Nearly every week in the Nation Newspaper the 100th birthday of another Barbadian centenarian is reported, and they almost always account their longevity to their belief in God and a diet rich in ground provisions. These were and still are staples of Barbados’ diet. Yam, sweet potato, eddoe, carrots, beetroot and cassava all grow well in our relatively shallow topsoil and work well in rotation with sugar cane. They are rich in minerals, vitamins and very low on the glycemic index. As to why they are believed to engender longevity? Perhaps because they are free of any processing – just good nutritious food from the earth.
Other roots that grow beautifully are ginger and turmeric. Fresh turmeric roots are widely available and delicious.
Pumpkins, butternut squash, christophene, cucumbers and melons of all kinds thrive here and are available year-round at reasonable prices. Finger squash are a small pale green vegetable that is steamed or boiled whole requiring no peeling. They are especially delicious.
Several small farmers specialise in keeping the island well supplied with a wide range of green leafy lettuce, bok choy and kale.
Enterprising farmers who grow fresh herbs make up “seasoning bundles” in bags that are sold in supermarkets: thyme, marjoram, basil, parsley, green onions, hot pepper and celery are the usual ingredients. But the other herbs also sometimes included or otherwise available are cilantro/coriander, mint, dill, rosemary and a few exotic varieties such as chardon beni.
Trees of Life
There are thousands of huge trees all over Barbados that bear a versatile starch that feeds a crowd - breadfruit. Peeled, cored, sliced and boiled - it can be made into salad, smothered in creole butter sauce, mashed into a coucou or slivered and fried as chips. It is also yummy roasted in an open fire, cracked open and lathered in butter.
Another tree with a bountiful yield in Barbados is avocado. The varieties grown here are two or three times the size of the Mexican and Israeli avocados. Avocado season runs from July to November.
Peas and Beans
Fresh pigeon peas, harvested from December until February, are the peas that make up the famous Bajan rice’n’peas. They also make up the festive Bajan Christmas dish called Jug Jug, combined with guinea corn flour. Green beans, called string beans here, grow best in the dry season and are very popular.
Tomatoes, like carrots, are particularly delicious in Barbados. Many are grown in hydroponics but they do also grow successfully in the earth. They are also most plentiful in the dry season.
Corn, Okras and Aubergine
Corn and okras are the two key ingredients in our national dish cou cou, with the corn being dried and milled into a meal. Aubergine, locally referred to as eggplant is very reasonably priced.
The traditional hot pepper variety grown in Barbados is the Scotch Bonnet. The little round Wiri Wiri has been introduced by the Guyanese farmers. A relatively recent arrival are the flavour or seasoning peppers. They have the appearance of a small chili pepper and a delicious flavour but with little or no hotness.
Bananas and Plantains
Bananas are grown widely by large and small farmers. Their lesser-known short and stubby family members are fig bananas which have a slightly tangy flavour. The big boys, plantains, must be peeled and cooked; usually either fried or baked.
There is a huge variety of fresh fruit but they are slightly short in supply commercially. Sour sop, sugar apple, paw paw, guava, passion fruit, cashew, fat pork, sorrel, Bajan cherry, mango, sea grape, sapodilla, mamee apple, ackee, chili plum, lime, shaddock, grapefruit, lemon, orange, golden apples, gooseberry, dunk and carambola all grow here. You can look out for them at roadside vendors and farmers markets. We need to plant more of these delicious fruit trees.