Ackee, Akee, Vegetable Brain
Scientific name: Blighia sapida
Ackee, a red pear-
Ackee turns red and splits open when mature. It is then harvested and the edible portion (the arilli) removed in preparation for cooking. The flesh is poisonous when unripe or overripe. Because of this problem, there was some initial difficulty in getting the United States to allow the importation of ackee.
Ackee is mild in flavor, has a creamy texture, and tastes like scrambled eggs. Ackee and Saltfish is made from ackee, saltfish (salt cod), onions, hot peppers, tomatoes, and spices, often garnished with crisp bacon and fresh tomatoes.
Numerous other dishes are made with ackee: curried ackee, ackee and shrimp, ackee salad, ackee with cheese, ackee and ochro, ackee and crab etc
Ackee contains calcium, iron, potassium, Zinc, Vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folacin, vit C and dietary fiber
Arrowroot is a bland and easily digested starch extracted from the roots of the arrowroot plant. It is used as a thickener in many foods such as puddings and gravies, and is also used in cookies, biscuits, cakes and other baked goods.
Arrowroot has limited nutritional value. It is almost pure carbohydrate and and has no protein.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a long history of arrowroot production.
Avocado, Avocado Pear, Alligator Pear, Pear
Scientific Name: Persea Americana
The fruit of the avocado tree is generally roundish, pear-
Avocados have a pleasant nutty flavor. They may be used alone (with lime or lemon juice, or with salad dressing), in salads with other vegetables, or as an ingredient in numerous dishes. The pulp of the fruit matures into a buttery consistency and may be cream to bright yellow in color.
Avocados have high nutritive value and are used all over the world in dishes both savory and sweet. The Mexican dip, guacamole, is a growing favorite. Vegetarians make good use of the fruits, which are high in valuable fats, potassium, B vitamins, Vitamin E, Vitamin K and fiber.
With the use of special techniques the avocado tree can be grown indoors, and be used as a decorative houseplant. However, cats, dogs, and other domestic animals can be seriously harmed if they ingest the fruit, leaves or other parts of the avocado tree.
Banana, fig, green fig
Scientific name: Musa sapientum
The term banana usually refers to sweet, ripe, yellow bananas, which are in the main eaten fresh and uncooked. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red. However, unripe green bananas are sometimes cooked. The most marketed banana is the Cavendish banana.
There are hundreds of species of banana. Most of them are green in color when young and unripe, then yellow when ripe, then brown and black as they age further.
Banana fruits develop large hanging clusters or bunches, made up of tiers (called hands). Hands are composed of individual banana fruits that are often called fingers.
Bananas are very popular in the Caribbean. There are numerous ways of processing and presenting bananas in meals. Although they are mostly eaten raw, they may be baked in their skins or sliced and deep-
Banana leaves, which are smooth, glossy, large, flexible, and waterproof are sometimes used as food containers or as "plates." Steamed with some banana dishes, they lend a subtle flavor. Conkies are cooked in banana leaves.
Initially, people in developed Western countries wrote off bananas as animal food. However, the value of the fruit is established all over the world. Bananas are known to contain significant amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese and potassium.
Some people refer to bananas as “dessert bananas” because they are often used as or in desserts, distinguishing them from plantains, which are regarded as a type of banana.
Bananas of the size and general appearance of the Cavendish bananas seen in North American markets are called Cayenne bananas in Guyana and some locations in the Caribbean. The relatively small and plump bananas are called “baby bananas”. The larger baby bananas are called apple bananas, while the tiniest ones are called fig bananas.
Beet, beetroot, garden beet
Beets are grown as garden crops in the Caribbean.
The round, fleshy tap root, the part commonly used for food, is dark red in color. The root of beetroot is eaten boiled either as a cooked vegetable, or cold as a salad, alone or with other vegetables. It is also used in pickles.
Beet leaves are sometimes used as greens. They are mostly served boiled or steamed, and have a taste and texture close to spinach.
Beetroots are valued for their antioxidants and nutrients generally, which include magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C, and betaine, regarded as important for cardiovascular health.
Bilimbi, Sourie, Kamaranga, Bimbling Plum, Cucumber (tree), Tree Sorrel
The bilimbi plant is a common backyard plant in the Caribbean. The mature fruits of the bilimbi (“bimbling plum” in Jamaica) resemble small cucumbers and usually range from 2 to 3 inches in length. They have a smooth, thin, green rind and a juicy very acid pulp, in which are embedded several small seeds, and turn yellowish they ripen.
The bilimbi is often cooked in curries and is used in place of sour fruits such as green mangoes, tamarind or even tomato. It is often pickled, used to make chutney or even jam.
Fruits of the bilimbi are candied or cooked with sugar as a preserve. The pulp is also used to make a cooling drink. Children often eat it either raw, alone or with salt.
Bilimbis contain Vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, and iron.
Black Eye Pea, Black-
Beige in color, this bean has a black round “eye” at its inner curve. The dried seeds are used mostly as dried beans, and are a favorite in Guyanese cook-
More frequently, however, the pods are harvested when mature, but before the seeds or the pods begin to become dry.
