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Statistics show such crimes are up 22.5 percent
Revisions sought in criminal code for juveniles

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government is taking notice of the wave of crimes being committed by juveniles, those under 18 years. Such crimes were up 22.6 percent in 2008.

At a meeting Thursday heads of the various branches of government agreed to set up a committee to consider reforms in the juvenile law. Casa Presidencial called the topic complex and delicate.

So far the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration has what could be called an integral approach. The emphasis has been on the social condition of families and youngsters. By eliminating slums, creating jobs and improving the standard of living, administration officials hoped to counter the factors that cause crime.

Such a social approach was the theme of bills devised by a special citizen security committee headed by then-vice president Laura Chinchilla. The approach coincides with the philosophy of Arias, who has emphasized anti-poverty efforts, although his initiatives have been frustrated by the world economic situation.

The session Thursday included Luis Paulino Mora, president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia; Francisco Dall’Anese, the nation's chief prosecutor; Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization; Francisco Antonio Pacheco, president of the Asamblea Legislativa; and Janina del Vecchio, minister of security.

Minors receive preferential treatment in the judicial system. Sentences even for serious crimes are much less, and judges usually allow minors to stay free while their case is being investigated. They frequently hide from public view because their names are not made available, and their trials are private.

Some of the more serious crimes in the last few years involved minors. One was involved in the home invasion at the Rohrmoser residence of Ricardo Toledo, a former presidential candidate. His maid and a neighbor were shot down. The youth, 16 at the time of the crime, was convicted in juvenile court and got 15 years for the two murders.  The penalty was the maximum that could be imposed on a juvenile. The maximum penalty for someone under 15 is 10 years. Adults also were involved.

In the last 10 days there were a number of juveniles involved in crimes or court actions.

A minor went on trial for the Dec. 19, 2006, murder of bus passenger Evelyn Alfaro Chavarría, who died on her way home from work in Multiplaza in Escazú during a botched holdup. The youth's defense was that the bus driver pushed him and the gun in his hand went off accidentally. Still he and his adult confederates continued to rob the passengers even as the woman lay dying.

Another minor was arrested May 21 as an accomplice in the robbery at gunpoint of three other minors in February in Higuito de San Miguel de Desamparados. Prosecutors wanted him jailed, but a judge in the Juzgado Penal Juvenil de San José granted the suspect conditional freedom.

Thursday afternoon a judge ordered two months of detention for two juveniles, 16 and 17, who face at least five cases of aggravated robbery.
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They were detained Thursday morning in raids of their homes in Bajo de Los Ledezma in la Uruca. Robbers preyed on passers-by in the vicinity of Hospital México. Two adults were detained, too.

Thursday a juvenile judge freed a female high school student, 14, who got into a fight May 20 and bit off part of the ear of a classmate. Her defense lawyer said she was changing schools.

Finally agents detained a 17-year-old late Thursday for sticking up two Cruz Roja ambulance attendants when they responded to a fake call in the La Caprio section of San Miguel de Desamparados.

Someone called the Cruz Roja and reported a woman in a serious medical state. This was the case that caused the emergency medical agency to restrict responses to areas considered dangerous.

As in the crimes above, many involve juveniles acting along with adults. The juveniles enjoy an outlaw life of drugs, and alcohol in the company of the adults.

Sometimes one crime leads to another.

Another minor went on trial last week for chasing and killing a 20-year-old who stole a bike from his home.  The bike theft happened March 5, 2007, in Aserrí, and the murder suspect borrowed his father's vehicle to chase the fleeing thief to San Rafael Arriba de Desamparados where he ran him down. Dead was Manrique López Corrales.

The Poder Judicial reported that 13,677 separate criminal complaints against minors went to the  country's 21 juvenile courts in 2008. This is a 2,136-case increase over 2007, according to the  Sección de Estadística del Poder Judicial. Of these, some 11,670 were new cases. The rest were left over from previous years.

The increase is 18.5 percent, the judiciary said. Males make up 75 percent of the cases, and 9,373 were felonies or delitos while 3,553 were contravenciones or misdemeanors. There were 751 traffic cases, too.

Among serious allegations, the most common were robbery with 1,852 cases and involvement with drugs, some 1,720 cases.

In 2008, 554 minors were sentenced for crimes. Of these just 33.2 percent or 184 went to jail. Some 103 juveniles were sent to supervised living situations, said the Poder Judicial.

