Organic Homemade Pesto from our Aquaponics Soilless Garden

fresh basil

fresh basil in our aquaponics system


Basil pesto is one of those great tricks to have in your fridge at all times. Throw it on some quinoa, over a salad, or spread it on rice crackers with slices of turkey and cheese for a quick high protein snack. It packs so much flavor, it’s a great way to turn any bland meal into something amazing!

Right now we have heaps of basil growing in our aquaponics system. Stu showed me how to harvest it so that each basil plant will continue to produce optimal amounts of tasty little leaves. You cut the basil right above a two branch growth. You can cut two sections at a time. See photos below:

how to trim basil

trim basil above two sprouting branches

trimming basil from our aquaponics system

take 1 to 2 sections of growth

Once I harvested the basil I decided I would grab some mint to throw in a little extra flavor depth and keep it fresh. From there I took a look at what I had in my cupboard. I’m not a traditional recipe user, so I like to keep things simple by going off a basic “sauce” formula and applying what I know about traditional basil pesto.

Here is my basic sauce formula that I use for transforming any abundance of herbs into a something nice to have in the fridge that will last longer than the fresh leaves.

  • Raw garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Raw white onion
  • Herbs of choice
  • A touch of soya sauce
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Salt
  • A little spice

Traditional pesto ingredients:

  • Pine nuts
  • Basil
  • Sharp cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic

With these things in mind, I raided my cupboards and found the following ingredients:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Sea salt
  • Hot sauce
  • Soya sauce
  • Walnuts
  • And of course Basil and mint
fresh basil at taino farms

LOTS of fresh basil 

fresh mint from taino farms

just a bit of fresh mint to add a little freshness

I threw it all into a blender and bam! Beautiful, healthy, green food!

organic pesto

Organic homemade pesto tastes better, is better for you, and is less expensive than store bought varieties

This recipe is slightly more economical and better for you than the traditional pesto that you buy in a grocery store. For starters the basil and mint are grown in a soilless aquaponics bed with absolutely 100{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} organic nutrients in the water. There is no cheese or large amounts of oil and salt. By adding vinegar, soya sauce and nutritional yeast, the flavors are accentuated and balanced. Instead of pine nuts which contain 85{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} fat, and 7{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} protein, I opted for walnuts which are slightly higher in protein at 8{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} and are not as pricey.

I hope you enjoy your new basil pesto ‘recipe’ and hopefully you will be inspired to get creative with other influxes of garden herbs.


All in all Its been a very good week for Taino and permaculture in the DR, and apparently we have a healthy Zone 5 at Finca Taino!

A group of us went up to the farm and we took a few different species of bananas and plantains and created four new Banana Circles. They add diversity to the food forest, help to suck up a lot of water in the wet season in an area that can get boggy and also provide food for us and mulch for the forest and nearby annual gardens.

Taino Farm Cow Paddock and food forest

Cow Paddock to the left and Eastern developing food forest.

Developing Food forest

Thanks to a good friend of mine, Olly Dadswell, I was also able to finally track down some proper orange sweet potatoes that had seemed impossible to locate in the country.  We’re now in mass propagation mode. Sweet potatoes are so good for developing food forests as they are living mulch, they provide the perfect environment for small organisms which add loads of nutrient to the soil. They also have a fungal base which is exactly what forests need.
Bryan and I went out for a couple of bohemia’s that evening, watched basketball with a couple of local guys and had a blast. In the morning I decided to go for a dip in the river to seize my day. To my delight, there was a little turtle already enjoying the river. This really put me in the moment, a subtle reminder of the beauty of nature. One of permaculture’s principles is about zonation. The final zone, furthest form the house is generally left completely unmanaged and natural succession is encouraged. It’s main function is that it to allows natural forna and flora to return. We can then visit nature, not only for total peace of mind, but also to get inspired, nature is always the best teacher. At Taino Farm, we are lucky to have a river running through our zone 5 . Seeing that the river is a healthy enough river to have cranes and turtles really warmed me up and set me up for a great week.
annual permaculture beds

The Annual Beds shot form the roof of the new building

To put the icing on cake, I opened my laptop to Permacuture and the most recent post was stating that there were a few more places for an online PDC with Geoff Lawton, who is probably the most active man in permaculture at present. I’d wondered for some time how I would do the course whilst living here. I have already found, watched and read almost every free resource I could find, so it really felt like it was meant to be.
Little turtle. See bottom right

Little turtle. See bottom left

In 2011 I dropped out of university after a semester because I didn’t see a future in it. I had originally wanted to go through University to eventually research and teach in the fields of Geography and Biology. I didn’t feel I was passionate enough though. Trusting my instincts was the best decision I could have made. Not only have the last two years been the best two years of my life, but I also get to be here now studying something I really believe can benefit the world. I already plan to visit other projects all around the globe and potentially Visit Maya Mountain Research Farm in Belize and take an advanced course next March. Its fair to say Permaculture has made its mark on me and I hope to continue to spread the good word.
Post by Charlie.

It has been a interesting couple of months at Taino Farm. April started off with a lot of goodbyes. Much of the core crew moved on to embark on different adventures to various corners of the globe. I’ve found in the kind of life I’m living here in the DR goodbyes are something I have to just except. Sometimes it really seems like things are perfect so It can feel sad when people go, but its important to welcome change too. Possibilities to meet up later in life in other cool places is always nice.

