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.
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 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.
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.**
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.
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!
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.
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.
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. Continue reading “Oakton House Jamaica”→
The St. Andrew Parish Courthouse is located in Half Way Tree and is popularly referred to as the Half Way Tree Courthouse. Built in 1807, this Georgian style building has louvered windows and a closed verandah.
It was damaged in a storm and repaired in 1882, then repaired several times after. Miraculously, it escaped damage in the 1907 earthquake.
The Courthouse was the setting for the trial of Alexander Bedward (1859-1930), a preacher and a Black Nationalist after whom the Revival movement, Bedwardism, the Jamaica Native Baptist Free Church, was named. Bedward spoke out against the government and was arrested and tried for sedition. He was committed to the mental asylum at Bellevue, where he died.
The St. Andrew Parish Courthouse was listed by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust on their register of historic sites in 1957 and declared a national monument in 1985.
This is a elegant building that I hope the Jamaican National Heritage Trust will restore and make it open to the public once again. In this part of Kingston, there are several other historic buildings including the St. Andrew Parish Church, which is just next door to the Courthouse.
The St. Andrew Parish Church was founded in 1666, just after the British captured Jamaica from the Spanish in 1665, making it one of the oldest on the island. (More on the St. Andrew Parish Church in a later post.)
Another example of Georgian-style architecture is the Secretariat at King’s House.
This building is now used as an office.
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.
Most people who visit Jamaica, never make it to the south coast. Those who do, experience a side of the island that’s unhurried, unspoiled and ruggedly beautiful.
Located on the southwest coast is the parish of St. Elizabeth, the second largest parish on the island. It shares part of the area known as the Great Morass, a wetland area that stretches from the neighboring parish of Westmoreland, and has one of the longest rivers, the Black River.
Over the years, the parish has been settled by various groups – from the Native Tainos and Miskito Indians of Central America to Scott, Spanish, Irish, Germans, Chinese and South Asian Indians – making for a racial mixture that is unique to St. Elizabeth.
Despite getting not a lot of rain, St. Elizabeth produces most of the vegetables sold on the island and has earned the reputation as the nation’s ‘bread basket.’ In its diverse landscape can be found swamps, waterfalls, rivers, mountains and caves.
Electricity was installed in Black River, the capital as early as 1893.
Here are 5 reasons why you should visit St. Elizabeth.
Bamboo Avenue– Also known as Holland Bamboo, this 2-mile stretch of road between Middle Quarters and Lacovia is
bracketed by towering bamboo trees that form a natural canopy that makes the area lush and green.
Black River Safari – The hour-long ride down the Black River takes you into the lush vegetation of the Great Morass, a crocodile-filled swamp, with ducks, egrets, and other species of birds, rare plant life, logwood, royal palms and red mangroves with roots that go as deep as 40 feet. South Coast Safari, 876-965-2513
Spot a Manatee – Manatees can only be seen on Jamaica’s south coast. If you’d like to see one, head over to Alligator Park Nature Park, an eco-attraction that has three manatees, or to Treasure Beach, where they can be seen in the wild at certain specific times. Manatees weigh up to 3,000 pounds and can reach up to 14 feet. Because of their dwindling numbers – they usually get caught in fishermen’s nets or are caught and killed for their meat — manatees are now protected by the National Environment and Planning Agency.
Lovers’ Leap – According to local lore, rather than give herself to her master, Mizzy, a slave woman and Tunkey, her lover, plunged off the 1700-foot cliff to their deaths rather than allow him to be sold off. Despite the tragedy in its past, Lovers’ Leap offers some of the most breathtaking views of Jamaica’s south coast, especially from its restaurant. There’s also a lighthouse and wooden sculpture honoring the lovers.
YS Falls – YS Falls is the place to be whether you want to sit and read, spot birds, do a canopy tour of the falls or swing off a rope into the cool water below. Seven waterfalls, natural pools fed by underground springs, kids’ pool and activities for children make this an ideal spot for singles and families.
History & Culture
Accompong – The Maroons were runaway slaves who defeated the British many times over and eventually signed their own treaty with them in 1739. They were given lands in eastern and western Jamaica, one group settling in St Elizabeth in the foothills of the Cockpit Country. They named their community after Accompong, one of their leaders. Every year on January 6th, the Maroons celebrate their independence from Britain with a day-long celebration at Accompong.
Black River Heritage Tour – This hour-long tour takes you back in time to the Black River of the 19th century when wealthy landowners made this one of Jamaica’s richest towns. This former shipping port was one of the most modern towns in Jamaica. It was the first to have electricity and motor cars, and one of the first to have telephones. The tour stops at the Georgian style Invercauld Great House, the Court House, another Georgian structure, and the St. Elizabeth Parish Church among other historic buildings.
Lacovia – Also known as the longest village in Jamaica, Lacovia is the site where a duel was fought between a Spanish and British soldier. The Spanish soldier won and won the girl. A tombstone marks the place where the British soldier, Thomas Jordan Spencer, age 15, was buried. He has been traced to the family of Princess Diana and Winston Churchill.