Black eye peas are very nutritious. In the United States, where they are called cowpeas, black eye peas were grown as fodder before they were accepted as food for humans.
Bora, Borah, Yard Beans, Bodi beans
Bora is generally used as a fresh vegetable in the pod while still immature. Although bora is called yard bean, the pods are actually only about half a yard long. The crisp, crunchy, tender pods are eaten both fresh and cooked. They are at their best when young and slender. Bora is mostly cut into short sections for cooking uses. It makes a great stew, steamed or stir fried. It tastes great with meat (including ground meat) or shrimp or added to chow mein. Its similar to the string beans but with more of a crunch.
Bora is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
Boulanger, Baigan, Eggplant, Aubergine
Boulangers may be black, purple, green, white, striped, even red. They come in many shapes, sizes and colors. (Small white boulangers gave rise to the name “eggplant.”) However, varieties in the Caribbean are somewhat limited. They are spongy in texture and are generally slightly bitter when uncooked.
They can be baked, stewed, roasted or steamed. They are often included in curry stir-
A favorite use of boulangers is for making “baigan choka,” which is highly seasoned, roasted boulangers mashed up and used with dishes such as dhall.
Boulangers are a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, copper, thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and niacin.
Breadfruit, Breadnut, and Jackfruit
Breadfruit, breadnut and jackfruit trees are close relatives, and resemble each other superficially. They all belong to the botanical genus known as Artocarpus. Their most significant differences lay in their fruits.
The fruits of most breadfruit varieties generally lack seeds, but have a cream-
Breadnut, katahar, chataigne (from the French “chataignier”)
The fruits of the breadnut are similar in size to the breadfruit. The shape is more oblong and the outer skin is rather spiny. The inside has little flesh, but contains numerous seeds. The seeds are eaten when boiled, steamed or roasted.
There are two main ways in which breadnuts are eaten. Small, immature breadnut fruits
are sliced and cooked as a vegetable in soups or stews. A favorite stew especially among Indo-
The other way of preparing breadnut seeds is by boiling or roasting the ripe seeds and eating them as a snack or as part of a salad or other dish.
Cooking breadnuts requires time and patience. A pressure cooker is definitely recommended.
Jackfruit, Jack Fruit
Scientific name: Artocarpus heterophyllus
The jackfruit tree grows to an enormous size, and is handsome and stately. The fruit itself is the largest tree-
The color of the fruit changes from light green to yellow-
The pulp around the large seeds is the edible portion. Jackfruit pulp may be eaten fresh, mixed in fruit salads, cooked with rice or sugar and coconut milk, dried, or made into preserve. Jackfruit curry, jackfruit pickle and jackfruit with roti are common. The seeds can also be boiled or roasted and eaten, or added to soup. Immature fruit is boiled or fried. Pieces of it may be cooked in salted water until tender and then served.
Jackfruit contains vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, iron, sodium, zinc and niacin among many other nutrients. It is low in calories.
Broccoli is a plant with dense dark-
Broccoli is boiled, steamed, sautéed and stir fried. The heads are used mostly, but broccoli stems and leaves may also be cooked and eaten. To reduce its intestinal gas production, some people cook broccoli with ginger or garlic.
Broccoli is a powerhouse of nutrients. It is a good source of protein, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese.
Scientific name: Solanum stramoniifolium
This is the well-
This is the plant from which chocolate, cacoa powder and cacoa butter are made. Seeds are collected from the cacoa pods and allowed to go through a fermentation process. The beans are then dried.
In the Caribbean, sticks of chocolate, roughly 6 inches long, are rolled by hand from ground or pounded cocoa beans and sold for making “chocolate tea,” as the resulting morning’s hot beverage is called. The sticks are dissolved in hot water and milk and sugar are added. Another method of preparing “chocolate tea” is by using chocolate lumps, prepared beforehand by mixing a heavy batter of flour, sugar, eggs and milk with very hot cocoa and allowing everything to harden. Chocolate lumps may be stored for later use. Chocolate tea is also called cocoa tea.
Calabaza, West Indian pumpkin, Caribbean pumpkin, Jamaican pumpkin, crapaudback
This is really a type of squash. It is generally heavy and comes in various sizes, from small to huge, and may be round, or of some other shape. The color of calabaza may range from green to tan to red, and the skin of a single calabaza may exhibit several colors. The flesh is most often orange in color, but could be yellow.
The taste and texture of calabaza resembles butternut squash. It is fairly sweet and offers many options. It is nutritious as well, being a good source of the vitamins A and C. One cup contains about 70 calories.
Calabaza may be boiled, baked or steamed, made into a paste, added to soups, served by itself, and generally put to many great uses in the kitchen.
It is tough-
Callaloo, Calaloo, Calalu, kallaloo, bhaji, dasheen bush, Indian Kale
Scienfic name: (for taro/dasheen leaves) Xanthosoma
The term callaloo is used in two ways: (1) as the name of one of many types of leaf vegetable, and (2) as one of several dishes.
The variations are determined by the location in the Caribbean. The leaf vegetable may be the edible young green leaves of the taro (dasheen) plant, vegetable amaranth or other leafy vegetables.
