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Plant Talk

Growing a Piece of the Caribbean at NYBG

Posted in History & People , Inside our Collections on September 17, 2020, by Flordelisa Mota

Flordelisa Mota is an author and volunteer at The New York Botanical Garden’s Edible Academy.


It was a sunny autumn day in the mid-1990s when we visited The New York Botanical Garden for the first time. We had just returned from the Dominican Republic, our paradise, to tend to a family emergency. Our daughter-in-law got sick, and she needed us to take care of her new baby, Sergio Mark.

We went to visit the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden. It was a friendly place to spend time and offered many activities for children. The next summer, we discovered the Family Garden by chance and became volunteers working at the Caribbean Garden. Ideas blossomed soon after. My husband, Alejandro, started to cook Dominican food under the initiative of Toby Adams, the Garden’s Manager at that time. Visitors loved the Dominican food, especially the golden rice and green plantains. Alejandro planted cilantro, or cilantrico as we call it in the Dominican Republic, and lemongrass, a fragrant tropical grass that smells just like the fruit. I began writing poetry about nature under the cherry trees, and planted Caribbean flowers—for visitors to enjoy the beauty, and for Dominicans to remember their land while looking at the cosmos blooms, hibiscus, and much more.

Time has passed since then. Our grandson, Sergio Mark, finished college, and he is now a Chief Information Officer. The Garden now has an Edible Academy, introducing programs to learn how to grow and cook healthy food, and Toby Adams is the Director. My husband, Alejandro, is still a gardener, and I am an author, having received a B.A. in English, with honors, from Hunter College in 2005. We never returned to live in our paradise of exotic flowers. It was not needed anymore, as we have our own—The New York Botanical Garden.

Try her family recipe for Dominican golden rice.

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