Culture

Our Top 5's

 

1. Our Top 5 Unforgettable Experiences

 

The Dancehall

Early dancehall sessions started in the inner cities of Kingston in the late 1940’s and really gained momentum with the advent of the sound systems in the 1950’s. Sound systems are a collection of DJ’s, sound engineers and MC’s that played music at street parties. Initially, the music featured was primarily American R&B, but the local music scene explosion in the 60’s and 70’s ensured a migration to a more Jamaican flavour. There was an enormous degree of competition amongst the sound systems which resulted in them moving to producing their own exclusive singles - dubplates. Ultimately, the dancehall spawned its own musical genre which was originally a sparser version of reggae. As it developed, dancehall reggae began to feature increasingly complex rhythms and lyrical themes. While there has been significant criticism of dancehall over the years because of the prevalence of violent and homophobic lyrics, there has certainly been a move towards less offensive and more universal themes in recent years. Reigning over everything is the Dancehall Queen - one of the most visible figures in the dancehall, this is usually the most outrageously dressed and most incredible dancer of them all. 

 

Roadside Shops & Bars

Drive virtually anywhere in Jamaica and you will notice a variety of shops and bars on the side of every road. The entrepreneurial spirit of Jamaicans is alive and well as a closer look into any one of these establishments will attest. The shop will carry an assortment of items that everyone needs - this is a convenience store - you may find soaps, cereals, beverages, eggs, bread, vegetables, canned items, and almost certainly prepaid mobile phone credit. The bars (affectionately known as rum shops) serve as local meeting spots just as they might if they were transplanted into any other country in the world. The typical menu is generally basic so if you order a beer you’ll be given a Red Stripe - your other options will include rum and stouts but a glass of wine or fancy cocktail is out of the question. Jamaica may have the highest per-capita concentration of churches in the world - and there’s a bar across the street from every church!

 

Rastafarian Culture

Rastafari culture is a relatively new religious movement that arose from Jamaican Christian culture in the 1930's. One of the more notorious elements of the culture is the spiritual consumption of marijuana but this is by no means the defining element of the culture. The wearing of dreadlocks is closely related to the culture, although it is not mandatory nor are dreadlocks necessarily an indication that a person is Rastafari. Haile Selassie, the former Emperor of Ethiopia, is believed to be the second coming of Jesus, son of Jah (God) and he will lead the righteous into the promised land of Zion. Much of the global awareness of Rastafari can be credited to interest generated by reggae music - primarily through the work of Bob Marley, but there are a number of other artists who have carried the torch of Rastafari with their music. 

 

Jamaican Patois

Jamaican Patois (pronounced pat-wa) is an English-based creole with West African influences spoken primarily in Jamaica and the Jamaican Diaspora. The language developed in the 17th century when slaves from West and Central Africa learned and adapted the English they were exposed to by their masters. Like any language, patois is in a constant state of evolution and in modern times has become heavily influenced by popular culture - particularly the culture of the dancehall. This is a language of the streets but it is not limited to the streets - Jamaicans of all walks of life are equally likely to speak the language fluently. This is an extremely vibrant language, not a gentle tongue but an explosively descriptive and excitable one. It is as much a part of the fabric of Jamaica as the sun, sea and sand. It makes a Jamaican truly Jamaican. 

 

Ready Freddy

Driving through the Jamaican countryside is always a scenic adventure, from the livestock wandering along the roadside to the rolling hills and stunning beach fronts. One other such treat for the eye is the famous Fern Gully. No doubt if you drove through  Fern Gully passing just outside of Ocho Rios, you’ll see a plethora of tropical fern varieties, natural wildlife, local artisans and craft vendors along the side of the road and some very creative carvings of animals and fruits. One such item is an unforgettable carving that stands at a striking 10 feet tall and is a full resemblance of a naked Rastafarian man who is most famously remembered for being very well endowed. His hardened member extends more than two feet, making it difficult for passers-by to miss it. It has turned into quite the tourist attraction and many tour buses often include it in their tours of the area. Rennie Traille who is responsible for this unforgettable carving is quite proud of his masterpiece and says it is an authentic piece of art. No doubt, should you encounter it – you will not soon forget it.

 

2. Our Top 5 Favorite Foods

 

Patties

The Jamaican patty is local pastry that dates back to colonialism and slavery and it has made its way into the tapestry of Jamaican culture. Jamaicans take a lot of pride in making one of their most popular exports, spices baked inside a flaky shell, often tinted golden yellow with an egg yolk mixture or turmeric.

With a broad variety of fillings like seasoned ground beef, chicken, vegetables, shrimp, lobster, fish, soy, ackee, lentils or cheese, the patty makes a perfect snack or meal when you’re on the go. So much so that in Jamaican, the Juici Beef Company – one of the most popular patty companies offer their locations with drive-through pickup windows for patties on the go. In recent years patty companies have expanded their menus to include a bite-sized portion of a patty called a cocktail patty.

Today, patties can be found all over Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean. They became such a reminiscent piece of Jamaica that they have made their way into Europe and North America to satisfy the longing palates of the Jamaican Diaspora.

 

Johnny Cakes (Fried Dumplings)

   

Many believe that the origin of the Johnny Cake evolved from workers on the plantation who used to take journey cakes with them into the fields for a long lasting, hearty snack.  And a Journey cake eventually became a Johnny cake.

Jamaican Fried Dumplings or Johnny cakes have been a staple side dish in many local breakfast dishes, from Ackee and Salt fish, to Mackerel Run Down – breakfast would not be breakfast without a Johnny cake. The tasty morsels have a golden crust and chewy interior and not everyone can make a good fried dumpling though in the wrong hands dumplings can become round little missiles, tough enough to “stone dawg”.

No matter which name you choose to call it by, make sure you do not have a real home cooked Jamaican breakfast without these little pieces of Jamaican goodness. 

 

Bulla

A Bulla is a round, rich, dark, little load of goodness. This Jamaican pastry is made with flour, molasses, ginger, nutmeg and baking soda, and many visitors to Jamaica compare it to their more popular ginger bread. It is very inexpensive to make and therefore has become a favorite snack of the average Jamaican household. Bulla is traditionally a popular treat for schoolchildren, usually eaten with cheese or butter.

This very dense spiced bun that has made its way from a home-made pastry to enjoy with a cup of tea to a Jamaican treat to be found abroad in Jamaican and Caribbean specialty food stores.

 

Pan Chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pan Chicken began its rise to popularity along with the street dance culture that evolved in the 1960’s with the evolution of rock steady, dub, ska and later reggae music. These street dances would include a variety of elements that were a necessity - good friends, good music and good food. Pan chicken is cooked in recycled oil drums turned  into makeshift Barbecues. Jamaican amateur chefs sell this specially seasoned, tender and natural spiced chicken on the road sides during street dances, in front of night clubs and by 24 hour gas stations just to ensure party goers do not go home on an empty belly.

Pan chicken does not only have a strong local following, it’s has quite a popular following globally. So popular in fact, that this Jamaican phenomenon grabbed the attention world-renowned celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, who traveled to Jamaica to sample the islands famous roadside cuisine. One of Jamaica’s largest chicken producers, Caribbean Broilers developed an event dedicated to the enjoyment of this street cuisine that occurs in Jamaica on an annual basis. The Ultimate Pan Chicken Championship is the Mecca of Pan Chicken for amateurs and professional epicurean Pan Chicken connoisseurs. Pan Chicken is to Jamaica what Pizza is to New York! Enjoy some on your next visit!

 

Blue Drawers
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This oddly named dessert is said to have traced its origins back to West Africa, where West Africans would boil a starchy, green banana-based pudding. Blue Drawers is also called Duckanoo, which is derived from the Ashanti word, Dokono which means boiled maize-bread. In other parts of Jamaica it also goes by its more basic name Tie-a-leaf. This adopted Jamaican dish is mostly eaten as a snack or dessert. There are many different recipes for this dish, but most would feel safest reverting back to their grandmother’s recipe, which in most households would have the main ingredients of  cornmeal, dry coconut, and brown sugar. The dry coconut is grated and added to the cornmeal, brown sugar and a mix of vanilla, cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg, salt, butter, and raisins. Some more dry coconut is grated and blended with water to make a coconut milk, which is added to the above mixture.

Banana leaves would be cut into rectangles and passed over a flame to sear them. Some of the mixture would be spooned out onto the seared leaf and wrapped into small parcels about two to three inches square. A piece of the trunk of the banana tree is stripped to make a "string" which is used to tie the banana leaf parcel. The banana leaf parcels are boiled and cooked for about an hour and unwrapped. Blue drawers may be eaten hot or cold and will keep in the refrigerator for a week to ten days.

Many boutique fusion restaurants throughout Europe and North America have adopted this culinary technique in preparing both sweet and savory dishes.

 

3. Our Top 5 Drinks

 

Red  Stripe Beer

The king of all Jamaican beverages, Red Stripe lager beer was created in 1938 by Bill Martindale, of England, who was then working as a brewer for the founders of the Desnoes and Geddes company in Kingston.

Red Stripe can be found in almost every country in the world and is considered one of the world’s best beers. It has been awarded numerous prizes over the years and has stood the test of time, keeping most of the market in Jamaica, despite other beers that have started up and “ fizzled”.

 

Jamaican Rum

Jamaica produces more different rums than most countries in the world and Appleton Estate, started in 1749, is the second oldest rum maker in the world. Appleton has the enviable and celebrated reputation of being the best producer of Jamaican rums and has won many awards for the product.

Jamaican white rum is dry and light bodied, clear coloured and slightly sweet in taste and is perfect for mixed drinks and cocktails. The most popular rum uptown is the golden rum that is drunk straight over ice, with Pepsi, Coke, ginger ale or coconut water. The overproof white rum (“whites”) is extremely popular with the man in the street and in the diaspora. Look at the cases being taken to friends abroad from the airports!

 

Coconut Water

Coconut water is popular throughout the tropics, being freely available from the young coconut. It is particularly healthy, and useful medicinally for those with low nutrition.

Fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie,  and naturally rich in electrolytes -- the touted benefits of America's latest health craze have been known to natives of the tropics for centuries.

 

Ginger Beer

Ginger beer is probably the most perfect small beer, similar in taste to the best champagne, with sparkling effervescence.  The Jamaica ginger gives it both exquisite flavour and pungency.

In many countries, it is home-made, but in Jamaica a fine commercial ginger beer is made by the D&G company.

 

Sorrel

The most traditional Christmas drink in Jamaica is the attractively-coloured sorrel.  The sorrel plant is a member of the Hibiscus family and when mature in November-December the sepals are a deep crimson colour, though it also comes in white.

Home-made in most households, the sepals of the plant are placed in boiling water with grated ginger, cloves, pimento and cinnamon, simmered and left to soak for 24 hours. Sugar may be added to taste and then rum added for those who do not wish the non-alcoholic version. The end result is an appealing red, spicy beverage that is offered to all visitors over the Christmas season.

Recently bottled sorrel drink has been made commercially and has become a most popular seasonal purchase.

 

 

4. Our Top  5  Seasonings

 

Ginger

Jamaican ginger is widely regarded as the best in the world. The plant is thought to have been introduced to Jamaica by the Spanish in the 1500’s. Jamaican Ginger is prized because of its strength and potency which can be attributed to the climatic and soil conditions in the areas of Jamaica where it is cultivated, such as St. Ann and the Christiana regions.

Jamaican ginger is used widely in cooking and seasoning of meats, especially pork, and is also the basis for ginger beer and ginger ale.

 

Pimento

The pimento tree is indigenous to the Caribbean Islands and was found growing in Jamaica around 1509 by early Spanish explorers  who were quite impressed with the taste and aroma of the berries and the leaves. The name Pimento originated from the Spanish word "pimienta" (pepper or peppercorn). To most English speaking people the tree is called "pimento" and the berries "allspice". The name allspice originated from the popular notion that the pimento berry contains the characteristic flavour and aroma of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper, all combined in one spice.

Pimento is the basis of the now famous jerk flavour of Jamaica - the wood, leaves and berries of the pimento tree can all be used in the process, but it is now less popular to use the wood for barbequing the jerked meats, so that the trees can be preserved. The berries are dried and can be found in most Jamaican households, to be added to soups and stews. It is also made into a very fine liqueur called “pimento dram”.

 

Escallion

The name “escallion” is used for several members of the onion family such as immature onions and young leeks.  The true scallion has straight sides at the base, showing just the beginnings of a bulb. The Jamaican scallion is far more potent and flavourful than the scallion or green onion found in temperate climates. It is used in all Jamaican cooking, often as a substitute for onion, as it has much more flavour and a touch of pepperiness. 

Apart from being cooked in stews and soups, it can also be chopped in salads. It grows readily in Jamaican soil, particularly in the parish of St. Elizabeth and can also be planted among other ground vegetables to keep away pests.

 

Scotch Bonnet Pepper

Scotch bonnet, also known as Scotchy,  is one of the hottest peppers in the world, found mainly in the Caribbean islands, and particularly popular in Jamaica, where it has given its name to a chain of restaurants - Scotchy’s. Most Scotch Bonnets have a heat rating of 100,000–350,000 Scoville Units. In comparison, most jalapeño peppers have a heat rating of 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale.

These peppers are used to flavour many different Jamaican dishes, such as ackee and saltfish, and range in colour from green to bright orange according to ripeness. Ripe peppers are prepared for cooking by cutting out the seeds inside the fruit which are the hottest part of the pepper.  Pepper jelly and hot pepper sauce are condiments made almost solely of these extremely hot peppers.

 

Thyme

There are over 100 varieties of Jamaican thyme, but the most commonly used is garden Jamaican thyme that is easily grown and cheap to buy. It is sold in bunches and may be used as whole sprigs or leaves.  Generally the Jamaican cook will add whole sprigs of thyme to the pot, whether it is soup or stew, particularly oxtail stew, and remove the sprigs after cooking.

The tiny leaves may be chopped for addition to seasonings such as jerk.  It is also one of the classic ingredients of a “bouquet garni”.

 

5. Our Top 5 Fruits

 

Mango

The most delectable fruit in Jamaica and also the most commonly enjoyed are mangoes, said to have been first introduced into Jamaica in the 1700's following the capture of a French ship on its way to Haiti, at sea by Lord Rodney. The ship was carrying Mango seeds and plants. Today, mangoes go by a variety of local names. Some of the most popular are the Julie, Bombay, East Indian, Number 11, Hayden and Tommy Atkins. These mangoes range from very fleshy fruit to other varieties that are much more of a chore to eat because of their stringy texture.

Reputed to have aphrodisiac powers, the mango is certainly one of the more sensual Jamaican fruits. In addition it has many medicinal properties, most popularly that of being a digestive aid, a blood and skin purifier, preventative for heat stroke and cure for the common cold.

Guinep

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A Guinep is a small, grape-like fruit that grows in bunches similarly to grapes, with a thick green skin, similar to that of an orange. It has a large seed surrounded by a thin layer of sweet, fleshy pulp

Guineps are sold in all local markets and quite often you see street vendors with bunches of them at traffic lights. Many enjoy the unique texture and flavour of this tropical treat and it makes for a great snack on any drive through the countryside.

 

Naseberry

   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Naseberry, also called a Sapodilla or Chikoo, is said to have originated in Central and South America. It beares resemblance to a Kiwi but inside has been pre cut into pegs and is the size of a small to medium tomato. The flesh varies from yellow to shades of brown and sometimes reddish-brown, and may be smooth or of a granular texture.

The flavour is sweet and pleasant, ranging from a spicy apple - pear flavor to almost perfumed taste. Some of the fruit can be seedless, but most  have from 3 to 12 hard, black, shiny, flattened seeds. Oval in shape and brown in color the naseberry flesh is  very sweet. It is also used in a variety of ways including naseberry custard or naseberry ice cream are very delicious.   

 

Otaheite Apple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Otaheite Apple is said to have originated in the South Pacific islands and was brought to Jamaica by Captain Bligh who conveyed small trees of three varieties from the islands of Timor and Tahiti to Jamaica in 1793.

The fruit is oblong to pear-shaped with a thin, smooth and slightly waxy, dark red skin protecting a crisp spongy white flesh that has a mild sweetish flavour. Most Jamaicans enjoy it  right off of the tree, but many can enjoy a chilled Otaheite apple and recount many a childhood memory.

The Otaheite Apple tree is a beautiful tree that can grow up to sixty feet tall, grows and bears quite quickly. Although not indigenous to Jamaica, Otaheite apples grow abundantly here.During its peak season it bears in such abundance,  that they are bagged by the dozen and sold on street corners all over Jamaica.

As with many other Jamaican fruits, locals have found a variety of ways to enjoy this delectable fruit. They make great preserves and can be enjoyed sliced and stewed with ginger, grated lime and a touch of sugar and served over vanilla ice cream as is quite customary in many posh Caribbean fusion restaurants world wide.

More recently, creative Otaheite lovers have produced inventive new ways to enjoy the fruit and preserve its flavour year round with Otaheite apple pancake syrup, jellies and locally a new popular favourite is the bottled Otaheite Apple Juice which is quickly becoming popular with school children because of its bright pink colour.