Of those jailed, 56 were sentenced for sex crimes, 543 for crimes against property and 48 for crimes against human life. Convictions for these three crimes made up 85 percent of the jailed juveniles.

The number of new cases presented to the judges in 2008 were 11,670, the highest amount since 2004, which was a record year.

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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Producers of a reality show in Costa Rica appear to not want visitors. NBC has blocked videos to this area that might give away the location of "I'm a Celebrity! Get Me Out of Here!"

However, readers are reporting that the location is in the vicinity of Sarapiquí along the river of the same name. One still photo shows a helicopter over what looks suspiciously like the river.

The television station put up some photos over the weekend pointing out the scary creatures that the 11 participants in the show will face: a black tarantula, a river turtle and a bunch of snakes, basic rainforest creatures. The photos also show some striking rainforest blooms and that there is plenty of rain in the area.

A broken sign in a large puddle of water says Gavilan, perhaps meaning the well-known Gavilan Sarapiquí Lodge that also happened to have about 60 hectares of rainforest. The location is not far from Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí.

The Sarapiquí flows north toward the Río San Juan.

The show begins tonight.  The object appears to be to torment the participants with various man-made challenges. One promotional segment shows that producers can release bees to where the participants are standing. Bees do not like rain.

The Instituto Meteorlógico Nacional says that the general expectation for this month is rain in the Caribbean region with normal or dry periods elsewhere. But rain is expected everywhere today.

However, the weather bulletin reminds readers that the Atlantic hurricane season officially begins today.

New hydro plant officially
begins generating operations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new $80 million hydo plant is now officially online after an inauguration ceremony over the weekend. The facility, the Planta de Hidroenergía del General, is near Sarapiquí in Heredia.

The plant will generate 40 megawatts of power, enough for 40,000 families, officials said. Some 600 persons were employed in the 28 months of construction, and 30 technicians will operate the plant, said Pedro Pablo Quirós, executive president of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez put in a plug for private investment in power generating. He said the country needs $768 million to strengthen its electrical sector.

Man, 66, wins case to force
changes for the disabled

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 66-year-old man with bad hips, in jail for not paying child support, has forced prison authorities to make the facility more accommodating for the disabled.

The man, identified by the last name of Reymond, filed an appeal with the Sala IV constitutional court, which agreed with him and ordered prison officials to take action within eight months.

The Centro de Atención Institucional La Reforma in Alajuela is the nation's biggest jail. The court told prison officials to comply with a national law that specifies requirements for accommodating the disabled.

National swine flu cases
pegged at 49 individuals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire services reports

The health ministry now reports that the number of persons in Costa Rica infected with the swine flu virus has climbed to 49.

The new cases are those who had been under suspcion for the disease.

Five countries reported their first confirmed cases of swine influenza Friday and Saturday. The countries are Venezuela, Hungary, Estonia, Bolivia, and Lebanon. The five are in addition to the 53 countries listed by the World Health Organization in its latest statement on the disease on Friday. The U.N. agency reported more than 15,500 cases of swine flu worldwide.

Mexico has the most deaths, with 97, followed by the United States with 11 fatalities. However, Mexico had the second-highest number of infections — nearly 5,000 — behind the United States, with nearly 8,000 cases.

Authorities in Venezuela said a 22-year-old man contracted swine flu during a trip to Panama.

Health officials in Budapest said a Brazilian man fell ill three days after arriving in Hungary from New York, but he has since recovered.

Estonia said the virus has been confirmed in a 29-year-old man who also had recently returned from the United States.

Meanwhile, China reported its first suspected case of the swine flu in a person who is believed to have contracted the disease within China.

Cuba announced it is lifting a month-long suspension on flights to Mexico, since the swine-flu threat has eased. Direct flights between Cuba and Mexico will resume on June 1.

The Cuban government has reported four confirmed cases of swine flu — three medical students who had recently returned to Cuba from their homes in Mexico, and a Canadian infant whose parents took him to Cuba on a trip from Toronto.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 1, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 106

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Solís will have third chance to become nation's president
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ottón Solís, as expected, scored an overwhelming victory Sunday to become the presidential candidate of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, which he founded.

Turnout by party members was light, and the full totals are not known, but with 327 of 411 polling places reporting, Solís had 71 percent of the vote, the party said.