Callaloo dishes may also include okra (ochro),coconut milk, ground provisions, crab, conch, lobster, various kinds of meat, chili peppers, onions, garlic and other seasonings. The dish may also be used as a stew to be eaten with rice.
Carambola, Five Finger, Star Fruit
Scientific name: Averrhoa carambola
Carambola fruits, with ridges running down its sides (between 3and 6, but usually five) reveals a cross-
Carambolas are crisp, juicy and aromatic, but usually acid in taste. However, one form is called “sweet carambola” because the acid taste is absent.
Carambolas can be eaten at different stages both ripe and unripe. Ripe carambolas can be eaten out-
Carambola is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and low in sugar, sodium and acid.
Carila, carilla, karila, karela, bitter melon, bitter gourd, cerasee
Scientific name: Momordica charantia
The warty, oblong fruit of the carila vine is bitter. It is green when young and immature, and yellow when ripe. The fruit is hollow and much like a cucumber in shape. It is eaten green, or as it is beginning to turn yellow.
Carila is used generally after boiling in salt water to remove some of the bitterness. It is cooked and eaten a numerous ways. Often, it is cooked with meat, or is stuffed with meat, especially ground meat. Curried carila is a favorite. It is also deep fried, or used in soups.
Carila contains iron, beta carotene, potassium, vitamins A, C, B1, B3, and is a good source of fibre.
Scientific name: Daucus carota subsp. sativus
The plant is grown for its long, slender, fleshy tap root. This root vegetable is yellow in color, though there are red, white and yellow varieties.
Carrots are crisp when fresh. They may be used raw in salads, or cooked alone or with other vegetables or meats. They can be boiled, fried or steamed, and used in soups and stews. Grated carrots are used in carrot cakes and carrot puddings.
Carrots contain the deep yellow carotenoids that produce vitamin A. Cooking helps release the carotenoids so that they could be metabolized in the body. Carrots are also rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, and minerals.
Cassava, yucca, manioc, casaba, cassada
Scientific name: Manihot esculenta
Cassava is cultivated for its long and tapered starchy root. It is classified as sweet or bitter depending on the level of toxic cyanogenic glucosides. Many farmers however prefer to grow the bitter varieties because they have special uses and deter animals, pests and thieves.
Cassava must be cooked properly to detoxify it before it is eaten. Boiled, it can replace potatoes. It is often a component of the Guyana metagee. It is boiled, steamed and deep fried much like potatoes. Other popular products to come out of the kitchen are cassava pone, cassava chips and cassava bread
Cassareep is boiled juice from cassava of the bitter variety. The traditional Amerindian way is to express the juice from grated cassava in a matapee before boiling. A thick syrup, casareep is the basis of Guyana pepperpot, but is also used for flavoring other dishes. Tapioca is made from dried cassava and used as a thickener and for making puddings.
Cassava roots are very rich in starch, and contain calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C. However, they contain little protein or other nutrients.
Caterpillar callaloo, calalu, bhaji
This plant is often found growing wild, but is also cultivated. The dull green leaves and young stems are used as a spinach.
The cauliflower head is a cluster of flower buds that stopped developing. The head is denser and more compact that the head of the broccoli, to which it is related. Most cauliflower heads grown in the Caribbean are white, but they may also be lime green or purple.
The head, with its florets (flower buds) are what people eat most often, but the stem and leaves are also edible. Cauliflower is more creamy and nutty than broccoli. It is served raw, steamed, or boiled. When raw, it may be eaten on its own or with a dip, or as part of a salad. When cooked, it may be eaten alone, as a side dish, or with a sauce. It may also be cooked in soups, stews, stir fries, pasta, and omelets.
Cauliflower is a good source of vitamins C and K, potassium, fiber, phosphorus, B vitamins, complex carbohydrates and the trace mineral boron.
Scientific name: Apium graviolens
The aromatic leaf stalks of celery are eaten raw or cooked Both stalks and seeds are popular in flavoring foods. The brown seeds are used either whole or ground.
Celery is used numerous ways. It is a staple in many soups (such as chicken noodle soup), curries, and Chinese dishes that are popular in the Caribbean.
Celery provides vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, potassium, and vitamins B1, B2 and B6. It also contains sodium, which does not seem to harm sodium-
Cherry, Barbados Cherry, West Indian Cherry
Ripe cherries are bright red, juicy, and usually quite acid. They are often eaten out-
The fruit is perhaps the richest edible fruit source of Vitamin C. It also contains Vitamin A, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin.
Scientific name: Allium schoenoprasum.
Chives are the smallest species of the onion family. The bulbs are conical in shape and grow in clusters. The leaves are green, hollow, tubular and resemble grass.
They are used as garnish and flavoring in salads and for seasoning fish, eggs, potatoes, soups and stews. The mauve-
Scientific name: Cocos nucifera
The term “coconut” can refer to the entire coconut palm tree, the seed, or the fruit. Here, we deal with the fruit, which is in fact the same as the seed. In passing, it is worthwhile to mention that people in many parts of the world have found ways to use virtually every part of the coconut palm tree for some useful purpose. This is why it has been called "The Tree of Life."