Appleton Estate & Rum Distillery – Covering more than 11,000 acres, Appleton Estate & Rum Distillery is one of the oldest in the country. It has been making rums since 1749, which makes it the second oldest distillery in the Caribbean. The tour of the distillery starts with a complimentary glass of rum punch, lasts about an hour, and ends with a tasting of 13 rums!
Font Hill Beach – Part of a nature reserve, this golden sand beach is located near the Westmoreland /St. Elizabeth border. Open 9-5 daily.
Treasure Beach – The community of Treasure Beach comprises scenic bays, offering plenty of places to go for a swim, and watch the sun set.
Offbeat Places to Eat
Pelican Bar– Located on a sandbank about a mile from Black River, Pelican Bar is the dream of owner, Floyd, who says he got a dream to build it. Pelican Bar is reachable only by boat. Food’s cooked to order.
Little Ochie – I debated whether to include Little Ochie in this list because, geographically, it is located in the neighboring parish of Manchester but most people think this cool little place, on the banks of Alligator Pond, is in St. Elizabeth. While there might be some confusion about its location there’s none about the food. Go here for some of the best seafood, done to order. Takes about 30 minutes.
Does St. Elizabeth sound like the kind of place you’d like to visit?
If you’re already in Jamaica or planning to visit, add St. Elizabeth to your itinerary. Check with your hotel to arrange a tour.
Ask anyone about Negril and the first thing they’ll mention is its beach. Nearly 5 miles long (though everyone claims it to be 7 miles) of unobstructed beach, it’s the place to go if you’re looking for the best white-sand beach and spectacular sunsets.
Negril straddles two of Jamaica’s western parishes – Westmoreland and Hanover – and hugs the coast from Bloody Bay (Hanover) to the lighthouse, in Westmoreland, which was built in 1894.
Along the rugged cliffs of the southwestern stretch in Westmoreland, the so-called West End, there are several underwater caves, restaurants and cottages and exclusive guest houses.
The northern end is home to the larger hotels and all-inclusives such as Couples, Riu, Hedonism II, Sandals by Beaches, etc.
The first time I visited Negril, I wasn’t yet in high school. The youth group I belonged to had our first camping trip there. Back then, Negril was a quiet place with a few houses, even fewer hotels, lots of land and sea crabs and its now famous beach.
Today, Negril still has the best stretch of beach in Jamaica. However, in the space of thirty years, it has been transformed from a tiny village to a bustling resort town with a mix of accommodation, an assortment of places to eat and an active night life. Negril however attracts couples, singles and families – some come year after year to this beautiful spot.
Beside the beach and the clear blue water of the Caribbean Sea, Negril is also known for its spectacular sunsets. As evening draws to a close, legions of visitors and locals alike flock to Rick’s Café, or one of the resorts on the water side, to watch the sun turn crimson and orange and purple before it disappears from view.
Getting to Negril:
Negril is about an hour and half’s drive from the Donald Sangster Airport in Montego Bay. You can also fly there from either the Montego Bay or Kingston airport.
With more than 90 places, from luxury retreats at $500 or more to rooms for $50 a night, you are sure to find the perfect place to spend a night, or two, in Negril.
I don’t have a green thumb but I love flowers, especially orchids. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to love me. Each time I buy one, I think it will be different, it will last more than a few months. Each time, I’ve been wrong.
Now that I’m in Jamaica, where orchids are plenty and grow wild, I’m tempted but I’m gun shy. So for now, I’m satisfied to take photos of the ones I see.
Over 30,000 species of orchids can be found worldwide. Approximately 230 are found in Jamaica. Of that number, about 70 are endemic to the island.
The main threat to Jamaican orchids is from the destruction of their habitats caused by land clearing for housing, hotel and agricultural development, bauxite and/or limestone mining, harvesting of forest products for timber, fuel wood, fish pots, yam sticks and fence posts.
The second greatest threat to the species is believed to be collection by orchid enthusiasts for local and international trade. The government has enacted legislation to protect their habitats and regulate the orchid trade. Sanctuaries have also been established to relocate orchids that are found in areas under threat.
These orchids are from the gardens of friends and family.
This one is known locally as Poor Man’s Orchid. It sure looks like it could be.
This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!
I’ve been featured in the Cheapflights blog in their Travel Bloggers choice series. Take a look at why I think Treasure Beach, Jamaica is a destination everyone should visit.
Cheapflights is the UK’s leading flight deals provider and if you haven’t already booked your flights to Jamaica, take a look at their site.
Since my arrival in Jamaica, I’ve been soaking up everything around me, especially flowers. Many, like this one, the Shrimp Plant, are new to me. Some I know but have forgotten their names.
I’m surprised how many fruit trees I don’t remember. I know the popular ones, like the mango, banana, coconut. But guava, naseberry, starapple, for example, if they’re not in fruit, I’m lost. So I’m also getting re-acquainted.
While I’m doing that, please take a look at my post on Treasure Beach and a few of my previous posts on Jamaica.