The Partido Liberación Nacional holds its convention next Sunday where its candidate will be selected.

The victory of Solís hardly was in doubt, although former party president and vice presidential candidate Epsy Campbell contested the nomination, as did academic Roman Macaya.

Solís had been the party's candidate in two presidential elections. In 2006 he lost by a tiny margin to President Óscar Arias Sánchez. One reason is that Solís had weak organizations in the provinces of Limón and Guanacaste. He beat Arias in the Central Valley, but Arias trounced him in the coastal areas, thanks to the long-time Liberación Nacional organization.

The voting Sunday, the first for the party, was, in part, a way to build a campaign organization. In prior years the candidacy of Solís was simply accepted by party colleagues.

The three candidates for the nomination were gracious as the vote totals became known. It was all over by 6 p.m. there were not a lot of differences in the position of the candidates.
Pac voting percentages
Voting percentages as reported by the party

The same is true with the Liberación candidates as they try to win support from party members. As in the United States, the emphases of candidates change as they begin the final campaign once the party has awarded them the nomination.

As a former vice president, Laura Chinchilla, the Liberación front runner, has to defend the current government of Arias. Johnny Araya Monge, the former San José mayor, has more freedom to address issues. Polls show that Fernando Berrocal, the former security minister, is far behind.

Polls, however, tap opinions in the  general population. The Liberación winner has to convince party members.

Ministry sets up a training center for tax collectors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's budget and tax collecting ministry has put into service a training center for inspectors.

The center is called the Centro de Investigación y Formación Hacendaria, and it is designed to provide more training as part of the Arias administration campaign against tax fraud and to dispense knowledge about taxes and tax policy in general.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez was at the Ministerio de Hacienda for the inauguration, as was Arturo Reig Tapia,
the Spanish ambassador to Costa Rica. His country has provided much of the materials and support.

The center also has a virtual component that will allow Hacienda employees from all over the country to take training without leaving their home base.

A goal is to strengthen the academic study of tax collecting, said Arias.

Just as high school students need to acquire basic skills to advance a grade, so, too, do employees of the ministry, said Guillermo Zúñiga Chaves, the minister.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 1, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 106

Previously unknown Chinese volcano linked to extinctions
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A previously unknown giant volcanic eruption that led to global mass extinction 260 million years ago has been uncovered by scientists at the British University of Leeds.

The eruption in the Emeishan province of southwest China unleashed around half a million cubic kilometres of lava, covering an area five times the size of Wales, and wiping out marine life around the world.

Unusually, scientists were able to pinpoint the exact timing of the eruption and directly link it to a mass extinction event in the study published in Science.  This is because the eruptions occurred in a shallow sea — meaning that the lava appears today as a distinctive layer of igneous rock sandwiched between layers of sedimentary rock containing easily datable fossilised marine life.

The layer of fossilised rock directly after the eruption shows mass extinction of different life forms, clearly linking the onset of the eruptions with a major environmental catastrophe.

The global effect of the eruption is also due to the proximity of the volcano to a shallow sea.  The collision of fast flowing lava with shallow sea water caused a violent explosion at the start of the eruptions — throwing huge quantities of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere.
“When fast flowing, low viscosity magma meets shallow sea it’s like throwing water into a chip pan. There’s a  spectacular explosion producing gigantic clouds of steam,” said Paul Wignall, a palaeontologist at the University of Leeds, and the lead author of the paper.

The injection of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere would have led to massive cloud formation spreading around the world — cooling the planet and ultimately resulting in a torrent of acid rain.  Scientists estimate from the fossil record that the environmental disaster happened at the start of the eruption.

“The abrupt extinction of marine life we can clearly see in the fossil record firmly links giant volcanic eruptions with global environmental catastrophe, a correlation that has often been controversial,” said Wignall.

Previous studies have linked increased carbon dioxide produced by volcanic eruptions with mass extinctions.  However, because of the very long-term warming effect that occurs with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (as we see with current climate change) the causal link between global environmental changes and volcanic eruptions has been hard to confirm.

This work was done in collaboration with the Chinese University of Geosciences in Wuhan.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 1, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 106

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Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


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World newspaper group
seeks justice for murders

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The World Association of Newspapers has condemned a climate of impunity in Mexico that allows the killers of journalists to avoid prosecution, and has called on President Felipe Calderón to do more to bring the murderers to justice.

“Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to be a reporter, editor, or publisher,” the organization’s board said in a resolution, issued during its meeting in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday.

The association said it was appalled by the murders of 29 journalists in Mexico since 2000. A further eight are missing, and many others have been attacked and threatened.

"Most recently, on 3 May, ­ World Press Freedom Day, ­ Carlos Ortega Melo Samper, a journalist for the newspaper El Tiempo de Durango in northern Mexico, was murdered by an unidentified gunman. Shortly before he died, he had received threats from local authorities in relation to his investigative reporting exposing corruption. Mr. Melo Samper claimed in an article that had not yet been published that the local mayor and another senior politician would be responsible should any harm come to him.”

The association called on President Calderon to do everything in his power to end all violence against journalists and to halt the climate of impunity enjoyed by those who murder and attack them.

The World Association of Newspapers also condemned the widespread and growing practice of influencing and censoring independent news coverage through financial pressures on media companies considered to be critical of governments and their policies. These tactics are particularly present in Africa, Latin America, South and East Asia, and some of the countries of Europe and the former Soviet Union, the association said.

Supermarket raid nets cops
big haul of beer and guaro

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers raided a small supermarket in La Carpio in La Uruca over the weekend and found that the owners of the store were selling alcohol without a license. Police were accompanied by municipal inspectors.

Police said they confiscated 1,288 bottles of beer and 61 bottles of guaro, the popular sugar cane product.

Pablo Bertozzi, San José commander of the Fuerza Pública, said there are other stores in the area that also do not have an alcohol license and sell the product secretly.

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U.S. and Cuba agree to talk
about human trafficking

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. officials say Cuba and the United States have agreed to resume talks on legal migration and human smuggling between the two countries.

A senior U.S. State Department official said Cuba agreed Saturday to a U.S. offer for migration talks, which were last held in 2003.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said the two governments plan to pursue negotiations on joint efforts to combat drug trafficking.

The United States and Cuba share some information about human smuggling and drug trafficking operations on a case-by-case basis. The U.S. official says the new planned talks would expand those contacts, and aim to strengthen ties between the two governments.

Also, the official said they plan to resume direct mail service. All mail between the two countries currently is processed through a third country.

The U.S. employs a "wet foot, dry foot" policy for illegal Cuban immigrants. Under the policy, Cubans who make it to U.S. soil usually are allowed to stay. Those intercepted at sea are most often returned.

The latest move by the U.S. follows President Barack Obama's decision in April to ease travel and money transfer restrictions on Cuban-Americans with relatives on the island. But Obama left the long-standing U.S. embargo against Cuba in place. He has said it is up to Cuba to take the next step.

Cuban President Raul Castro recently repeated an offer to discuss "everything" with the United States to try to improve ties, but he said Cuba does not have to make "gestures" to the U.S.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 1, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 106

The plantain is a fruit that has triple flexibility in kitchen
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The culinary landscape of pre-conquest America lacked some of the foods taken for granted today.

There was no sugar. That was imported by Columbus on his second voyage. The delicious mango did not grow here. And the banana did not come to the Americas until the 16th century. Even the ubiquitous rice plant is a colonial import.

Despite being imported, these plants flourished here. And no Costa Rican meal is complete without rice. The plantain, called plátano, also makes up a flexible part of the diet.

The flexibility is in the use of green plantains as a starchy potato or rice substitute and the use of the mature fruit in ways to take advantage of its sweetness.

The plantain is larger than the typical table banana. Its uses differ depending on the maturity. The green plátano can be cooked like a potato, grated into flour or fried to make chips. The patacone, a double-fried disc of plantain traditionally is decorated with refried beans, mayonnaise and avocado dip.

Compared to the rest of the world, Costa Rica is fairly conservative in using the plátano. Asian cooks are far more creative.

For most, the mature, almost black-skinned plátano comes fried as one of the regulars in the luncheon casado. They are called maduros and give off their sweetness when fried in hot oil.

Nutritional content varies slightly depending on the maturity of the plantain. A green plantain, about 220 grams or about half a pound, is about 360 calories with no calories from fat. A ripe fruit is slightly less, about 340 calories. The 2 gram sugar content of the green fruit increases to about 10 grams in the mature plantain. Both are reported to be a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C.