With so may people gone, I was left with a lot of responsibility. I saw it as an opportunity to put what I’d learnt to the test.

bees at taino farms

bees at taino farms

I studied a lot and actively sought more downtime and spent time with nature for inspiration to try and figure out what I felt the next steps should be.

When I discussed  with Victor, Robbie and Stuart what I thought were my ideas, I was happy to find that we were all heading towards the same conclusions. I’m finding out Permaculture is by no means has an exact science but working with nature is definitely a good guideline. I ended up getting a copy of Doug and Tara’s plans which I read through enthusiastically and was humbled to find that with all their experience, they too had much the same vision.

Tropical permaculture orchard

The orchard beginning to take shape

The next steps are to finish what we’ve started, including the multi layers in the food forests. Then Build a couple more annual beds and plant some with “the 3 sisters” . Next is to start thinking about some construction. We’ll be finishing off some of the new accommodations for woofers, building some herb spirals, eventually a pond (aquaculture) and of course planting out and harvesting much, more food.

The Mangoes are repining up and It’s really all falling into place nicely, with the recent rain everything is happening fast. I’m really feeling lucky to be apart of all this. “Permaculture- A revolution disguised as gardening”




Planting out a mound by the new irrigation ditch

taino farms cabarete

sweet potato cuttings getting some light in the kitchen


putting stone work around the new ditch and mound

Charlie_Durrant_Cabarete_Photography-7275-1024x682 Charlie_Durrant_Cabarete_Photography-7308-682x1024 Charlie_Durrant_Cabarete_Photography-7238-1024x682


1. Purchase beer.

2. Pour three glasses and distribute amongst your friends.

3. Drink the beer.

4. Grab a few plastic cups, the remainder of the beer, a spade or shovel, and a big smile and head outside

5. Dig a small hole and insert empty cup.

6. Fill cup to 2/3 with beer.

7. Repeat steps 5-7 in a variety of slug ridden areas to test.

beer slug trap

It’s strange how a place can hold such strong meanings and possess a kind of personality for those that inhabit it or visit it. Or how a place that you’ve known for a mere fraction of your life can become seeped in nostalgia before you even realize that it had grown strings that are attached to your heart. What is it that makes these places stand out? What makes a place so special and so real in our minds? How does a place become one that cultivates love, nurturing, sharing, and growth? I read an interesting article recently about human beings’ search for meaning in life, and how those who possess a healthy curiosity for meaning live fuller lives than those who seek just happiness. So don’t listen to Kid Kudi when he goes on about that Persuit of Happiness shit. We all know it’s shallow.


When people come to the farm, it’s for a purpose greater than an afternoon thrill, or a night on the town. They generally want to find some intention in their work, their learning, and their experience on earth. There is a strong connection that you can feel in the air there and I got to spend my last visit enjoying the Finca for what it really is. Taking a note of my First Impressions for the fourth or fifth time, I was able to reconnect with the land and find new truth for the project and myself.

With so many people passing through in the last six months, it felt necessary to use this permaculture technique of simply observing my impressions free from judgment or immediate solution.

It’s undeniable; Finca Taina is a grounded place, one that dictates its wishes stronger even than those that are working it. Rain will be fickle and refuse to come, or the river will rise so high that it engulfs our riverside patio and denies access to tired farmers. This place can be challenging, unpredictable, and cranky, just like a kid that’s going through puberty.

taino farms

Over the last six months there have been a lot of people pouring their energy into the land. We have seen the establishment of an amazing food forest on the west side of the property. It is currently swallowing up our kitchen waste and pumping out lettuce greens, cerezas (a type of cherrie), hot peppers, and moringa and is promising to feed us yucca, black beans, and mangos in the near future. Across the roadway on the east side in the lower part of the property where water used to pool and stagnate in the rainy season, we’ve dug trenches and built raised garden beds and the beginnings of a utility structure that will be the host of much more great work to come. When I really chilled out and looked closely I saw dozens of little bees foraging all over the flowering cherrie bushes. Happy bees = lots of honey.


Cerezas growing in the food forest

It’s hard to express all the improvements at the farm, but lets just say that for each meal that I’ve eaten in the last month, probably 30{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} of the food has come from the Finca. In the three days that I was on the farm, probably 80{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} came from the land. Our quick trips to the colmado next store, are now only to stock up on onions, garlic, beer, and cheese. Not bad.

Taino Salad

A healthy salad made with fresh green peppers, tomatoes, onion, papaya, radishes, and cilantro. Serve with a vinaigrette dressing and enjoy with a cold glass of beer.

What really resonated with me was the immeasurable amount of energy and love that have gone into this piece of land. This is what gives it a strong sense of place and what makes the food grow. In just one afternoon, we harvested red leaf lettuce, fresh cilantro, green beans, green peppers, habenero peppers, and eggplant.

Taino Farms Annual Garden


The farmer’s footstep is the best fertilizer they say and I know it’s true. No matter what day I go there, I’m always greeted by the smiling faces and the steady pace of Victor, Juan, and Nao, our local team of full time farmers. These guys are awesome.


Thanks to all the hands that have put themselves into  energy a positive path for Finca Taina. The project has grown amazingly and is starting to find itself as it matures. It’s clearly a product of the quest for a stronger meaning in life. Those that visit the farm and have given a part of themselves to it will never loose that experience. It is sown in the earth and will continue to nurture life that is full of love, health, and intention.






“Sometimes you hear a voice through
the door calling you, as fish out of
water hear the waves, or a hunting
falcon hears the drum’s come back.
This turning toward what you deeply
love saves you.”
— Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī