The Real Foodie

Tag: ackee

Jamaican Lunch

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Jamaican local and organic lunch

This week I traveled to Jamaica for a short visit to oversee the renovations at our family rental house. I was tired from standing all day and breathing in paint fumes and needed a nourishing meal to pick me up. While in between meetings I took a quick taxi ride to Hopewell, the nearest town, to buy some ackee, breadfruit, coconut and okra, from the roadside fruit stall at the main junction in town. It was such a treat to sit down to this delicious nutritious meal of local, organic vegetables made by our amazing cook, Ana, accompanied by a glass of refreshing coconut water. The ackee, tomatoes, okra and plantain were sautéed in extra virgin coconut oil from Belize which I bought in Ocho Rios at Progressive Foods supermarket—a chain of supermarkets selling a wide range of local and organic foods, part of a growing organic movement in Jamaica.  The lettuce was from a local organic farm and our driver Kenny picked the avocado for me from the tree in his garden.

For years, while growing up and throughout my twenties, I had to settle for low quality, imported food when I came here but now that I come so often, since managing our house, I have found the resources for local, organic food and it has made all the difference to my experience and the way I feel. Along with my morning hour of running, swimming and yoga, instead of getting fat and tired like I used to, I stay in shape and feel great.

Roadside Fruit Stalls of Jamaica

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Driving back from Goldeneye through the beautiful village of Oracabessa, I stopped at two fruit stalls to buy some local fruit. They each stood out above the rest with their charming handmade construction and colourful displays of fruit. These types of roadside fruit stalls are typical of Jamaica and you can find them all over the island. It is the best way to find real, fresh, local organic fruit, picked straight from the owners’ back garden. You won’t find this high quality produce at the hotels, which rely heavily on imported food, with the exception of a few cutting edge resorts that are leading the organic and sustainable movement in Jamaica such as Goldeneye, Pantrepant Farm and Jakes hotel.

The first stall belonged to a Rastafarian named Winston, a delightful character who welcomed us into his shack, cooked for us and posed for my photos. There is a general fear amongst tourists of Jamaicans due to the country’s reputation for being dangerous with its extreme poverty, violence and high crime rates. However, the Rastafarians are peaceful and spiritual people, who live a natural life and eat an Ital (derived from the word vital) diet consisting of pure, natural, living foods from the earth that have no additives, preservatives, chemicals, alcohol, salt or spices and is mostly vegan with the exception of small fish. Winston sold bananas, coconuts, ackee, breadfruit, custard apples, soursop and avocadoes. He had a breadfruit roasting on a wood fire which he opened and served my husband and me on green leaves while telling stories describing the Rastafarian way of life. I had never eaten breadfruit plain before; usually after it is roasted, it is fried in butter with salt (which is more nutritious because fat is necessary for the assimilation of vitamins and minerals), however, it was interesting to taste nothing but the soft, fluffy, starchy breadfruit with the smokey flavour of wood fire. He cut open a young coconut for each of us to drink the water and then scrape the jelly (coconut meat) and he de-seeded a bag of ackee fruit, the national fruit of Jamaica, ready for us to cook at home with saltfish.

Our second stop was Michael’s stall, beautifully set against green rolling hills and in-between two tall trees. He sliced open and gave us a star apple: a purple fruit with a white star shape in the middle, which I had never tried before, as well as a taste of his soursop. He also had jackfruit, ackee, ugli, pineapples, passion fruit, coconuts, bananas and a few crabs in a trap dangling from the roof. He sang a song for us and went into great detail about the Jamaican drink, roots tonic: a concoction of mountain herbs which gives strength and virility.

We had a healthy snack for our long drive back to Montego Bay and went back with enough fruit to last us the rest of our trip. I highly recommend to anyone who visits Jamaica to explore the island, get to know the people and buy from these typical roadside stalls where you will be supporting the local community as well as experiencing true Jamaican culture.