Caribbean Epicurean: Fruits of the West Indies

Caribbean Epicurean: Fruits of the West Indies

by | Jun 27, 2021 | Blog, Home Blogs, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The flamingos flew through the night headed for their favorite wetlands. The birds, displaying their black under feathers that can only be seen during wing extension, glided in a flamboyance that took advantage of the wind conditions, arriving early in the morning.  They landed and began wading through the lagoon searching for plankton. The day before, Annie and LJ arrived in Barbados, a first trip abroad since the end of the pandemic.  They were awakened by the honking of the flamingos, having been warned by Jim and Rhonda, their hosts, who recently moved to the island, their room faced a favorite location for the visually stunning fowl.

“LJ, do you hear that? It must be the flamingos. Let’s go see!”

LJ followed Annie to the porch. “Don’t get too close, we don’t want to spook them.”

The shy noisy birds kept a safe distance from the house as they feasted steadily, preening between foraging in the water. While they watched, Jim arrived with cups of green tea. “You can see why we love it here. When the flamingos arrive, we are entertained for days.  There are six types, and these are American flamingos also known as Caribbean.   Are you all up for breakfast in about an hour? We’re making a traditional island meal, so meet us in the kitchen and bring a big appetite.”

LJ was still watching when Annie said, “sweetheart we better get going. It’s been about an hour and breakfast is probably ready.”

“I’ll be right there.  Go ahead and let them know I am on my way. Jim is right, these flamingos are fascinating.”

Annie walked into the kitchen with the empty teacups, “Good morning Rhonda, what a lovely way to wake up. I just dragged LJ away from the flamingos so he’s right behind me.”

Rhonda hugged Annie, and laughed, “Jim is the same way. We are so glad you two are here.  I want you to try my new favorite smoothie, it is made with Cherimoya, a fruit that is native to the Caribbean.  Tell me what it tastes like to you.”

Annie took a sip. “This is so yummy. I taste pineapple and banana. What is in it?

Rhonda nodded with a smile, “Cherimoya is considered one of the best tropical fruits. In fact, Mark Twain referred to it as “the most delicious fruit known to man,” And I agree. I combined it with tofu, lemon juice, and ice in a blender. Cherimoya contains potassium, and magnesium, which helps lower blood pressure, and vitamin C that supports our immune system. Its compounds help reduce chronic inflammation which lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, digestive issues, and cancer.”

Rhonda greeted LJ and handed him a smoothie. “I made this for Annie, I hope you like it.”

He took a delightful sip. Annie explained what they were enjoying as Jim and Rhonda began bringing platters of food to the table.

“Breakfast is served,” announced Jim.

Each took a seat at the table. After expressing gratitude, they began passing the food around.

Jim held a platter of what looked like scrambled eggs for Annie, “This is Ackee, and
Saltfish
, Jamaica’s national fruit and dish. Ackee looks like scrambled eggs when it is cooked. Once it is ripe and the scarlet skin opens naturally, you remove the toxic seed, pick out its pegs, boil them in saltwater, and then they are ready to be combined with other foods, in this case, it is saltfish, but in West African countries, where it originated it is eaten raw, fried or mixed in soups.”

Annie tasted a forkful, “The combination of its nutty flavor with the saltiness of the fish, the heat of scotch bonnet and the other herbs makes this one savory delish dish.  This could easily become my favorite breakfast.”

LJ helped himself to a pancake and took a bite.  “I recognize this. It is a Breadfruit Pancake, right? I read Breadfruit is considered an answer to global hunger because one tree can produce over 200 fruits per year.  I understand that it is loaded with vitamin C and a great source of potassium and fiber.”

“That’s right LJ,” Rhonda added another pancake to his plate. “Breadfruit is so versatile. It is a staple here in the islands, and even though it is starchy, it is also gluten-free, so it makes an excellent flour. Mostly it is served either boiled or fried. Breadfruit provides a lot of nutritional firepower, with its antioxidants (anti-aging), bioflavonoids (fights inflammation) amino acids (energy), and phytochemicals (heart health). Recent studies are showing its promise as an anti-cancer agent. You might want to try this Gooseberry Jam on your breadfruit pancake. Gooseberries were brought to the Caribbean islands in 1793. They have a short season and keep well in the refrigerator for a long time, but it is best to capture their nutritional benefits as soon as they are picked, so making a jam with them is an easy solution.  The little dynamos are highly nutritious, chock full of vitamins C, B5, & B6, copper (heart/brain health) manganese (bone formation), and potassium (cell function). They are high in fiber and low in calories.”

Annie sat back, “This entire meal has been educational and delicious. There are so many things about it that impress me. I appreciate your attention to the nutritional value of each dish, and that you shopped for and cooked locally grown produce.”

Jim looked at Rhonda, “We’ve gotten used to slowing down which is giving us the opportunity to focus on our health. Your food-as-medicine message, Annie has really begun to resonate with us. I know we are full now, but later this morning I would like you to try Mammee Apple milkshake. The Mammee Apple tree is native to the West Indies. It produces a popular fruit that has a sweet tangy taste, like apricot or raspberry. It makes a delicious milkshake that is high in fiber and vitamin C. There is research that shows Mammee Apple aids weight loss and lowers insulin levels.”

Rhonda nodded, “I think you will enjoy it. For dinner today, we have one more island staple to introduce; the Chayote a fruit but prepared as a vegetable. It is a light green pear-shaped gourd, similar in texture to jicama, and tastes like a cross between cucumber and squash.  It is high in fiber, vitamin C, B6, potassium, and antioxidants. It can be eaten raw and is delicious in salads, soups, baked or as a noodle.”

LJ sat back with a satisfied smile, “to paraphrase Epicurus, it is not what we have, but what we enjoy that constitutes our abundance.”

 

Annie and LJ are a fictional couple. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.

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