There are many fruits and vegetables that are so common around Jamaica that many of us just assume that they are native plants. However, many of our local favourites are not indigenous. This and every Thursday during Farmer’s Month, we will take a closer look at some of them.
The guinep is common to the tropics and grows all across the Caribbean, South America and Central America. Its exact origin in unclear. It can be eaten as is, used to make juice or stewed. It is known by a variety of names across the region: chennette in Trinidad & Tobago; mamoncillo or mamón in Cuba, Costa Rica and Panama); skinnip in St Kitts and Spanish line in the US.
The June plum, also called Jew plum or golden apple, is native to Melanesia and Polynesia. It was brought to Jamaica in 1782 some years later Captain William Bligh brought more plants into the island from Hawai’i, where it grew in abundance. The fruit can be eaten ripe or green (some people like to eat it with salt in this state), and used to make preserves, pastry and more. In West Java, the young leaves are used as seasoning and in Costa Rica, the more mature leaves are eaten as a salad green.
The mango is native to India, where it has grown for more than 4000 years. It is is believed to have originated in tropical to sub-tropical monsoon areas in the foothills of the Himalayas, between India and Burma. The mango is said to be one of the oldest and most important fruits ever cultivated. There are a number of popular varieties in Jamaica, including number 11, Julie, blackie, stringy, East Indian, sweetie and Bombay.
The Otaheite apple came to us from southeast Asia (Malaysia and Indonesia), where it is known as jambu merah (“red guava” in the Malaysian language) and jambu bol (Indonesian for “ball guava”). It is also called Malay apple, Malay rose apple, Otaheite cashew and pommerac. It is usually eaten as is, but can be used to in a variety of recipes.
The sweetsop, called sugar apple or custard apple in other countries, is native to the tropics, although its exact origin is unclear. There are several varieties, ranging in colour from pale green to blue-green, deep pink to purple. Sweetsops are high in vitamin C and a good source of fibre. The purple variety is less sweet with an acidic zing.