 

Banana

 

 

 

 

 

Bananas were first introduced to Jamaica by Jean Francois Pouyat, a French Botanist and chemist in 1820, he brought the fruit back from Martinique to his coffee estate in an effort to diversify his farm’s produce. It was originally called the "Martinique Banana-Pouyat" in his honour and then later shortened to the "Martinique Banana". History records show that the Agricultural Society of Jamaica awarded Pouyat a doubloon for his effort in introducing such a valuable variety of produce to the island.

Few are aware that long before Chiquita and Dole, Jamaica was the first commercial producer of bananas in the Western Hemisphere.

Locals enjoy green bananas boiled and eaten as a staple instead of rice or potato, while the ripe fruit is eaten raw or incorporated into several tasty recipes such as banana bread and the ever-popular Jamaican banana fritters. These fritters were household treats in most grandparents’ homes. Served with tea, or after a meal, a special occasion was not really special without some warm, banana fritters with just a light dusting of confectionary sugar on the top.

In Jamaica we have two main varieties of bananas, the more traditional banana and a dwarf banana which is locally referred to as a bumpy, or chiney banana. This smaller sibling to the regular sized banana has a much denser texture and its flavour is a combination of that of apple and  banana. It is quite a unique snack and adored by children because of its size. Both are available at all markets island-wide or along the street corners with a variety of other produce.  

 

6. Our Top 5 Jamaican Dishes

 

Ackee and Saltfish
 

Jamaica’s national fruit, the ackee, isthe main ingredient in Jamaica's national dish, Ackee and Salt fish. Jamaican ackee was introduced to Jamaica really around 1778, probably transported in a slave ship. The plant’s botanical name is Blighiasapidain honor of Captain William Bligh who took samples to Kew in 1793. The Jamaican ackee tree is native to tropical West Africa and is cultivated throughout the tropics and commercially in Jamaica, in fact more widely grown in Jamaica than anywhere else in the Western hemisphere.

The Jamaican ackee fruit fruit turns red on reaching maturity and splits open  exposing the 3 large, shiny, black seeds attached to  cream-coloured flesh, which is the edible portion.

Dried and salted codfish was originally imported into Jamaica in the 18th century from Canada, as a trade for rum and was being particularly appropriate to tropical non-refrigerated conditions. Nowadays saltfish is not necessarily cod, which is in short supply.

The national dish is seasoned with Scotch bonnet pepper, onions and tomatoes and served with roast breadfruit, bammy (cassava flour cakes) and green banana.

 

Curry Goat

Curry goat is a dish originating in Indo-Jamaican cuisine that has become so popular it is now regarded as being typical of Jamaica.

Curry goat is a popular party dish in Jamaica and at a 'big dance' or ‘nine night’ a local expert or 'specialist' is often brought in to cook it.

It is considerably more mild than the equivalent dishes from India  and is flavoured with a spice mix that is typical of Indo-Jamaican cooking and Scotch Bonnet Peppers and  is almost always served with plain white rice or  green banana.

 

Stew Peas

Jamaican stew peas is a mixture of stewed beef, pickled pig’s tail and red kidney beans, called red peas in Jamaica. The Rastafarians, and vegetarians, can still enjoy the irie version of this dish without the beef and pig’s tail.
 
White rice and fried ripe plantain are a good accompaniment to this dish, which strongly resembles the Brazilian national dish of feijoada.
 

Jerk  dishes

Jamaica’s jerk seasoning has two main ingredients - allspice (called "pimento" in Jamaica) and Scotch bonnet peppers (among the hottest peppers on the Scoville scale). Other ingredients include cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Jerk chicken, pork, or fish originally was smoked over aromatic wood charcoal.  The  pimento wood, berries, and leaves of the allspice plant among the coals contribute to jerk's distinctive flavor. Meats are dry-rubbed or wet marinated with the very hot spice mixture  of jerk seasoning which is traditionally used on to pork and chicken.

The traditional location for jerked pork in Jamaica is Boston Beach, Portland.

Jerk dishes have now received international recognition and can be found on many menus in Europe and North America.

 

Rice and Peas

Sunday lunch is not complete without rice and peas on the table. It is used as an accompaniment to several different meats – stewed chicken, roast chicken or oxtail.

The heart of Jamaican rice and peas is coconut milk. Coconut milk is traditionally obtained by removing  the coconut flesh from the shell, grating it and then squeezing the “milk” from it by adding a little water and squeezing by hand through a sieve or strainer.

The peas – generally red kidney beans - are soaked overnight and then they are slow cooked until tender after which the seasonings are added. The basic seasonings are scallion, thyme, garlic, salt, and scotch bonnet pepper. The coconut milk is then added and the ingredients are left to slow cook until everything blends together in one delectable taste.

Around Christmas time, the red kidney beans are replaced by fresh green gungo peas which are abundant at that time of year.

 

7. Our Top 5 Sweet Treats

 

Gizzada

Imagine biting in to a warm nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger spiced sugart coconut treat – well imagine now longer – simply enjoy a Gizzada. The Gizzada is a coconut tart. The sides of the tart are pinched around it to hold all of the sweet and spicy coconut goodness inside.

This coconut tart is well liked, so much so people are very possessive of their recipes. Most pass theirs down from generation to generation. Most opt for the tried and true method of a mixture of grated coconut, ginger, nutmeg, all spice, cinnamon and sugar, put into a pastry shell.

Don’t forget to take a bite of this little taste of sunshine when next in Jamaica.

 

Plantain Tarts

Another traditional favorite comes from one of our main food staples, the plantain. The plantain is a larger cousin to the banana. The ripe plantain flesh is prepared with a mixture of authentic Jamaican spices such as All Spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and gartered ginger, and spooned into small pastry shells topped with just a sprinkle of brown sugar and baked to a sweet delectable perfection. Best served warm, this treat is perfect complement to 4 ‘o clock teatime, or after meal – in Jamaica, it’s always the perfect time for a plantain tart.

 

Tamarind Balls

The Tamarind is said to have originated in Jamaica with the arrival Indian indentured laborers in the 19th century. In addition to the plethora of other spices, textiles, and traditions – we received the Tamarind.

This tree that is often used to share drive ways or main thoroughfares bears a pod that contains the tamarind fruit. The fruit can be used for juices, sauces and of course whats now considered a national candy, the Tamarind ball. The pulp of the fruit is rolled in gartered ginger and a variety of other spices and then rolled in sugar to form a ball like shape and left to air dry. Once dried the Tamarind ball makes a delicious bite size treat that is sweet and spicy and irresistible. 

 

Matrimony (Star Apples)

While many people outside of Jamaica hear this word and immediately think of marriage, to Jamaicans, Matrimony also refers to a chilled creamy fruit salad.Traditionally made around Christmas time when the main ingredient - the purple star apple bares, this light and fresh dessert is a unique marriage exotic fruit flavors.

The main ingredient of this delicate dessert is the purple star apple. Bearing only during the winter season, this fruit is quite a treat. Its dark purple, shiny skin, make it quite easy to spot amongst the other Jamaican fruits available locally.

The star apple is about the size of an orange that encloses 8 translucent segments of pink hued pulp. The fruit is native to Jamaica and  is a delicious accompaniment to the orange that  also grows abundantly in Jamaica, paired with condensed milk  (a sweet thick dairy product) and just a hint of nutmeg (also native to Jamaica), this dessert will have you longing for another taste of sweet, sweet Jamaica.

 

Sweet Potato Pudding

Dating back to slavery, the Sweet Potato pudding was a good use of left over sweet potatoes and provided slaves with something sweet to enjoy after a hard day in the fields. Later on in the 1940’s rations of rum, sugar and coffee were sent off with Jamaica’s airmen during World War II. Many still recount receiving small packages sent from wives and mothers containing a slice of home baked sweet potato pone, just a whiff was all they needed to give them the strength and courage to persevere so they could return home to loved ones.

“Hell a top, Hell a bottom, Hallelujah in the middle” was how the cooking process of this authentic dessert was described. Originally the pudding mixture was made very simply over a coal fire. Placed in an old time Dutch pot with hot coals (hell) on the top of the pot and hot coals (hell) beneath. The pudding (Alleluia) otherwise would cook simultaneously in the middle from both ends.

Traditionally, the Jamaican Sweet Potato pone or pudding as some refer to it, is a mixture of sweet potatoes, flour, sugar, evaporated milk, coconut milk, nutmeg, vanilla, brown sugar, sherry or Rum, butter and a small amount of yam. A mixture of sweet, spicy and creamy, this dessert is served in slices like cake, but its texture is more of a smooth pie.

Sweet potato pone can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature. No matter how you have it, it’s simply a delicious taste of Jamaica.

