants I could use. I took a four-month course with the herbalist and sanadora María Galindo from Tulum. We walked in the jungle identifying and collecting plants, learned to make herbal extracts, syrups, soaps, ointments. I appreciated that fresh wild plants are available all year here.
What did you learn while doing your research?
It is a good feeling to walk around and know the plants and trees you see. I discovered marakuya and guanabana, that I now really like for their delicate but intense flavors. I liked that by mixing oil infused with herbs with bees wax you make a perfect salve. There were many more interesting facts, for example, a cotton flower is yellow on the first day of blooming but changes its color to dark
pink on the second day.
How much time did it take you to gather the information?
The book took about six years, and I collected all the material myself, it was a long journey. Help came during fundraising for printing expenses, local businesses became sponsors.
In 2013, my book was one of the winners representing Mexico at the Gourmand Awards in Paris. I had a chance to go the awards ceremony, which was part of the annual Paris Cookbook Fair, a very exciting opportunity to see the work of the best chefs and book designers in the world.
Where do you recommend people visit to see and find out more about plants from the area?
I enjoy visiting the Choco Story cacao museum in Uxmal and the orchid pavilion in Xcaret. In Mexico City, there is the Mercado Sonora – essentially a natural pharmacy in a big city.
For a list of selling points and the e-book version, visit Facebook/ Plants of the Mayan
World. In Playa del Carmen, the book is available at Bio Natural, on 10th Ave. and
Constituentes. Read the full interview on our website
It is a good feeling to walk around and know the plants and trees that you see, (...) for example, a cotton flower is yellow on the first day of blooming, but changes its color to dark pink on the second day
Author Plants of the Mayan World