The non-fat label is a bit misleading because many of the great plantain recipes call for deep frying.

A good source of recipes is the Turbana cooperative Web site. The company features dishes for all three plátano stages.
Typical display of green plátanos
Among these are plantain pancakes, mashed green plantains, fried plantains and several desserts.

Those who love patacones should know that some gourmet stores sell a press to make uniform discs. Others sell a product to fabricate a small plátano shell into which condiments can be spooned.

At home, the once-fried quarters of plantain can be pressed with the bottom of a bottle or some other hard object. They need to be reduced to about a quarter inch before deep frying again.

Chemical seen leaching from polycarbonate bottles to humans
By the Harvard School of Public Health news service

Researchers have found that persons who drink from polycarbonate bottles have a higher level of chemical bisphenol A , which is used in producing the containers.

Exposure to bisphenol A, used in the manufacture of polycarbonate and other plastics, has been shown to interfere with reproductive development in animals and has been linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in humans.

The researchers were led by Jenny Carwile, a doctoral student in the department of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, and Karin B. Michels, an associate professor of epidemiology.

Researchers recruited Harvard College students for the study in April 2008. The 77 participants began the study with a seven-day washout phase in which they drank all cold beverages from stainless steel bottles as a control.

Participants provided urine samples during the washout period. They were then given two polycarbonate bottles and asked to drink all cold beverages from the bottles during the next week. Urine samples were also provided during that time.

The results showed that the participants' urinary bisphenol A concentrations increased 69 percent after drinking from the
polycarbonate bottles. The study authors noted that concentrations in the college population were similar to those reported for the U.S. general population.  Previous studies had found that bisphenol A could leach from polycarbonate bottles into their contents. This study is the first to show a corresponding increase in urinary concentrations in humans.

One of the study's strengths, the authors note, is that the students drank from the bottles in a normal setting. Additionally, the students did not wash their bottles in dishwashers nor put hot liquids in them. Heating has been shown to increase the leaching of Bisphenol A from polycarbonate.

Canada banned the use of bisphenol A in polycarbonate baby bottles in 2008 and some polycarbonate bottle manufacturers have voluntarily eliminated the chemical from their products. With increasing evidence of the potential harmful effects of Bisphenol A in humans, the authors believe further research is needed on the effect of Bisphenol A on infants and on reproductive disorders and on breast cancer in adults.

In addition to polycarbonate bottles, which are refillable and a popular container among students, campers and others and are also used as baby bottles, bisphenol A is also found in dentistry composites and sealants and in the lining of aluminum food and beverage cans. In bottles, polycarbonate can be identified by the recycling number 7.

Pigs with the right genes sought
for the best tasting meat

By the University of the West of England Press Office

How can pigs be produced that provide healthy and yet good tasting meat?

Meat eating quality and healthiness are closely related to the amount and type of fat. During the last decade there has been extensive selection towards leaner genotypes which has resulted in reduction of not only undesirable subcutaneous fat, but also in a dramatic decrease in desirable intramuscular fat (commonly known as “marbling” fat).

Intramuscular fat has the key input in meat tenderness and juiciness and a low level of intramuscular fat is associated with dry and unpalatable pork. The challenge which the pig producing industry is facing now is how to increase intramuscular fat without increasing subcutaneous fat?

A project which has recently started at the Institute of Biosensing Technology in collaboration with the Centre for Research in Biomedicine at the University of the West of England (UWE) aims to identify the genes controlling subcutaneous and intramuscular fat deposition. The end-aim of this work is to provide data which could form a basis for developing a genetic test for intramuscular fat and which could assist pig breeders in genetic selection.

 The project is undertaken by Duncan Marriott, a doctoral student with a amster's degree in meat science and five years experience as a research technician at the University of Bristol's School of Clinical Veterinary Science.

“Pigs need to be leaner to produce healthy meat but to carry sufficient intramuscular fat to maintain good eating quality," Marriott explaind. "The project will be conducted on a number of commercial pig breeds, which differ in intramuscular fat content. My challenge is to identify the genes controlling both the intramuscular and subcutaneous fat content in different breeds.”

pejibaye halved
A.M. Costa Rica photo      
The first step is to half the palm nuts

Editor's favorite soup is easy
and very much Costa Rican

By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Here's the lowdown on the editor's favorite soup. One serving is about a zillion calories, so Weight Watchers can tune out now.