 

8. Our Top 5 Jamaican proverbs

“New broom sweep Clean, but old broom know the corners”

Translation:  A profoundly witty statement that sums up any number of current situations, including the state of today's music. 

“when you dig a hole for somebody, dig two”

Translation:  When you set out to trap someone else, it is very likely that you will end up trapping yourself too

“wha sweet nanny goat a go run him belly”

Translation: Often things we like are not good for us.

“Sorry fi  mawga (scrawny) dog,  mawga dog turn round bite you”

Translation: Sometimes you help someone in an unfortunate situation and they act ungrateful, even hurt you.

“patient man ride donkey”

Translation: Only a patient person can ride a donkey

 

9. Top 5 Jamaican Traditions

 

Nine-Night Tradition

Nine-Nights is a funerary tradition practiced in the Caribbean primarily in Jamaica.  It is an extended wake that lasts for several days, with roots in African tradition.

During this time, friends and family come together to the home of the deceased. They share their condolences and memories while singing hymns and eating food together.

 In the old days, the nights were calm and reserved for the most part - but that tradition has changed with the times. Today, these gatherings resemble parties much more than they resemble wakes (though this is not true for all “nine-nights”).

Nine-Nights are no longer a time to mourn but a time to celebrate since the loved one is no longer suffering in life. When friends come they do not come with just condolences they come with food, drink and music.

True to its name this celebration lasts nine nights and days with the ninth and final night being the night before the church service. On the ninth night the family prepares the food for all who come. As tradition has is on the ninth night it is believed that the spirit of the deceased passes through the party gathering food and saying goodbye before continuing on to its resting place. Out of all the nights this night is the most revered since it is the end of the celebration. Stories about the deceased and the fondest memories are shared, along with prayers. Games, such as Dominos, are played as well as singing hymns, which is also done on the other nights as well.

 

 Jonkanoo/Junkanoo

The word "Junkanoo" derived from an African slave master and trader named "John Canoe" in the 17th century. These slaves were not allowed much freedom and would hide in the bushes when they had the chance. While in the bushes, they would dance and make music while covered in costumes that they made from various paints that they made and leaves that they found. This festival represented the slave's freedom from slavery.

Junkanoo, is Jamaica's Christmas celebration.   Not as popular in the cities as it was 20 to 30 years ago, Jonkanoo is still a big deal, especially in rural Jamaica.

In this celebration there are different characters who parade through the streets in very elaborate costumes; they are attired costumed with head dresses, masks, pitchforks (devil), batons (police), fans (set girls) and any other paraphernalia that is necessary to complete the character.

There are basic Jonkanoo steps that are done and each character has a signature movement such as:

Pitchy Patchy – turns, cartwheels, large movements in circular patterns.

Belly woman - moves belly in time with the music

 

Grand Market

The Christmas Market or Grand Market has been a glittering, and probably unique, tradition in Jamaica. It provided great holiday entertainment for children and parents alike. In the past it especially had the flavor of a community fair beginning on Christmas Eve and culminating on Christmas Day. The event featured the sale of toys, craft and gift items, food, street dancing, and music. Old-time Christmas Market began coming together a few days before Christmas but was fully established by late Christmas Eve. Downtown Kingstown has the largest Christmas Market, but there are others in other areas of the island. One of the famous Christmas Markets is the Victoria Craft Market at the Ocean Hotel at the bottom of King Street.

 

Obeah

Photo courtesy of Mart Lamolla

Obeah is one of the many Jamaican traditions from our West African ancestry. Included in the slaves brought to Jamaica were healers, medicine men and priests. Many pursued their traditional practices when they arrived in Jamaica. The Obeah-men /women were patronized by both whites and blacks ".

 

Many obeah practitioners seem to be well versed in poisons and other harmful substances. Hundreds of deaths of both blacks and whites during the days of slavery were attributed to poisons devised by Obeah-men.

The Obeah-man (or woman) is a well established persona in the Jamaican society, with a patronage which is largely lower class, but also includes society's movers and shakers. He may be feared, hated, respected or even mocked, but I doubt if he's ever broke, as there are always customers! He is a last resort for many who have exhausted avenues offered by conventional medicine. He is the first choice of many who want to 'tie' their lovers to them forever, to ensure their success in a court case or in getting a visa, or to get revenge on their enemies.

 

Carnival

Carnival, the brainchild of Byron Lee started as a very small affair in 1990. Persistence, commitment and the desire to share the fun and bacchanal scene, and his experience of Trinidad carnival allowed, Lee set out to create something similar for the Jamaicans. The dream became a reality and today it has become a tremendous success as one of the largest annual event on the Jamaican calendar.

Over the years Jamaica has celebrated Carnival, it has gone through many changes, creating a positive force that brings Jamaicans together. It is becoming very local with the emergence of the local designers and Mass Camps. Carnival has done the same for the Jamaican population as it has done in all other countries, united the population, created jobs and is also increasing the Tourism industry.

 

10. Top 5 Jamaican Places to eat

 

Faith’s Pen

Faith's Pen Vendors - On the main road to Ocho Rios, between Mt. Rosser and Moneague

Faith's Pen is perfectly positioned for travelers to stop for a snack or full meal on the way to or from Ochi.  Around 30 vendors’ huts stretch out over this large lay-by selling all manner of traditional Jamaican fare, including jerk chicken, jerk pork, fried fish, roast fish, ackee and saltfish, mannish water, festival, bammy, breadfruit, corn on the cob, soup and fruit.

 

Scotchies

Scotchies — that fiery restaurant brand that has for years been delighting tourists who visit Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston. One of the best Jerk food stops in Jamaica is Scotchies. The spicy and flavorful chicken is a must have along with a side order of festival, bammy, and roast breadfruit. They also serve Jerk Pork and soup du jour.

That open-air aura effused by Scotchies in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston remains intact as well -- tables, benches and chairs are made from hardwood. Roofs are thatched and the pagoda-like eating areas are held up by timber that seems recently felled.

 

Little Ochi

Located in Treasure Beach, South Coast of Jamaica. Little Ochi Seafood Restaurant overlooks the black sand of Jamaica’s south coast shoreline to present laidback get-away from ‘city life’. They offer fresh from the sea, lobster, shrimp and fish served with a choice of steaming hot bammies and/or festivals. Its annual Seafood Festival is an essential event for seafood lovers. The quiet, almost bohemian character of our south coast makes Little Ochi a popular respite for the weary.

 

Boston, Portland

Boston Jerk Centre in Portland is an area well known for its famous jerked foods, including chicken, fish and pork. To accompany the meats you can have festival, breadfruit, hard dough bread or rice and peas. To wash it all down there is fresh natural juices made from juneplum, guava, and pineapple along with the regular sodas, beers and of course coconut water. The Boston Jerk Festival in Portland, draws tens of thousands of people at the beginning of each July.  

 

Woody’s Low Bridge

 

Closer to Port Antonio, just past the Blue Lagoon, the rich and Famous quietly slip into Woody’s Low Bridge, a place for fish cake and fritters (stamp and go).

Woody's Low Bridge Place has been operating in Port Antonio since 1986.  Woody's specializes in homemade burgers, all made from local ingredients. Vegetarians are also well catered for with vegetarian burgers, cheese dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches. Hotdogs and fries are also available. Three course meals and Jamaican classics such as curried goat and jerk chicken can also be made to order. If special food is required, it is necessary to call in the morning, as all food is cooked to order.

 

11. Our Top 5 Spots of Natural and Ecological Beauty

 

The Cockpit Country

This rugged terrain is characteristic of the Karst topography that defines the area. Limestone is dissolved and removed by subsurface water resulting in underground caverns. As caverns develop, the water table is lowered and eventually the caverns collapse creating sinkholes that leave the land with the appearance of an inverted egg carton (pits).  No roads traverse the Cockpits. They are accessed only from the surrounding Maroon settlements.

 

Blue Mountain

The Blue Mountains form the longest mountain range in Jamaica. They include the island's highest point, Blue Mountain Peak, at 2256 m (7402 ft). On a clear day, the outline of the island Cuba, 210 km (130 mi) away, can be seen.  As one of the longest continuous mountain ranges in the Caribbean, the Blue Mountains dominate the eastern third of Jamaica, while bordering the eastern parishes of Portland and St. Thomas and St. Andrew to the south. The climatic diversity of the Blue Mountain enabled the high rainfall that feeds the lush vegetation, which includes towering trees and over 500 species of flowering plants, of which half are found nowhere else on earth. The famous Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is cultivated on the lower slopes, while higher slopes are preserved as forest.

