Caribbean Fruits and Vegetables Names & Uses
Okra - Yams
Okra/Lady's Finger/Bamee:The 6-inch pods, shaped like a woman's finger, are used as a vegetable and to prepare coo-coo, a sweet corn dish. Medicinally, it's good for the eyes and inflammations of the reproductive system. Often served in the U.S. in a can and referred to as "slimy okra."
Passion Fruit: This sounds like an aphrodisiac but the name seems to come from the fruit's purple color. Cut in half, the mushy, seed-filled pulp looks disgusting but tastes quite good. The pulp is used in making ice cream and passion fruit drinks. The skin is used in salads.
Papaya/pawpaw: A melon that grows on a tree, well off the ground and close to the trunk. Often eaten with a bit of fresh lime squeezed over it, Columbus called this delicious fruit the "fruit of angels." Papaya is a prime ingredient in Adolph's meat tenderizer; wrapping meat in papaya leaves will achieve the same effect. Pawpaw is supposed to help relieve hypertension; the latex of the leaves, stem and roots is used for treating boils, ring worm and warts.
Pigeon Peas: Brought from either Africa or India , pigeon peas mixed with rice (with or without curry) is a favorite in many parts of the Caribbean . The peas grow on a shrub that reaches up to 9 feet high. The pods vary from light green to dark brown.
Pineapple: Named for its resemblance to the pine cone, it is native to the Caribbean . Some pineapple species, particularly at altitude, produce only colorful flowers and no fruit.
Plantain: A cousin to the sweeter, yellow banana, plantains don't ripen in the same manner and they taste starchier. When ripe, they are often cut in slices, fried and sprinkled with sugar for a sweet dessert. It's sometimes used in casseroles.
Seagrape: The plants are usually found most often near the coastline, seeming to enjoy a healthy dose of sea and salt. The green fruits do grow in grape-like clusters, eventually turning a ripe purple. Still very sour, seagrapes are most often mixed with sugar and made into jelly, sometimes even into a soup.
Soursop: A fast-growing tree, the spiny green fruit is oval shaped. The fruit is sizable, growing 6-8 inches, and the inside has the thickness of a custard. It is most often made into ice cream or preserves. It's considered a sedative for children.
Star Apple: The extremely tall trees (up to 50 feet) provide wonderful shade. The mildly sweet fruit is purplish and about the size of an apple. The name comes from the pattern revealed when the fruit is cut open: a starburst effect of seeds in a gelatinous flesh. Far better than it sounds.
Sugar Cane: At one time this member of the grass family was the most important crop of the Caribbean. The stems are crushed to produce the sugar. It can also be made into molasses and rum. You may want to sample the raw cane and compare it to the refined sugar most of us use. The raw is far sweeter and tastier. Sugar cane is the main ingredient of rum, which differs remarkably from island to island.
Yams: Growing on a vine sometimes up to 6-8 feet high, the yam tuber is particularly starchy and may be served boiled, baked and fried. A particular variety, called drug yams, are used in making oral contraceptives.