The beauty of pejibaye soup is that it is easy to make, tastes great and is uniquely Costa Rican. The fruit have been grown here since long before Columbus.

Pejibayes are those palm nuts found in the vegetable sauna at the grocery. They range from orange to green and resemble large, bobbing acorns. When they are hot, they are easier to peel.

Purdue University in Indiana says that one average pejibaye fruit contains 1,096 calories. They are the perfect junk food: low in protein, high in fat.

Of course they're high in fat, they are the product of a palm tree. One palm tree can produce more than 140 pounds of nuts in a year. So they are far from endangered.

The biggest challenge in making pejibaye soup is in forcing yourself not to eat the peeled halves. They make a nice hor d'oeuvre topped with mayonnaise. Another challenge might be in getting someone else to peel and halve the fruit. There is a pit that must be removed. (Hey, Honey, can you give me a hand for a minute . . . . ?)

The soup is a snap. Drip a little oil in a saucepan and make tender chopped onions, garlic and maybe even jalapeños. Then drop in about a dozen pejibaye halves . Or two dozen. It really makes no difference because you can cut the soup with milk or cream to make it the consistency you desire.

Add a cup or two of water and begin breaking up the pejibaye. Or you could run the whole mixture through a blender. Add milk or cream to reach the consistency of soup. Serve hot and season to taste.

A little experimentation will show that the pejibaye mixture is perfect for a sauce over traditional foods. And they say fermented pejibaye will knock your socks off.

green mangos
A.M. Costa Rica photo     
A quick snack of green mango

Time for a sour green fruit
that's loaded with vitamin C

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Among the more underrated offerings of the Costa Rican produce markets is the green mango. Most expats know about ripe mangos and have enjoyed the drippy, juicy fruit with its unique flavor. They may also have used it in blended drinks or as a flavor for ice cream or soda.

Less respected is the green mango. This can be found prepared in the little baggies offered by street vendors. Included in the bag with the strips of mango is a bit of lemon and salt. Nice vendors also will add special ingredients, like chili, upon request.

This is street finger food. The long mango strips are bitter and an acquired taste. And that's about all the average Tico sees of green mangos.

The inhabitants of India and some Asian countries have a 4,000 to 5,000 year head start on using the fruit. Chutney,  the condiment identified with the British Empire and India, has a mango base.

Green mangos can hold their own in any taste test, and the addition of sea salt, chili, chilero or black pepper can cater to the desires of the consumer.

A real treat is a green mango salad. There are an infinite number of recipes. The basic salad contains either grated or strips of mango. From there on in, the choices are many. One version uses baked coconut and various nuts, bean sprouts and basil.

Those who want to add fire to the sour treat can create a mango-jalapeño salad, heavy on lime or lemon and pepper.

The fruit is so accommodating that a chef can hardly go wrong. The salad can become a main course with the addition of chicken or shrimp.

The mango also contains all sorts of healthful compounds, including vitamin C and fiber.

The only downside is the large seed in the middle that sometimes can be a challenge. Freestone versions of the fruit exist, but they are foreign to Costa Rica.

Chinese bottles
A.M. Costa Rica/Arron O'Dell
There's no need to read the bottle. In fact, most of us cannot, despite loosely enforced Costa Rican laws to the contrary that call for labels in Spanish. It's just time for experimentation!

Take the Chinese liquor plunge
and drink that mystery elixir

By Arron O'Dell
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

China is a country known for the Great Wall, temples, big cities, big culture, a billion people and their seeming love to eat anything.  If it grows out of the ground, walks, crawls, slithers, swims, flies or does any combination, the people of China have found a way to kill it, cook it, eat it and enjoy it.  However, the liquor traditions of China seldom come up in conversation.

There are more Chinese than you can shake a stick at around the globe and not one beer that is popular around the world.  This is the sort of thing not to be taken lightly. There must be a good reason for it.   Most Chinese joints here don't even sell an Asian beer and, if they do, it's almost always Thai or Japanese.  You will never here a Chinese expat say something like "Yeah, this Pilsen  is okay but you should try this beer I use to drink back home." 

What the Chinese did bring with them was liquor, high octane, burn-on-the-way-down, glorious liquor.  You haven't seen the stuff at Hipermás, any of the big mercados or your local super, because it is not there.  You cannot find it in any of the places you frequent for your standard shopping needs. 