 

Black River Morass

The largest freshwater wetland ecosystem in Jamaica, the Black River Lower Morass is a complex of shallow brackish lagoons, limestone islands, tidal marshes, mudflats and mangroves near the coast, and extensive freshwater marshes with peat formations.

Covering about 14,085 acres, the Lower Morass supports a rich indigenous flora, and fauna,   with several of the species being endemic to Jamaica. Described as the best area in Jamaica for all water birds, it is known to be the only area where the flamingo still nests occasionally.

 

Portland Bite

Portland Bight refers just to the body of water between the Hellshire Hills (to the west of Kingston) and Portland Ridge (the part of Jamaica which sticks out to the south).

The Portland Bight Protected Area is rich in wildlife and natural areas, 41% of the land area is taken up with the dry limestone forests of Hellshire, Portland Ridge and Braziletto Mountain, rated as the largest relatively intact forests of that type left in Central America and the Caribbean . Of the 271 plant species identified in the Hellshire Hills, 53 are found only in Jamaica (endemic), and several are found only in the Hellshire Hills. The Hellshire Hills is the last known habitat of the Jamaican Iguana, an endemic species and Jamaica's largest land animal. In addition, the Hellshire Hills is the last remaining stronghold in Jamaica of the endemic skink.  Jamaica’s only endemic terrestrial mammal, the Coney, is found in Hellshire and Portland Ridge. Many endemic and resident forest birds as well as North American migrant birds add to the biodiversity.

 

John Crow Mountain and Rio Grande Valley

The John Crow Mountains are a range of mountains in Jamaica. They extend parallel with the north east coast of the island, bounded to the west by the banks of the Rio Grande, and joining with the eastern end of the Blue Mountains in the southeast.  The highest point in the range is a little over 3,750 feet (1,140 m).

The range is named after the John Crow, the Jamaican name for the carrion crow, the name being first recorded in the 1820s. 

 

12. Our Top 5 Jamaican Industries

 

Tourism

Tourism began in Jamaica in the 1890s, when the United Fruit Company, seeking to use the excess capacity of its ships, encouraged cruises to Jamaica, and tourist hotels were constructed on the island. Tourism, however, did not flourish until after World War II, when allowances for investment in that sector helped to triple the number of hotels from 1945 to 1970. Further hotel incentive legislation in 1968 continued to transform the industry, eventually strengthening the role of larger hotels. After a twenty-year period of growth, tourism slumped in the mid-1970s for a variety of reasons, and in the 1980s, the tourist market was recaptured, and it expanded more quickly than the rest of the economy.

One of every four employed workers in Jamaica works in tourism and services. In 2000, Jamaica hosted 1.3 million visitors, but the September 11 attacks and internal political problems reduced tourism in 2001 and the following years.

In the decade leading up to 2009 tourism prospered and in that year there were 1,831,097 stopover visitors, 922,349 cruise passengers, making the number of total visitor arrivals 2,753,446,   accounting for a revenue of US$1,925,423,000.

The majority of vacationers come from are from the United States, followed by Europe and Canada. Recent investments by the Spanish in building hotels on the North coast has resulted in a large increase in tourists from Europe, and the opening of the Falmouth cruise port in February 2011 augurs well for the increase in cruise passengers.

 

Mining

During the 1960s Jamaica was the world's largest producer of bauxite, a position it held until the 1980s. Today, Jamaica is the world's third largest producer of bauxite, after Australia and Guinea, and has estimated reserves of more than 1.9 billion metric tons. Some of the bauxite exported from Jamaica is first converted into alumina, though much is exported in its raw form. Bauxite is taken from mines to processing plants by truck and rail, but, because the island lacks sources of cheap energy, the final conversion process that turns bauxite/alumina into aluminium must take place overseas.

Bauxite production first became a factor in Jamaica's economy in the 1950s. Between 1950 and 1960, the contribution of bauxite production to the nation's GDP grew from less than 1 percent to 9.3 percent. By 1970, mining's contribution to GDP reached 15.7 percent. In the years since, the industry's contribution to Jamaica's GDP remained at about 10 percent. Historically, the mining of bauxite was overseen by large American and Canadian aluminium companies such as Alcoa. Kaiser and Alcan, and final processing of the ore took place in their plants elsewhere. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, foreign companies withdrew from the island, and the government bought into the industry, thus keeping profits at home.

In April 2004 Kaiser Aluminum announced that Russian Aluminium (RusAl) was the successful bidder in an auction for Kaiser's 65 percent interest in Alpart, a Jamaican alumina and bauxite joint venture. RusAl now owns the Kirkvine and Ewarton  plants which were originally owned by Alcan and is expressing interest in taking over the government-owned portion of Jamalco in Clarendon. 

Shifting world demand for aluminium and variations in oil prices have made profits from the industry quite variable over the years. In addition to bauxite, Jamaica has mineable deposits  of several other important minerals, including limestone, gypsum, silica, and marble. Extensive, high-quality limestone reserves estimated at 50 billion tons provide an ample base for exports, though limestone production has, in fact, been rather small. Gypsum, which has been mined in eastern Jamaica since 1949, is another important export mineral. While some gypsum is used locally in the manufacture of tiles and cement, most is shipped unprocessed to the United States and Latin America.

 

Sugar

By far the oldest industry in Jamaica, since pre-emancipation days, Jamaica was the world’s largest producer of sugar in the early part of the nineteenth century, but suffered a more severe decline in production than any other colony, due to mismanagement by absentee landowners, together with changing British economic policy. This led to the collapse of the industry, which  lasted for a century. The production of 100,000 tons of sugar in 1805 was not surpassed until 1937.

The method of production has changed drastically from the use of cheap slave and indentured labour to less labour-intensive and more capital-intensive methods.

In 1951 the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, a long-term agreement for Commonwealth countries to supply sugar to the United Kingdom, provided Jamaica with a secure market for 270,000 tons. Output soon exceeded that figure, and rose to a record of 506,000 tons in 1965. The decline that followed was caused partly by unattractive prices and the difficulty of obtaining labour in the fields. In 1971 output was 379,000 tons, about 300,000 tons  exported and the rest  used locally. About half of the total output was grown on estates: the other half was produced by some 24,500 cane farmers.

About 35 % of the arable land in Jamaica, mainly on the lowlands,  is occupied by canefields.   Frome, in the western part of the island, is the largest sugar factory in the Commonwealth Caribbean. Another, Monymusk, in Vere, Southern Clarendon, is almost as big. Private estates include Appleton, Golden Grove in St, Thomas, and Worthy  Park.

The Jamaican Government has been in the process of divesting its sugar factories over the last two years and, in a recent deal with international sugar traders Tate and Lyle and Italy's Eridania,  pre-sold the sugar from its government-owned factories in order to finance their operations. The divestment process is nearing completion and on July 1st, 2011, the  Chinese based company, Complant International Sugar Industry Company Limited (CISICL) is to acquire the remaining three government owned sugar factories at the end of the current sugar crop.

It is significant that the sugar industry remains the largest single employer of labour  in Jamaica as well as the leading crop within the agricultural sector. 

 

Coffee

Of world renown is Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee, which is grown in the range of  mountains at the Eastern end of the island, in the Parishes of Portland, St. Andrew and St. Thomas, at an elevation of over 2,000 feet, where climatic and soil conditions are ideal to produce this excellent coffee. To be certified as 100% Blue Mountain Coffee, it must be grown in this specific area. The Coffee Industry Board (CIB) of Jamaica is the only certifying agency for the world's finest coffee: Jamaica Blue Mountain.

The  CIB  is the regulatory body for the Blue Mountain coffee industry  and has set standards for the coffee beans and for processing. The Board owns the Jamaica Blue Mountain® and Jamaica High Mountain Supreme® coffee trade marks and is responsible for the integrity of the brand. 

Only five per cent of Jamaica’s coffee is consumed domestically and 95% sold abroad to coffee brokers and importers.  Of this 95%, Japan buys 65% of the total exported, mostly in the form of green beans. In 2009, Blue Mountain coffee exports brought Jamaica US$32 million, up 25 percent from the previous year.

The two coffee factories which are government-owned, Wallenford and Mavis Bank, are said to control 70 per cent of the Japanese market.  These supply arrangements are likely to change when the Government finalizes the divestment of these factories. Once these are sold, the role of the CIB will be restricted to quality control.

One coffee estate,  Craighton, is owned by Japan’s largest coffee company, Ushima.    Tours  of the estate and great house are available by appointment.

A recent memorandum of understanding has been signed between a large Chinese  import-export company which represents some 800 entities, by which the company would be the exclusive importer of Jamaican coffee into China for a period of two years.  Thus, according to the Chairman of the CIB, “the industry has begun market diversification, preserving existing markets while expanding into new regions of the world, which will be able to appreciate and pay for fine Jamaican coffee”.