The coconut grows in every part of the Caribbean. Its light weight when mature, its buoyancy and resistance to water damage combine to allow easy and wide dispersal by way of the currents of the sea.
There is nutrition in the meat, juice (coconut water), milk and oil of the coconut. The green or immature nut contains the coconut water, which provides a pleasant and refreshing cool drink. Coconut water becomes gradually denser and sweeter as it turns into meat. The meat, when tender and jellylike, is eaten uncooked, often spooned out of the shell. As it matures, it becomes hard.
After the nut is mature, the coconut meat can be grated and strained to obtain a thick, white, creamy liquid, called coconut milk, which can be used as a substitute for cream in desserts and other foods. Coconut milk is also a primary ingredient in callaloo, the Caribbean dish of spinach, okra, meat and seafood. It also features in soups, stews, sauces and curries
The flesh is also used to make coconut choka -
Coconuts are also used in sweet baked goods such as coconut bread, coconut buns, rock cakes and tarts. A children’s favorite, coconut sugar cake, is made from grated coconut, sugar and spices. Coconut pudding is also made.
Coconut oil, once widely considered unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, now enjoys some respect as a health food – provided it is virgin coconut oil. However, coconut oil generally appears in processed foods in the hydrogenated form, which may not be healthy.
Coconut contains moderate amounts of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, iron and fiber. Coconut water has the lowest amount of fat calories. The calorie content in coconut milk is relatively high.
Scientific name: Cucumis sativus
The cucumber plant is a vine that grows easily and is widely cultivated.
Most of the time cucumbers are eaten fresh in the unripe and green state. They are often used to make salads, but are also stewed and eaten like squash. Cucumbers are also pickled or stuffed.
Cucumbers can also be used to make refreshing drinks – usually with lime juice and sugar. They are also used to make wine.
Fresh cucumbers are a good source of Vitamin C and Vitamin A. They also contain calcium and potassium.
Dasheen, Eddoe, Taro, Cocoyam, Elephant Ear
Scientific name: Colocasia esculenta
Dasheen, a tuberous root, is one of the ground provisions. So is eddoe, a smaller variety not very affected by high water levels in the soil. It is used much like the potato, but has its own texture and flavor. The skin of dasheen is brown. When peeled, it is white.
Dasheen contains calcium oxalate crystals which are extremely irritating to the mucous membrane, therefore it must be well cooked before it is eaten.
Dasheen is often boiled and eaten by itself, served with meat or saltfish, or with a rice dish such as fried rice. It may also be fried and eaten with meat or butter, be part of a soup (eddoe soup is a great favorite), or an item in the Guyanese metagee (metem). The leaves of the plant, called dasheen bush, are used in the making of the popular Caribbean dish called callaloo. Some people stew the leaves and eat the stew (dasheen bush bhaji) with rice.
Dasheen contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Vitamin B-
Eggplant : See Boulanger
Genip, Guinep, Waya
Scientific name: Melicocca bijuga
Genips grow in bunches of green round fruit, each measuring a little over 1 inch in length. Genips are eaten out of hand. The fruits have tight, thin skins which are either torn open at the stem and popped into the mouth or cracked open with the teeth and sucked into the mouth whole. Surrounding the seed inside lies a thin layer of yellow gelatinous pulp that is generally both sweet and sour. The pulp is sucked for its juice until only fiber is left, though in some fruits the pulp just seems to melt away. Genips are a good source of iron. Some people roast genip seeds and eat them..
This is a Caribbean term for a number of vegetable food such as yams, cassava, dasheen, tania, breadfruit, plantains etc.
Jackfruit, Jack fruit
The jackfruit tree produces the largest of all tree-
The seeds can be roasted, and when boiled the flesh of fully grown unripe fruit can be eaten as a vegetable. Though the outer skin of a jackfruit and its interior resembles that of a breadnut fruit, it grows much larger and can weigh somewhere between 10 to 80 pounds.
Scientific name: Luffa acutangula
Ghingi fruit (vegetable) resembles a cucumber with ridges. It is a dark green vegetable on the outside with white pulp and white seeds in spongy flesh. It is edible, but must be consumed before it matures and becomes too woody and fibrous to eat. Mature ghingi fruits are processed to remove everything but the fibers to make bath, kitchen or general cleaning sponges.
Ghingi is stewed and used in dal or to make a curry. It is also put into soups, or boiled and eaten with hot sauce, or fried with meat.
Ghinji contains calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin A, B vitamins, and vitamin C.
Green seasoning is unique to the Caribbean. It is a blend of herbs used in the kitchen and varies from territory to territory with personal touches evident from kitchen to kitchen. Green seasoning may include chives, shado beni or cilantro, thyme, oregano, parsley, garlic, vinegar processed in a food processor or blender, or manually, and either used immediately or tightly sealed in a glass jar. If no vinegar is used, it is generally kept as a thick paste. It keeps in the refrigerator for about one week.
Scientific name: Psidium guajava
The fruit is a berry which may be round or oval in shape. It may be 1 to 4 inches in diameter, green when immature, and white, yellow or pinkish in color when ripe. The ripe fruit may range in flavor from sweet to sour.
Guavas are generally eaten as a fresh desert fruit, but they are also used to make drinks, jam, jelly, paste, nectar, puree, beverage base, syrup or wine.
Guavas are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium, copper and manganese.
The purple to black shiny Jamoon fruit grow in bunches on tall and large trees and look like grapes when ripe. The juice is sweet with some tartness in it.
Children love to eat jamoons with salt. The pulp is used to make preserves, sauces, jams and tarts. They can also be made into sherbets, sorbets, syrups or pulpy drinks. They are also used to make wine (especially for Christmas) and even vinegar.
Jamoons are a very good source of Vitamin C and the skin has antioxidant properties.
The juice produces a stain that is notoriously hard to remove from fabric.
A term used to refer to a food to which one is allergic, or which one avoids because one finds it very disagreeable. The term is not standard English, and might be heard in a statement such as: “Pumpkin is me kinna.”
Scientific name: Lactuca sativa
Lettuce is mainly a salad vegetable, usually served raw with tomatoes and cucumbers. It is also included in sandwiches. There are numerous varieties. As a rule, the darker green the leaves the more the nutrients. All lettuce is low in calories. Most of it is rich in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C.
Lime, West Indian Lime, Mexican Lime, Key Lime
Limes are small citrus fruits, oval in shape with a thin rind. They are juicy and acidic, yellow when ripe but usually picked green for commercial purposes.
Limes are extensively used in flavoring soft drinks at home and for the manufacture of limeades and other beverages. They are also used to flavor confectionery, ice cream, sherbets, and other food products. They are often made into jams, jellies and marmalade and the chopped peel is made into a sweetmeat with milk and coconut.
Limes may also be pickled in salt and vinegar, used in flavoring fish and meats, in making other marinades, and also for garnishing plates.
They contain calcium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and famously for ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).
They are also used in the cosmetic industry to produce lotions and skin-
Mamey, Mamey apple
Scientific name: Mamea Americana
Mamey fruit is ovoid, 3 to 8 inches in diameter, with a rough brown skin. It encloses 1 to 4 large seeds embedded in flesh that is reddish when mature. The flesh is sweet with a flavor resembling apricot.
You can eat mamey by itself, or in fruit salads, desserts, milk shakes and other fruit drinks. Some Jamaicans steep the flesh in wine and sugar before eating it. The flesh may also be stewed with sugar, sliced and cooked in pies, tarts and muffins or made into preserves.
It's high in vitamins A and C and potassium, and is an excellent source of dietary fiber.
In many locations, mamey has been suspected of being toxic. However, most people just go on eating it and regard the claim about toxicity to be just superstition. The likely explanation of its suspected toxicity may be that some people are allergic to it.
Scientific name: Mangifera indica
The mango is a much-
Mangoes are often eaten out of hand as fresh fruit (firm to juicy).They may also be sliced and eaten off a plate.
You can roll some types of mango between your palms, applying pressure at the same time, so that the flesh gets pulped. You can then bite or cut a hole in the skin and neatly suck the contents out. Mangoes which lend themselves to this treatment are sometimes called “sucking mangoes.” This is a mostly Caribbean method of enjoying mangoes.
Mangoes are also cooked, frozen and dried. They can be used green, half-
Mangoes may be used to flavor ice cream or, as a puree to serve over ice cream.
They are used in pies, tarts, shortcakes, nutbread and other baked goods. They are also used to make chutneys, jams, jellies, preserves, sauces, pickles and spreads. They are also cooked in curries. Whole mangoes may also be canned.
Mangoes come in various shapes, colors, flavors and consistency of flesh. They may be oval or round or kidney shaped. They are green when immature, but, depending on the species, when they are ripe the outer skin may be yellow, orange, red, purplish or combinations of these colors.
Most ripe mangoes are sweet. The basic sweet mango taste may hint at other fruits such as peach, coconut, pineapple, berry, even lime. The consistency of flesh may range between smooth-
Every Caribbean territory has its own favorites. Jamaica has its Julie, Bombay and Haden. Guyana has its Buxton Spice, Long Mango and Turpentine. The varieties are numerous.
Mangoes are a good source of Vitamins A, C and B6 and also of fiber. They are also low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol.
Mung Bean, Black Gram, Green Gram
Scientific name: Phaseolus aureus
Mung beans are grown for use as a dried bean, for making bean sprouts and for other food preparations such as dhal. The beans with yellow seeds are called mung beans, and another with green seeds called green grams.
Low in fat content, mung beans contain Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium. They are much valued by vegans.
The types of muskmelon vary from cantaloupes to casaba melons and include those with netted skin, listed as cantaloupes, and those with smooth skins, like honeydew melons.
The skins of true cantaloupes (Cucumis melo 'cantaloupensis') are rough and warty, while muskmelon (Cucumis melo 'reticulatus') have a netting on the fruit rind. However, the fruits may not be accurately labeled in the market.