The only way to track down Chinese liquor is to search out the small shops around town with the Chinese characters on the front.  These shops are here. You can find them.  When you fall into one of these places you hit gold because of the strange and exotic smells.  A good shop will have two or three shelves of bottles in a variety of shapes sizes with red and gold labels and writing that means nothing unless you read Mandarin.
My friend and I have found the best way to pick the best one is by style.  The first bottle we took home was chosen this way and still remains a favorite.  It was a short and fat bottle shaped like an oversize pineapple hand grenade with a colorful label.  When my friend saw it, he said something like 'I've got to have that bottle. It looks cool!'   He was that excited about this new elixir we had found. 

With bottle in hand we quickly made our way to the closest place to home that sold beer and yanked several six packs off the shelf and darted home at a near run.  With two open cans and empty shot glasses in front of us we stared admiring the bottle for a moment.  Then with stupid giddy expressions on our faces we poured. 

After the straight shot, we felt compelled to try it every way we could come up with until there was no more. We sipped it, drank it on ice, with soda, chased it, used it as a chaser for beer.  This tasting was was done very scientifically. 

It was very similar to Jägermeister without the bite on the front, and for 2,000 colons it was a superb deal.  Somewhere around around the bottom of the bottle it occurred to us it might be nice to have a name to put to this wonderful concoction.   We studied every character that  The People's Republic of China felt necessary to put on the ornate paper label on that fine, cheap bottle, and all of it was in some form of Chinese.  

When we inquired of the proprietor of the local Chinese restaurant, he told us that it was  an “export-only” liquor from mainland China. How fortunate for us that they chose to export this fine elixir!

chile relleno
Chile relleno envuelto en huevo: Pepper stuffed with a mixture of rice and meat rolled up in an egg omelette.
scallon omlette
Torta de Huevo con cebollin:
scallion omelette.
Canelones de carne envueltos en huevo. Cannelloni stuffed with a mixture of rice and meat rolled up in an egg omellete
yucca balls
Enyucada de carne: This is a yucca ball stuffed with meat and then fried until crunchy.
Yes, there is good typical food
on the Costa Rican menu

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When visitors to Costa Rica turn up their nose at the concept of Tico food, its because they have not looked hard enough.

Those who come to San José can find a wide assortment of great typical food at a place like the Central Market or Mercado Central.

At one time this was where most food transactions took place. The building itself is an historic site. The structure is on the Avenida Central pedestrian mall not far west of the Banco de Costa Rica. Tourists and locals alike will find that gallitos, a typical Tico canape or snack, is available here at the several sodas or inside lunch counters.

Around the eating spots, daily commerce takes place. The smell of leather goods, flowers and all kinds of foods and plants fill the air.

Inside, the gallito you can get a chile relleno (a filled pepper), an almuerzito de repollo (cabbage), tortas de huevo con cebollin (a scallion omelette) a barbudos (string bean omelette), a canellone ticos rellenos de carne (pasta stuffed with meat) or an enyucada with beef as well as cheese. The last is meat or cheese wrapped in yucca and deep fried.

There also are empanadas, pastry stuffed with meat, chicken, beans, potatoes with meat and/or cheese, all good food anytime of the day.

The word soda has a unique Costa Rica usage for a luncheon spot or snack bar.  The stands are small with some inside tables surrounded by a counter with stools. As you eat, you can see the food being prepared. The Mercado Central is operated by the municipality, so proper food preparation can be expected.

One well-known place is the Soda San Bosco at the western part of the Mercado Central. It is run by Luis Garcia Campos and his family. They have had the location for at least 30 years. Even though the place is small, it is very popular with locals. Garcia said the reason for the popularity is the freshness of the food, the friendly and quick service and the prices. 

You can drink the juice of different kinds of fruits for 350 colons (62 U.S. cents),  a coffee for 400 colons (71 cents), a gallito of chile relleno, canelloni or barbudos just for 600 colons ($1.06), the gallo de salchichon (sausage) with salad and tortillas for 500 colons (89 cents) as well the similarly priced empanadas, enyucadas and torta de huevo.

Soda San bosco and Luis Garcia Campos
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas  
Luis Garcia Campos at his Soda San Bosco

Cocina de Robin
Don Donner restaurant
Paintball promo

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