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GRENADA NUTMEG, RUM AND TRADITIONAL GRENADIAN DISHES

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Good restaurants, serving traditional foods, are easy to find in Grenada, the Caribbean's Isle of Spice. It's not surprising when you consider the tasty local ingredients.

Sorting nutmeg at cooperative in Gouyave
Sorting nutmeg at cooperative in Gouyave
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

You'll find nutmegs, as well as bananas, cloves, cocoa and bay leaves at Dougaldston Spice Estate. Outdoors, a woman shuffles her bare feet through drying cocoa beans, exposing them to the sun. Coming inside, she snaps bay leaves in half so visitors can sniff their fragrance. When she opens a jar filled with nutmegs, cloves and cinnamon bark, steeped in rum, the essence conjures visions of Christmas cakes.

In Gouyave's Nutmeg Cooperative, drying nutmegs cover multi-level racks. Grenada produced about 30 per cent of the world's nutmeg, making it the second largest nutmeg producer in the world before Hurricane Ivan. Newly planted trees have replaced those damaged by Ivan.

Nutmeg syrup, nutmeg jelly and nutmeg ice cream

Nothing is wasted. The pulpy pods are cooked to make delicious syrup for pancakes and golden nutmeg jelly served with scones at afternoon teas in Grenada hotels.

Red mace covers nutmeg in seed pod.
Red mace covers nutmeg in seed pod.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Grated nutmeg flavours banana breads, sweet potato pies, Planter's Punch and nutmeg ice cream. Oil from the nut makes a soothing liniment for arthritis and adds heat to Vicks Vapo Rub®. Even the shells are useful, as mulch in flowerbeds, and spread along pathways instead of crushed stone.

Top-grade mace (the lacy red spice that envelopes nutmeg) flavors cakes, cookies and stews. Mid-grade mace preserves corned beef and salami, while the lowest grade scents perfumes, powders and shaving creams.

The best place to buy spices is in the capital, at St. George's busy Saturday morning market. Vendors sell spices in baskets and calabashes, or strung into necklaces to perfume closets. Besides spices, piles of bananas, guavas, oranges and lemons alternate with stacks of coconuts and baskets of crabs. The latter add flavor to callaloo, a soup made from spinach-like dasheen leaves.

Tannia porridge, black pudding, salt fish and bakes

Caribbean foods are not all familiar to North American eyes. Those hairy brown potatoes are tannias, a root vegetable, or ground provision, as they call them here. Vendors freely offer recipes for cinnamon-accented tannia porridge, a popular breakfast dish. Don't be fooled by the yellow powder labeled saffron. It's actually turmeric, which local cooks use to flavor and color rice and curries.

St. George's market
St. George's market
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Mouth-watering aromas arise from a coal pot where a lady fries black pudding. Nearby, a woman makes salt fish and bakes. She fries the light-as-a-feather round breads in a wok until they're puffy and golden, and then tops them with pieces of fried cod.

Another lady sells spice cocoa balls, to grate over tea, coffee or desserts. Don't confuse them with tamarind balls, sweet and sour candies, made from the long brown pods hanging from tamarind trees. Be careful when you bite into them. They contain hard seeds.

Grenada restaurants for every taste and budget

For indigenous cuisine, try Mama's, which serves a couple dozen dishes, all at one sitting. The day's offerings depend on what looks good in the market. A typical meal could include baked breadfruit, curried chicken, fried plantains and a few wild delicacies which may be a little too authentic for some: opossum, iguana and armadillo.

Oildown is the very tasty national dish, made from pork, green bananas and breadfruit, cooked in coconut milk, and topped with callaloo. You can usually find it at Nutmeg, Rudolf's and Deyna's Tasty in St. George's.

Lilis Straken makes saltfish (cod) and bakes at Saturday morning market in St. George's.
Lilis Straken makes saltfish (cod) and bakes at Saturday morning market in St. George's.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

At Morne Fendue Plantation in Sauteurs, you can also find local foods like callaloo, christophene (a squash-like vegetable), yam pie, sweet potato casserole, chicken stew, curried eggplant and pepperpot. Made with salt pork, seasoned oxtails, vegetables and herbs, pepperpot's secret ingredient is cassareep, a natural preservative, made from cassava.

A glance at the fresh tuna, grouper and snapper in St. George's fish market leaves no doubt that seafood is good in Grenada. Try the tuna steak with mango chutney and the crab puffs with sugar cane brandy at Brown Sugar, the lobster thermidor at the Aquarium at Point Salinas, the flambéed shrimp in rum sauce at Pirates Cove and the lambie (conch) curry at Coconut Beach.

Grenadians make lambie into delicious fritters, stews and roti. The latter, made from curried conch stuffed into pitas, are popular snacks. For dessert, sample the decadent mango, soursop, guava and other tropical fruit-flavored Sugar & Spice ice creams.

Sugar cane rum, green banana wine and red sorrel liqueur

The first beverage that comes to mind, when you mention the Caribbean, is rum. Grenada is no exception. You can visit River Antoine Rum Distillery, where employees make rum as they did in the 1800s. A 214-year-old water wheel, powered by the Antoine River, turns the sugar cane crushers.

On guided tours, visitors watch the entire process from the boiling and fermenting of the cane juice to the distillation and hand-bottling of the rum. Afterward, they sample the same 160-proof libation that once burned the throats of the buccaneers.

Children in front of River Antoine Estate Rum sign and sugar cane field
Children in front of River Antoine Estate Rum sign and sugar cane field
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Pappy's Products, an unpretentious shop, near Concord Falls, offers a unique collection of local beverages, all made by Pappy himself. The friendly entrepreneur pours out liberal samples so visitors can try his green banana wine, ruby red sorrel liqueur and ponche de crème (like Bailey's with lots of nutmeg). His best-seller is a wine called bois bande. Made from tree bark, it's reputed to be an aphrodisiac. Locals mix the bois bande with sea moss, another aphrodisiac drink, and call the mixture "Double Trouble."

Another worthwhile stop is Grand Roy Bakery, which sells bread baked in a wood-fired oven, the old-fashioned way, sandwiched between baleger leaves. Stop by about noon, when workers pull the golden loaves from the oven with wooden paddles.

You don't have to rent a car to discover Grenada's culinary pleasures. Tour operators, at most hotels, offer a variety of excursions, ranging from St. George's market and the rum distillery to spice plantations and nutmeg processing plants.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Grenada Board of Tourism: www.grenadagrenadines.com

More things to see and do in Grenada:

Grenada Shop Sells Aphrodisiacs, Herbal Remedies and Liqueurs