Muskmelons have a significantly high nutritional value, resulting in a number of health benefits. They boast significant amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, B Vitamins, Magnesium, Potassium, Fiber and are low in calories
They are eaten raw as a snack, as a fruit side dish, or with other fruits in a salad. They are also used in beverages, and are pureed for use in ice cream and sorbets. Muskmelons are great in hot weather.
Mustard, Mustard callaloo, Chinese mustard, Mustard cabbage
Scientific name: Brassica juncea
Sometimes called mustard greens, this is a leafy vegetable, much like lettuce, and is used for cooking and for spice. The leaves are irregular in shape, rough, and covered with short stiff hairs.
Mustard is related to greens such as kale and cabbage, and is treated as such in the kitchen. However, mustard is distinctly peppery. It tastes much like spinach when cooked, but with more body.
Among its many nutrients, mustard contains vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of beta-
Scientific name: Luffa cylindrica
This is the same as Ghingi, without the ridges.
Ochro, Okro, Okra
Scientific Name: Hibiscus esculentus
The fruits of the ochro plant are long ridged capsules, ending in a sharp point. Ochroes are light green in color and covered with hairs. They are relatively easy to grow.
Ochroes are generally used when young and tender. They may be boiled alone or in soups, stewed, or fried in thin slices. Stews may be made with vegetables and meat. Soups are sometimes eaten with fish. When cooked, ochro gives off a thickening goo or slime, which some people like. However, the slime may be reduced by cooking ochroes with tomatoes, citrus or vinegar.
Ochroes contain vitamins B6 and C, fiber, calcium, and folic acid. It is low in calories.
Pak Choi, Chinese Cabbage, Bok Choi
Scientific name: Brassica chinensis
Pak choi is a Chinese cabbage, popular in Asian dishes all over the world, and is also a favorite in the Caribbean.
Pak Choi can be eaten raw either by itself or in a salad, but is more usually cooked without water, over a low heat, with previously cooked meat. According to the experts, the smaller cabbages are sweeter than the larger ones.
Pak choi contains a high amount of Vitamin A and also Vitamin C.
Scientific name: Carica papaya
Pawpaws in the market are round or pear-
As the fruit matures, the color changes from green to orange. The ripe fruit has orange to red colored flesh. The center is hollow, with small round rough black seeds in their individual sacks attached to the inner surface
The pawpaw is usually eaten raw, after it is cut open and the seeds are scooped out. In addition to its use as a desert fruit, immature papaya may be grated and used as a fresh vegetable in salads. Pawpaw nectar, made with the addition of honey and other ingredients, is a great favorite.
Green (immature) pawpaws are also cooked and add a sweet flavor to chicken or fish dishes. A few pieces of the fruit added to a stew tenderize the meat. This happens because the enzyme papain in the pawpaw break down the fibers in meats. In fact, papain is so powerful that when pawpaw leaves are wrapped around meats the meats are tenderized even before cooking.
The pectin in pawpaws serves as a natural thickener. The unripe flesh is also chunked for use in curries and stews. Pawpaw chutney is a jam. Pawpaw pickle is also made.
People who consume a lot of pawpaw may find that their soles and palms become yellow – a harmless condition called carotenemia.
Among the valued nutrients contained in pawpaws are Vitamin C, folate, potassium, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A,
Scientific name: Capiscum frutescens
Peppers grown in Caribbean gardens may be divided into two types: the large, fleshy, mild-
Sweet Pepper, Bell Pepper
Scientific name: Capiscum frutescens Var.grossum
These are the large, sweet, bell-
Sweet peppers, come in a wide variety of colors and have a mild, sweet flavor and a crisp, fresh texture.
Sweet peppers are low in calories and contain Vitamin A, carotenoids, Vitamin C and Vitamin K.
Chili, Hot Pepper
Hot peppers vary in size, shape, color and pungency. Among the hottest of the hot peppers used in the Caribbean is the scotch bonnet (Capsicum chinense) . Bird pepper is also very hot. The jalapeño pepper is fairly hot. Some people contend that Guyana grows the hottest peppers in the Caribbean area. Each has its own distinctive flavor.
Among the smaller hot peppers are the Marawiri (or Maiwiri), ¼ to 1/3 inch in diameter and the Wiriwiri, 1/3 to 5/8 inch in diameter, and less hot than the Marawiri.
Bird Pepper is cylindrical and ¾ to 1 inch in length and quite hot. Other larger types up to 4 inches in length and 1 ¼ to 2 inches in width vary in degree of pungency, but are all very hot. The color at maturity could be red, yellow, pale green, or orange.
Hot peppers are widely used in Caribbean cooking as an ingredient and as a condiment at table.
Some common examples of hot pepper use are with sardines, in jerk dishes, in scrambled eggs, with cook-
Hot peppers contain high amounts of vitamin C, carotene, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and iron.
Pigeon Pea, Dhal, Toor Dal, Arhar Dal, Congo Pea, Gungo Pea , Dholl, Dahl
Scientific name: Cajanus cajan
Pigeon peas are used as dried peas, green vegetable peas or flour. They are a favorite stewed, curried, in Guyana’s cook-
Pigeon peas are nutritious and an important source of protein, particularly in a mostly vegetarian diet. Apart from their high levels of protein, pigeon peas contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorus, and Magnesium.