 

Rum

The manufacture of rum begins with the harvesting of sugar cane. The chopped and milled cane produces a juice which, in turn, creates a byproduct known as molasses, which is the main source of rum.  The molasses is then diluted with water, pasteurized and put into fermentation tanks, where yeast is added. This so-called “wash” is then distilled, which separates the water from the alcohol. The rum is then placed in wooden kegs to age, after which colouring and flavouring agents may be added to create different tastes.

 In 1825 a wheelwright named John Wray opened a tavern in a residential area in the centre of Kingston, next door to the Theatre Royal,  and  called it "The Shakespeare Tavern" in the area, known then and now, as Parade.  By 1860 Wray had become a successful rum merchant and  brought his 22-year-old nephew, Charles James Ward, into the business, which became known thereafter as J. Wray and Nephew, which still exists today.

In 1862, at London's International Exhibition, J. Wray and Nephew won three gold medals for its 10, 15 and 25-year-old rums. J. Wray and Nephew rums also won awards and prizes at international exhibitions in Paris -- 1878, Amsterdam -- 1883, New Orleans -- 1885 and Jamaica's own Great Exhibition of 1891.

In 1893, there were some 148 distilleries attached to sugar estates in Jamaica. By 1948 there were only 25, and since then, the number of distilleries has dropped even further . However, with improvements in technology, there has been an increase in the quantity of rum.

J. Wray and Nephew later acquired three sugar estates ­ and, under the ownership of the Lindo brothers  in 1916, purchased the Appleton Estate in St. Elizabeth and within a year expanded the estate's factory and distillery operations.

Appleton Estate is the oldest and most famous of all of Jamaica's sugar estates and has been in continuous operation for two and a half centuries. Today, Appleton Estate comprises a total of nearly 4,614 hectares (11,402 acres) with 1,500 hectares (3707 acres) in sugar cane cultivation. In addition, the Estate has its own sugar factory and rum distillery, both of which rank amongst the island's most modern and well equipped. On average 80% of its annual production of    ten million litres of rum is exported.  In addition the

During World War II,  "Appleton Estate Special," a smooth, light and fragrant rum was created to serve as a substitute for whisky which was hard to come by. Renamed "Appleton Special" in the mid-1990's, the rum remains popular with Jamaicans and has now become a favourite throughout the world.

The widest varieties of rum in the world are produced in Jamaica and Jamaican rums are presently sold in over 70 countries around the world.

 

13. Top 5 Jamaican Trees

 

Coconut Palm

The Jamaican coconut tree is one of the most valuable plants to man, providing a primary source of food, drink, and shelter and Jamaicans use almost every part of the coconut. The white nut-meat can be eaten raw or shredded and dried for use in cooking. A single Jamaican coconut has a high amount of protein, coconut oil,  and coir from the husks, made up of fibres used to make thatch roofing material. Jamaican coconut water is so pure and sterile that during World War II, it was used in emergencies instead of sterile glucose solution, and put directly into a patient's veins. It is still highly medicinal, being used to replace electrolytes in cases of dehydration.

The cultivation of the “Jamaica Tall” variety of coconut tree has been replaced by various hybrids such as Malayan Dwarf and the locally developed Maypan, which are more resistant to the “lethal yellowing” disease that began to  afflict plantations in 1966.

Today there are around 80,000 coconut farmers in Jamaica, growing coconuts on 15,000 hectares of land.

Mahogany

 

Traditional Jamaican antique furniture is principally made from mahogany. The mahogany tree takes up to about 30 years to reach maturity for timber purposes and is known in other countries of the Caribbean as West Indian Mahogany. The wood of Jamaican mahogany is considered superior in quality and durability to the wood of Honduras mahogany.

The tree is a medium to large deciduous tree which can grow to 20 metres tall. It usually has a short thick trunk which may grow to a diameter of 1.4 metres. The bark is grey on smaller trees and dark reddish brown on larger trees.

When first cut the wood has a reddish tinge and eventually turns to a dark rich brown, which takes a beautiful finish when highly polished.  All of these characteristics, plus its resistance to decay and termites, make it highly prized among furniture makers. This accounts for the shortage of Jamaican mahogany trees nowadays.

 

Breadfruit Tree

The breadfruit  tree is not native to Jamaica. The story of Captain Bligh's first voyage to Tahiti, in 1787, and the loss of his cargo of 1,015 potted breadfruit plants on his disastrous return voyage is well known. He set out again in 1791 and delivered 5 different kinds totalling 2,126 plants to Jamaica in February 1793.

The first tree was planted in Bath in St. Thomas, supposedly as a cheap, high-energy source of food for slaves. There are two types of breadfruit, the seeded and the seedless type . The latter flourished in Jamaica, which is now by far the leading producer of the seedless breadfruit.

One of the most decorative and attractive trees in Jamaica, the breadfruit tree is most prized for its fruit, but has also beautiful leaves, which can be used as a decorative platter to serve food, and whose pattern is often depicted as a design on textiles.It is a majestic tree which can grow to heights of over 80 feet.

 

Bamboo

Groves of bamboo are visible all over Jamaica, particularly in areas of abundant rainfall such as the hills and along the Junction Road in St. Andrew and St. Mary.

Bamboo is one of the world’s fastest growing plants and the species of bamboo grown in the attractive archway of trees at Bamboo Avenue in St. Elizabeth originated in Haiti and is the largest species planted in Jamaica.

One of Jamaica’s tourist attractions – rafting – on either the Martha Brae in Trelawny, or the Rio Grande in Portland, could not exist without bamboo.  Originally river rafting was not a leisure occupation. In the 1870s plantation workers used the rafts to haul loads of bananas down the Rio Grande  to ships waiting in Port Antonio. The stability of the simple constructions was able to  balance over 600 pounds of bananas across their narrow girth.

Hollywood idol  Errol Flynn fell in love with Jamaica and in the 1940s and 50s discovered the adventure of rafting down the Rio Grande for pleasure trips. This was the birth of bamboo rafting as a tourist attraction in Jamaica.

Originally, however, river rafting was anything but leisurely. In the 1870s plantation workers used the rafts to haul loads of bananas down the Rio Grande on the east coast to ships awaiting in Port Antonio. If you doubt the stability of the simple constructions be aware that they once balanced upwards of 600 pounds of bananas across their narrow decks.

 

Guango Tree

The guango is a large, wide spreading tree which has beautiful proportions and is ideal for shade in parks and pastures.

Known as Saman in other  countries, the tree is  native to Central and parts of South America but has been widely planted throughout the Caribbean. This well-known beautiful shade tree which reaches a large size in its trunk diameter as well as its crown width is an evergreen which grows to 20 metres and more in height. Guango is more generally planted for its shade qualities than for its timber.

The black flattish pods, which are sticky and sweet, make excellent cattle food, especially in dry weather, when there is a shortage of grazing. Also called cow tamarind, the pods appear on the tree from February to April, Inside the pod are 6 to 10 flat, hard brown seeds and a sweet spongy pulp.

The tree folds its leaves at night and when the weather is cloudy, this causes moisture to collect under it. This often makes the grass under a guango tree greener than the grass around it.

In Jamaica the largest examples of this tree are found on the southern plains. A particularly fine stand of guango can be seen on the way out of Kingston at Ferry, where there are generally cattle enjoying the generous shade of the trees.

 

14. Indeginous Fauna

 

Jamaican Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

This endemic butterfly is the largest swallowtail butterfly in the Western Hemisphere. Historically, it ranged over half the island but is now limited to the Cockpit Country and sections of the Blue and John Crow Mountains. As recently as 1998, it was listed in the World's top twelve endangered species. Research indicates that the Giant Swallowtail may suffer high mortality due to egg parasites as the forest degrades in and around their natural habitat, as a result the relatively remote Cockpit Country may be the only remaining viable habitat for population growth.

 
Jamaican Boa

Known as a "yellowsnake" to many, the once common Jamaican Boa has suffered through many years of population decline and is now considered an endangered species. The introduction of dogs, cats and pigs to the island as well as habitat destruction and extermination by people have been the main reasons for the shrinking boa population. The average fully grown snake is about 6 feet in length but they are not considered a threat to humans and they are not poisonous in any way at all. The few remaining in their natural habitat are primarily located in the scrublands found in southern Jamaica. Fortunately, there are conservation initiatives globally that are aimed at breeding the endangered Jamaican Boa in captivity and sent to zoos participating in the management of a captive population.

