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It’s Mango Season in Jamaica

Jamaicans have a passion for mango and during mango season, everyone gets to indulge, sometimes eating enough of the fruit to replace a meal.

Mangoes are so loved here, there’s even a folk song, called appropriately, Mango Time, that celebrates the delicious fruit, and up to a few years ago, there was a mango festival in the parish of Westmoreland.

Mango season starts around April or May and ends about July, though there is at least one variety, the Tommy Atkins, which comes in around September or October.

Blossoming Mango tree, Jamaica

Blossoming Mango tree

If you’re a mango lover and are planning to visit Jamaica in the next few months, you’ll be in mango heaven. Trees are laden with mangoes; they’ll be on sale at almost every roadside stall, and included in the breakfast buffet at your hotel. In the height of the season, the aroma of the ripened fruit will hang in the air.

Mangoes on a tree

Mango tree

Mangoes are native to South Asia, where they have been grown for more than 6,000 years. They were introduced to Jamaica in the 1700s after several varieties were discovered on a French ship that was destined for Hispaniola. The ship was captured at sea by Lord Rodney and the mangoes brought to the island.

Ripe Julie and Graham mangoes

Julie and Graham mangoes

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The Jamaican Pineapple

I’ve been eating pineapples all my life but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I discovered that there are different varieties. On a recent visit to Croydon Plantation (more on that later), I tasted the Cowboy, Ripley and Sugar Loaf.**

Ripley Pineapple

The Ripley

Some Pineapple Facts

The pineapple was brought to Jamaica from South America by the Tainos, the island’s first inhabitants. The Spanish took it to Spain, then to Hawaii and the Philippines, and other countries.

Five golden pineapple can be seen on the red cross on the Jamaican Coat of Arms, which has been in use since the 1600s.

Jamaica Coat of Arms, pineapples

Jamaica Coat of Arms

Pineapples are cultivated island-wide but the main growing areas are in the parishes of St. Elizabeth, St. James, Westmoreland and Portland, and the main reaping time is from May to July. Most of the pineapples grown here are consumed locally.

Besides being delicious, the pineapple is an excellent source of Vitamins C, B1, B6, copper, manganese and dietary fiber. It can be eaten fresh, baked, juiced, or even grilled.

Fresh pineapple juice can be used as a meat tenderizer.

The pineapple can also help to prevent inflammation.

All of the fruit, except for the top, which can be replanted, is eaten here. We combine the peel with ginger to make a delicious drink (recipe follows).

**Del Monte scientists have developed a new strain of pineapple variety, the MD2, which is sweeter, grows to a uniform size, ripens evenly, and has a longer shelf life.

How to Peel a Pineapple

Using a sharp knife, cut from top to bottom.
Remove the eyes by cutting a long V-shaped channel diagonally down through the centers of the diamond
Remove the crown and the bottom end.
Cut into slices and remove the core from each slice, or leave the core in. (I eat the entire slice, core included.)

Pineapple Ginger Drink

Peel of a fresh pineapple, washed. You can also use the fruit but the peel holds more of the flavor.
2-4 ounces of fresh peeled ginger
4-5 cups water
Reserve a few chunks of pineapple to garnish
Maraschino cherry to garnish

Bring water to boil. Add pineapple and ginger to a metal pot or large pitcher that can withstand heat (you don’t want to use anything that would leach into the drink). Let steep overnight. Strain off the juice and add sugar to taste. Add ice. Garnish with pineapple chunks or a Maraschino cherry.

Did you know that there are different varieties of pineapple?

 

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

This week, I’m also linking up with the Friday Daydreaming series organized by Becca at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there!

Jamaica: Keeping Alive the (Almost) Lost Art of Making Peppermint Candy

It was faint at first then as I trained my ear, a rhythmic slap-slap-slap sound filled the spaces within the noise of the festival. Was someone chopping wood? Curious, I moved quickly towards the direction of the sound. That’s when I spotted her.

Standing in front of a board that was hung about arms’ length above her head, she was wrapping a brown, sticky mixture around a nail that protruded some 6 inches from the board. Each time she folded the mixture over the nail, she slapped it against the board — that was the sound that had caught my attention. I inched closer and watched, fascination spreading over my face. What was she doing?

The crowd around her stall grew larger as more people were drawn to her stall. Using smart phones and digital cameras, they recorded her movements as she stretched, slapped and wrapped the mixture for several more minutes. When she stopped, it had turned from brown to beige. A whiff of peppermint floated through the air as she added a few drops to the mixture and continued to stretch and fold  until it glistened. Finally, she took it off the nail and added a few dollops of red that produced vibrant swirls as she stretched and twisted the mixture. Cutting off small pieces, she shaped them into canes and laid them on a small table.

Peppermint Candy swirl

Peppermint Candy

My excitement at seeing the Peppermint Candy Lady, as I started to call her, turned to pride. I had no idea that peppermint candy was ever made from scratch, let alone here in Jamaica. In a country that is often quick to embrace the new, I was thrilled to see someone who was carrying on the tradition.These are the kinds of experiences that, for me, make travel rewarding.

I was to learn something else that night: peppermint candy making was an art that my paternal grandmother had practiced. I never knew my grandmother and as I watched the Peppermint Candy Lady, I imagined, for a moment, that I was watching her.

After she finished and everyone had walked away, I approached. We didn’t get to talk long as Fay, that’s her name, had to set up her booth for the independence celebration that would begin the following day in Kingston. I wanted to watch her again and promised I’d meet her at the festival. I arrived just as she began setting up and we talked as I captured these photos of her at work.

Fay Thomas, 52, learned to make peppermint candy by hand from her great grandmother. She was 13 or 14 when her great grandmother brought her into the business saying she was getting older and needed her learn and eventually take over.

Back then, her grandmother used to turn 12 lbs. of sugar — boiled in two pots — into candy. Now, Fay does 6 lbs. and mostly displays her art at fairs and festivals. It’s a laborious process that she carries on for the love of it; it’s not enough for her to make a living at.

[Read more…]

Oakton House Jamaica

The Oakton House, a stately wooden structure caught my eye. Located in Half Way Tree, Kingston, it’s a stone’s throw from the Old Courthouse that I wrote about a few posts ago.

It was probably built in the 19th century, during the height of Jamaica’s Georgian period (1702-1910), but no records have been found to show who the original owner was. [Read more…]