Scientific name: Musa balbisiana (formerly musa paradisiaca)
Plantains and bananas resemble each other, but plantains tend to be larger. There is no formal botanical distinction between them. In North America the fruit was first introduced as banana plantain,
Plantains are generally firmer, starchier and lower in sugar content than bananas. While bananas are most often eaten raw, plantains need to be cooked or otherwise processed, and are used either when green and unripe, ripe or overripe.
Green unripe plantains are cooked by boiling, frying, steaming, or baking. Because by themselves they are bland in taste, green plantains are usually eaten with fish (especially saltfish), meat, various stews such as curries or added to soups. They are boiled, baked or mashed in much the same way as potatoes, or pounded into foo-
Plantains are also dried and ground into flour. Plantain chips, sweet or salty, are popular as snacks and appetizers. After removing the skin, the unripe fruit can be sliced and deep-
As the plantain ripens, it becomes sweeter and its color changes from green to yellow to black, just like its cousin the banana. Steam-
Plantain leaves are similar to banana leaves, but are larger and stronger. Traditionally, plantain leaves have been used like plates. They also have religious significance in many Hindu rituals.
Poi, Calalu, Callaloo, Bhaji, Poi Baagi, Thick Leaf Callaloo
Poi is low in calories but high in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium and fiber. It is used as a stew and sometimes to thicken soups.
Poi, Calalu, Callaloo, Bhaji, Poi Baagi, Thick Leaf Callaloo
Practically the same as Poi (Basella Alba), but the stems are purplish.
The people of the Caribbean exploit the versatility of pumpkins. These hardy plants grow practically anywhere and are easy to find growing wild.
As most parts of the pumpkin are edible, people use the shell, seeds, leaves, and even the flowers. Mature pumpkins are boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted. Small green pumpkins are sometimes eaten like squash. Pumpkin soup and pumpkin curry are established favorites.
Pumpkins are loaded with good nutrients including the antioxidant beta-
A few people are allergic to pumpkin and avoid it. Because the allergy results in unsightly skin, people once wrongly feared it might cause leprosy. In Guyana, people who are allergic to pumpkin may tell you that pumpkin is their “kinna.”
Scientific name: Raphanus sativus
The radish is a fleshy, edible tap root with a crown of variously shaped small leaves. The root, which is crisp, pungent and peppery is used as a salad or in flavoring foods.
Rice, a cereal grain, is the most important staple food in the Caribbean. Brown rice (rice with only the husk removed) is the most nutritious form of milled rice. However, most of the rice sold is white rice. To produce white rice, milling is done beyond just removal of the husk. The bran (a thin brown outer layer under the husk) and the germ (the reproductive part of the rice) are removed. White rice has a longer shelf life, but is significantly less nutritious than brown rice.
Parboiled rice is brown rice that is steamed. Steaming causes nutrients from the outer husk, especially thiamine, to be absorbed into the grain itself.
The protein in rice, while good, is not complete, as it does not contain all of the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities. For this reason, rice is generally eaten with other protein foods, especially beans.
The popular “rice and peas” of the Caribbean uses many types of beans such as yellow split peas and black-
Rice porridge is also a favorite.
Saeme, Seim, Sem, Lablab, Greenbean, Butterbean
People love the young immature pods of saeme and cook and eat them as they would tender green beans. They have a strong, beany flavor which some people like to tone down and would therefore mix saeme with other beans or green vegetables. Saeme is boiled, stewed, and used in stir fries. Saeme curry is famous.
When they become more mature, these beans acquire fibrous strings on the sides. Some people remove these strings as the beans are being prepared. Others leave the strings in place as they provide fiber to the diet.
Extra: The vine of the saeme bean bears beautiful, fragrant flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds and is a good idea for a quick yard fence. It grows fast too.
Soursop, Sour Sop, Graviola, Guanabana
Scientific name:Annona muricata
The soursop fruit is a special favorite in the Caribbean. This heart-
Fruits are picked when their dark green color changes to yellow green. Usually the fruits are taken from the tree when they mature and left to ripen in a dark corner. They are generally ready for use in 1 to 3 days, but must be handled with care to avoid bruising.
The flesh of the mature fruit is juicy and is sweet to slightly acidic with what tastes like a blend of fruit flavors. It is often eaten raw when it ripens, typically cut into chunks. It may also be added to salads or fruit cups, or pureed with sugar, milk or cream. The numerous experiments done with soursop include its use in ice cream and blended juices and the addition of cinnamon, lemon peel, nutmeg, sugar, wine, rum, brandy, milk, added gelatin, and the like are freely explored.
The fragrant soursop flavor blends well with other fruits such as bananas and pineapple.
The fruit also contains significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
However be careful to exclude the seeds. Crushed seeds are toxic
Shallot, Eschallot, Seasoning
This is a kind of onion composed of clusters of small bulbs. The leaves are hollow, relatively short, and pointed at the ends. Although shallots taste like onions they have a sweeter, milder, more complex flavor.
