Fruits & Vegetables of the Caribbean
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Flora & Fauna
Some also have curative properties, commonly known as bush medicine.
Ackee: One of the national dishes of Jamaica (served with salt fish). Imported apparently from the South Seas , perhaps even by Capt. Bligh himself who also introduced other important foodstuffs, the tree produces leaves and greenish-white flowers. The ackee fruit is the real prize--but to be eaten only when it is red ripe and the fruit is split open. Ackee that is unripe (or overripe) can be poisonous, even lethal. Perhaps it's for this reason that ackee isn't eaten much outside of Jamaica.
Arrowroot: Once utilized to help heal wounds from Carib arrows, hence its name. A very starchy plant, arrowroot has been used as a poison antidote, for starching clothes, in face powders and in glues. It is also quite edible, one of the more digestible foods around, generally used to thicken soups and sauces.
Avocado: Also grown in warmer regions of the U.S., this native of Central America is used in salads, as an entree, or even in a mousse. It is supposed to have blood-sugar regulating properties helpful to hypoglycemics. On some islands the leaves are used in a tea to treat high blood pressure. Both round and pear-shaped, the green skin is thick and warty.
Banana: Related to the fig (and called figs on some islands), bananas originated in India and Malaysia . A large herbaceous plant, bananas trees can grow over 20 high. The dark purple flower that hangs the stem is a remarkable sight. You'll often see bananas covered in plastic bags to prevent insects from discoloring the skins. The insects do not harm the fruit, but export crops have to be blemish-free. Bananas with brown spots are often left to rot.
Breadfruit: Brought from the South Pacific into the Caribbean around 1793 by the infamous Capt. Bligh, it was intended as food for slaves, who didn't like it. Now a Caribbean staple, breadfruit is loaded with carbohydrates and vitamins A,B and C. The large green spherical fruit has a kind of pimply skin. It can be made into pie, bread or puddings or served boiled like potatoes as a side dish.
Cashews: The fruit looks like a small red oblong apple. It's used for stewing, fermented into wine or consumed as a vegetable. The more famous (and expensive) nut grows at the end of the apple. However, it is the kernel inside the nut you want: the shell oozes a liquid that can cause skin irritation and even death.
Callaloo: The young green leaves of the dasheen plant (see below) are made into an excellent soup called callaloo. Do try this. Prepared properly, it can be exceptional.
Cassava: The root has been an important staple since the days of the Amerindians. However, it is also another of those items that must be cooked properly to remove prussic acid or it, too, can be lethal. Carib Indians supposedly ate cassava raw to avoid slavery. Its most important use is in the making of cassareep to create pepper pot, a kind of stew whose stock can be used for years.
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