 

Jamaican Coney

The Jamaican Coney looks a bit like a really large guinea pig - and that is in fact an animal to which it is actually distantly related. They are generally between 12 and 18 inches and weigh up to 4 pounds, so this is a pretty big rodent. Extremely rare and seldom found in their natural habitat nowadays, the Jamaican Coney (or Jamaican Huita) is protected under the Wild Life Protection Act of Jamaica. The coney prefers the rocky forested areas of the mountainside and is feeds on a variety of fruits and plants that it finds at higher altitudes.


 
Jamaican Crocodile

The species of Crocodile found in Jamaica is actually Crococylus Acutus - the American Crocodile. This species is considered endangered and is protected both internationally as well as here in Jamaica. This is an enormous animal, with males getting to confirmed sizes of up to sixteen feet. Of course, there are unconfirmed reports of crocodiles up to an astonishing 23 feet but these may well be cases where the croc grows a few feet with every recounting of the story. As you might imagine, a 16 foot reptile is going to need a lot of food to keep healthy and these aggressive carnivores do not disappoint residing as they do at the top of their habitat food chain. They are not quite as ferocious as their African cousins and therefore are not considered a threat to humans, but they do consume vast quantities of fish and small birds... it takes a lot of food to fuel a thousand pound body!
 
 

Jamaican Iguana

The Jamaican Iguana is the largest native land animal in the country but is unfortunately considered critically endangered (it was actually thought to be extinct until recently) and is now found only in the forests of the Helshire Hills near Kingston. Once very common, it is quite likely that the virtual disappearance of the iguanas can likely be attributed to the introduction of the mongoose to the island as a form of snake control. Like all iguanas, the Jamaican Iguana is primarily herbivorous - consuming leaves, flowers and fruits from over 100 different plant species. This varied diet is only occasionally supplemented with insects but it is possible that these are consumed incidentally while the iguana eats the leaves that the insects just happen to be on.

 

15. Top 5 Jamaican Birds

 

Jamaican Woodpecker

Photo courtesy of Paul B. Jones

A most attractive bird, with a bright red cap, its back and wings are black, narrowly striped with white. The lower breast is orange and the upper breast brownish-olive coloured. Its habitat is widespread from lowland to mountain forests, where its steady tapping can be heard as well as its raucous cry.

Red-billed  Streamer-tail

Photo courtesy of Paul B. Jones

"The most beautiful bird in Jamaica, and some say the most beautiful bird in the world, is the streamer-tail or doctor humming-bird" - thus wrote Ian Fleming in his story For Your Eyes Only. Commonly known as the Doctor Bird as its plumage resembles the black peaked cap and tailcoat worn by doctors in earlier times, the male streamer-tail is a most spectacular humming-bird and is found only in Jamaica. Most abundant is the red-billed variety, except in the eastern end of the island where the black-billed is found.

 

Bahama Mockingbird

Photo courtesy of Paul B. Jones

The mockingbird is commonly known as the nightingale in Jamaica, and has the sweetest melodious song, particularly at dawn and nightfall. It is chiefly brownish-grey on the upperparts with the wing and underparts mainly white, which is conspicuous in flight. The Bahama variety is restricted to the dry Hellshire Hills & Portland Ridge, while the Northern variety is more often visible as it occurs widely across the island except in forested areas.

 

Ring-tailed pigeon

Photo courtesy of Paul B. Jones

The ring-tailed pigeon is found only in Jamaica, generally in the Blue and John Crow Mountains and the Cockpit Country. Being 41 cm, it is the largest of the pigeons and doves on the island. The name derives from the black band across the tail, the end of the tail being pale grey. Its metallic green hind neck and lack of white in the wing distinguishes it from the plain pigeon.

 

 

Jamaican Tody

Photo courtesy of Paul B. Jones

 

Known commonly as the robin or robin redbreast, the Jamaican Tody is widespread in wooded hills and mountains. Apart from the distinctive breast, the plumage is green, becoming yellow on the abdomen, with pink on the flanks. Todies are found nowhere else in the world but in the Greater Antilles, each island having one species, except Hispaniola which has two.

 

These wonderful photographs by Canadian bird photographer Paul B. Jones speak for the beauty of Jamaica’s birds.

 

 

Yellow-billed Parrot

Endemic to Jamaica, the yellow-billed parrot is protected under law.  Along with the black-billed, both are species of the Amazonus genus and live in the forested hills and mountains. Its plumage is mostly green, the throat maroon and the outer edge of the wing blue.  They fly in groups, chattering as they fly.

 

 

Jamaican Oriole

Commonly known as Banana Katie, this is the “Yellow Bird” of  Harry Belafonte’s song. The upper plumage is yellowish green, the wings black and white and the face and upper chest black. Its song consists of two to five whistling notes and its habitat is in gardens and mountain forest.

 

 

 

16. Top 5 Jamaican Waterfalls

 

YS Falls

In the less explored South coast parish of St. Elizabeth is this beautiful eco-friendly attraction.  A jitney ride through a working cattle and horse farm leads to a magnificent seven-tiered natural waterfall which cascades below canopy zip-line tours in the trees above. The falls have 7 distinct cascading waterfalls that flow down from the mountains, At the bottom of the falls is a  wading pool, fed by cold underground springs and surrounded by spacious lawns for picnics, along with a children’s play area.

 

Dunns RiverFalls

Jamaica’s best known and arguably most popular tourist attraction, Dunns River Falls’ rustic charm has developed over the years into a modern facility with parking, shopping and refreshment. The falls are a five-minute drive west of Ocho Rios, thus convenient to land tourists and cruise ship passengers alike. The unusual aspect of these 200 metre falls is that it is possible to climb to the top in groups, carefully monitored by experienced guides.

 

Somerset Falls

Located in the lush scenery of the parish of Portland, near Port Antonio, are the tranquil Somerset Falls with the delicate Bridal Veil and hidden falls.  These are the only falls in Jamaica with accommodation as part of the attraction. Dining is available overlooking the river and also at the beachside across the road where the river meets the sea.

 

Reich Falls

Off the beaten track about an hour’s drive east of Port Antonio, Portland, these falls are rated highly by the more adventurous. Guides are available to assist the walk up two waterfalls and explore the hidden cave behind the curtain of the main fall.There are many pools to swim in, smaller falls and rapids to walk through and another cave experience higher up. A breathtaking experience.

 

Mayfield Falls

Mayfield Falls is a scenic 1-hour drive from Negril, Jamaica, 1½-hours from Montego Bay, and only ½-hour from Lucea. Centrally located in Glenbrook, Westmoreland, where the Dolphin Head Mountains provide a picture-perfect backdrop, these falls are noted  for their authentic flavour and quietness.One group of mini-waterfalls is called the Washing Machine, where one has to walk along the edge of the river, hugging the face of the rocks, ducking under and behind one of the waterfalls, before emerging in the middle and into the heart of a "power cycle" of the machine.Home-cooked food is available and local guides provide local knowledge of the river, area and wildlife. Swimming in the many river pools after the picturesque journey through the mountains make this a popular trip for all ages.

 

17. Top 5 Jamaican Plants

 

Heliconia

Dawn McCaulay

One of the most attractive and long-lasting blooms is the waxy heliconia.  A part of the banana family, there are various types, the one featured is the hanging crab-claw or  lobster-claw variety.

 

Hibiscus

Dawn McCaulay

The hibiscus belongs to a flowering plant genus of more than 220 species in the Malvacea family.  Native to warm temperate, subtropical and tropical regions, it is an annual sometimes perennial shrub, growing 6-8 feet tall. Leaves are deeply three- to five-lobed, 2 to 7 in. in length, alternating from stem.

The trumpet-shaped flowers, with a dark red spot at the base of each petiole, range in colour from pale yellow to bright red and may be as much as 8 inches across. The bright blossoms of hibiscus brighten yards and gardens all over Jamaica and wonderful hybrids have been created.

 

Bougainvillea

Dawn McCaulay

Bougainvillea originated in Brazil and was named for its discoverer, Admiral Louis de Bougainvillea.

The brightly-coloured papery blossoms of bougainvillea spill over walls and hedges all over Jamaica, and thrive particularly well in the drought season. The vines can climb high into trees or on trellises to cover walls. Large bracts of white, yellow, pink, purple, salmon or red surround small, white flowers.

 

Plumbago

Dawn McCaulay

 

A native of South Africa, plumbago is a genus of 10-20 speicies. The colours range through white, blue, purple, red of pink. In Jamaica it is the blue plumbago which has become very popular in Jamaica for its amazingly beautiful blue flowers. Not a lot of plants can grow truly blue flowers and in this, the blue plumago is an exception.

The flower has glandular hairs which secrete a sticky substance that is capable of trapping and killing insects, perhaps to protect from pollination by ants.