The people of the Caribbean cultivate shallots extensively for use in many aspects of everyday cooking and for use in pickles. Shallots enhance the flavor of dishes such as fried rice. In fact, it is so widely used many call it by the name “seasoning.” A pickle of raw shallots together with cucumbers in mild vinegar solution is common.
Scientific name: Lagenaria vulgaris
A member of the gourd family, this plant is relatively easy to grow and may even be found growing wild.
It is steamed, baked, and stewed. By itself, it does not have a strong flavor but is insipid, and so young squash is generally cut up and cooked with other foods, especially meat.
With the addition of sugar and pectin, it has been made into jams and jellies and flavored to resemble pineapple or other fruit.
Squash is mostly water and is therefore a low-
Scientific name: Chrysophyllum cainito
This is a round, oblong or pear shaped fruit that may be up to 4 inches in diameter with light green or dark purple, smooth and leathery skin. The common name of the fruit is derived from the starlike appearance of the core when the fruit across the middle. The tough skin surrounds a light purplish to white sweet edible pulp containing small hard, brown, glossy seeds.
Star apples can be eaten right off the tree. The pulp is relished as a fresh dessert fruit, but the skin, which contains an unpleasant-
An old way to use star apples is to make a drink used as dessert, called matrimony. It is a blend of star apples, oranges or grapefruit, heavy cream or condensed milk, and sugar if necessary.
Scientific name: Ipomoea batatas
The sweet potato is an important, well-
It is not closely related to the common potato, nor is it to be confused with yams, as is the case in the United States.
Sweet potatoes can be boiled, broiled, roasted, baked, fried and grilled. They are excellent for salads, soups, casseroles, side dishes, entrees, even breads and baked goods.
They are enjoyed when served plain, but are part of numerous complex dishes. They are also suitable for canning; and sweet potato dishes generally stand up well to refrigeration and freezing.
The sweet potato is a powerhouse of nutrition, being a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, copper, manganese, vitamin E, vitamin B6 and fiber.
Scientific name: Tamarindus indica
The fruit, which often gets pronounced “tambran,” is a straight or curved brown pod from 2 to 6 inches in length and up to 1 inch in width. At maturity the thick, dark-
Tamarind balls, made of tamarind pulp, perhaps flour, sugar, salt, and perhaps pepper, are a great favorite, especially among children.
Scientific name: Xanthosoma sagittifolium
Tannia tubers are cooked and eaten as you would eat yams or potatoes. The cream, yellow or pink flesh is crisp in texture and somewhat nutty in taste. The skin of the uncooked tannia is brown and hairy. Tubers weigh between 1/2 and 2 pounds, but may be heavier.
They are often cooked in soups and stews. They may also be eaten grilled, fried, or puréed. The young leaves may be boiled or used in soups and stews.
Everyone knows the ubiquitous tomato. The typically red fruit (also called a vegetable for culinary purposes) comes in varying sizes, colors and shapes.
Tomatoes are eaten raw or cooked and are also preserved. They are an ingredient in many dishes, sauces, and drinks. They are used to make tomato soups and stews, to top off hamburgers and all kinds of sandwiches, in salads and scrambled eggs etc.
They are rich in vitamins A, B, C, E and K and in Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium and Calcium. The fruit is also rich in lycopene.
Growing tomatoes is not difficult, however they have many enemies. There are well over 7000 tomato varieties..
Scientific name: Nasturtium officinale
Watercress a member of the mustard family plant with small, crisp, dark green leaves giving it its distinctive look. It is valued for the special peppery flavour it adds to foods..
Watercress is used in salads, sandwiches, soups, garnishes and a variety of dishes.
It contains significant amounts of vitamins K, A, and C, and also calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin and folate.
Scientific name: Citrullus lanatus
A favorite on hot days, the watermelon is sweet and juicy and reddish to pink on the inside. The fruit is mostly eaten raw, but is also used in salads, mostly fruit salads, or as a dessert. It contains about 6% sugar and 92% water by weight.
Watermelons vary in shape. They may be round or oblong with white, black or brown seeds. The color of the skin varies from light to dark green and may be striped, marbled or solid.
Apart from carbohydrates, they contain calcium, phosphorous, vitamin C, beta carotene, and lycopene. They are also mildly diuretic.
Scientific name: Discorea spp.
The yam is not related to the sweet potato and is never sweet. The texture is floury and somewhat dry. The flavor is bland to nutty.
Yams provide a good source of calories. The flesh may be white, ivory or, in some varieties, purple. Under the skin, they look somewhat like the white potato and can be used like potatoes, though the consistency is different. They may be baked or boiled, or put to use in many other imaginative ways.
Yams may reach a weight of 10 to 20 pounds. They may keep well if stored in a dry, dark, cool and well ventilated place. If harvested at full maturity they may last for several months.
In Guyana, popular varieties of yams include Hard Yam, Buck Yam and Bell Yam. A good list of yams in the Caribbean may be found by clicking here.
In the United States the sweet potato is often called yam.