 

Yellow Shrimp Plant

Dawn McCaulay

 

Native to Central America, the shrimp plant is a bold evergreen perennial flowering shrub. The bright golden yellow flowers resemble shrimp, hence the popular name. In the picture above, it is the white parts  which are the flowers and the yellow blooms are  the bracts.

The plant is extremely popular for landscaping in Jamaica, as it sends out underground runners and with a few plants in a few years, it will spread to fill in the spaces and provide masses of lovely yellow and white blooms throughout most of the year.

 

18. Top  5 Historical Moments

 

1494 -Columbus Arrival in Jamaica

 Columbus first arrived in Jamaica on May 5, 1494 at a bay he named Santa Gloria, near the present St.Ann’s Bay, and was at first greeted with great hostility by the Tainos who forced him to stay at sea.

When he eventually landed, Columbus claimed the land in the name of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. However, although offered fruit and vegetables by the Taino, Columbus was disappointed by the lack of the gold he had been told existed on the island.

From his later stop in the present Montego Bay, Columbus led his ships back to Cuba, and then back to the western coast of Jamaica.

The Taínos living in the southern and western areas of the island were more friendly and welcoming to Columbus' men, and he said that he found the most intelligent and civilized natives of all those he met in the Caribbean in the many villages near the bay which he named Cow Bay. After that he stopped only at Morant Point before he left for Hispaniola.

Columbus returned to the Caribbean twice more in his lifetime, but only returned to Jamaica on his final voyage. This last trip turned out to be far more troublesome than his second, and his stay on Jamaica less pleasant.

 

1831 - Sam Sharpe Rebellion

Sam Sharpe was a Baptist preacher who had read much anti-slavery literature and when he was 31 years old he called a peaceful strike in the mistaken belief that emancipation had already been granted by the British Parliament. This rapidly became a rebellion which started on December 1831.

The rebellion was timed to have maximum impact as Sharpe knew that if the ripe sugar cane was not cut it would be ruined, hoping that the owners would pay the slaves to cut the cane, so it would not spoil. Sharpe suggested that the slaves did not go back to work after their three day Christmas holiday and  indicated they should only fight physically for their freedom if the planters did not grant their demands. The uprising lasted 10 days and spread throughout the entire island mobilizing as many as 60,000 of Jamaica's 300,000 slave population. It resulted in the death of 186 Africans and 14 white planters or overseers.

The repercussions for the rebellion were terrible. There were over 750 rebel slaves convicted, of which 138 were sentenced to death. Some were hanged, other were beheaded and their heads displayed on the plantations. Most of those who escaped the death sentence were brutally punished sometimes so harshly that they died anyway.

Planters’ property was burnt and Sam Sharpe was hung in 1832 for his role as organizer.

Sam Sharpe was captured and executed in Market Square, Montego Bay on 23 May 1832. As he awaited his execution he is recorded to have said 'I would rather die upon yonder gallows than live in slavery'.

This uprising was one of the first recorded examples of non-passive resistance that proved to be critical in the lead up to the Declaration of Emancipation.

 

 1833 - Emancipation

The British House of Commons adopted a motion in 1832, calling for a Select Committee to be appointed to put an end to slavery throughout the British Empire. One year later, in May 1833, the British House of Commons stated unequivocally that the British nation must, on its own initiative, suppress slavery in all British Dominions.

The slave trade was abolished in 1833 and was only the first step towards full emancipation. There were numerous  instances of civil unrest due to the conditions to which the slaves were subjected. Anti-slavery sentiments were increasingly expressed in the colonies through the work of nonconformist missionaries,  such as the Baptists William Knibb and Thomas Burchell, who were arrested for inciting slaves to rebellion. In Jamaica, the strongest example of unrest as a result of the fervour to put an end to slavery was the Sam Sharpe Rebellion of 1881.

 

1865 - Morant Bay Rebellion

The Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865  began as a protest by local citizens against poor economic and social conditions – unemployment and low wages among them.  On October 11, 1865, two large organised bands of people, who were mainly cultivators,  led by Paul Bogle, marched into Morant Bay, armed with sticks and cutlasses. The local militia and police were in front of the Morant Bay Courthouse building and although the Custos addressed the crowd from the portico, it was to no avail and on the mob's advance the militia opened fire.

Paul Bogle, a deacon appointed by George William Gordon, at a church in St. Thomas parish, began to organize a rebellion with the help of his brother and another preacher, James Maclaren. They had lost faith in the local courts, and rumours suggested they had even set up their own court system. However, it is unclear whether Gordon even knew of these activities, let alone encouraged them.

Arrested  by the highly unpopular  colonial Governor Eyre and accused of inciting the rebellion, Gordon was charged with treason and sedition for his association with those who rebelled. His trial took place on October 21st and his execution was to take place two days later. The only allowance that Gordon received was permission to write to his wife.

Bogle was caught that same day and also hanged. The rebellion at Morant Bay signalled the end of one of the harshest periods of history in Jamaica.

 

1962 – Independence

While still under British rule, the Federation of the West Indies , including all the British ruled islands, was created in January 1958 with headquarters in Trinidad, though many of the larger countries, including Jamaica, had objections. Elections for the Federation  took place in March of that year and Jamaica's Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante created the two main political parties involved in this election.

Manley’s party, the WIFLP, took the majority of the Federation's seats, but Sir Grantley Adams from Barbados became the first Prime Minister. Despite efforts to make the Federation work, Norman Manley called a referendum  in Jamaica in1961 , in which the people voted against  Federation. Removal was granted by the  British Government who then agreed to discuss Jamaica's independence.

A new constitution was drafted within a year and a new flag and national anthem were decided upon.

 Jamaica's independence was scheduled for  August 6, 1962, and the political parties on the island quickly went into election mode. More than 71 percent of the electorate turned out to vote, and the JLP earned a decisive majority once again. JLP won 26 seats, and the PNP held 19.  Jamaica's final colonial Governor, Sir Kenneth Blackburne, took office as the first Governor-General and  was replaced just months later by the first Jamaican Governor-General,Sir Clifford Campbell.

Princess Margaret came to Jamaica to represent the Queen and Jamaica celebrated its independence with large celebrations. The island's first session of Parliament was opened on August 7th, completing the transfer of independence to Jamaica.

 

19. Top  5 Heritage Sites

 

Devon House

 

In the heart of Kingston, a heritage site with great house, restaurants and shops. Built by Jamaica’s first black millionaire 127 years ago, this is one of the few tourist attractions in the centre of the metropolis.  Pleasant eating spots are surrounded by eleven acres of lawns and  the  refurbished great house which displays furniture from the Jamaica of the 1800s.

Website:  http://devonhousejamaica.com

 

Morant Bay Courthouse

The Morant Bay Courthouse, which was destroyed by fire on Monday, February 19, 2007, is an important part of the history of St. Thomas. It was the scene of the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865.

The riot began as a protest by local citizens against poor economic and social conditions in the country. On October 11, 1865, two large organised bands of people, who were mainly cultivators, marched into Morant Bay, armed with sticks and cutlasses. The local militia and police were in front of the building and although the Custos addressed the crowd from the portico, it was to no avail and on the mob's advance the militia opened fire.

All that remains of this historic site are the brick walls of the structure. Edna Manley's statue of National Hero Paul Bogle, which stands in front of the courthouse was not destroyed. The Courthouse was the venue for the St. Thomas Parish Council meetings and the sitting of the Circuit Court in St. Thomas.

 

National Heroes Park, Kingston

The area on which the National Heroes Park now stands was once one of the most popular spots in Kingston. Known previously as the Kingston Race Course, for 101 years, the land was the centre for horse racing in Jamaica. It was also the site for other sporting activities such as cricket and cycle racing. Being a place where people naturally gathered, the area was also the venue for travelling circuses that visited the island from time to time.

It remained a race course until 1953 when horse racing was transferred to Knutsford Park, (now the business district of New Kingston.

In its long history, several interesting events are associated with the site. On August 2, 1838, grand festivities marking the end of apprenticeship and the beginning of full freedom from slavery were held here. Queen Victoria's Golden and Diamond Jubilees were honoured here in 1887 and 1897 respectively.

 The Jamaica National Exhibition was held from January 27, to May 2, 1891, in a building called Quebec Lodge, which  is now the Wolmer's School site.

In 1953, the Kingston Race Course was renamed the George VI Memorial Park in honour of the late King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II and the grounds were prepared for the Queen's first visit to the island.

In the same year, a War Memorial to honour those who died in the First World War was removed from its original location at Church Street and relocated here. Each year, on Remembrance Day, the first Sunday in November, veterans gather around the Cenotaph to honour the memory of those who died in World Wars I & II.

The site was officially renamed the National Heroes Park in 1973 and is now a permanent place for honouring our heroes whose monuments are erected in an area known as the Shrine.

Another section, reserved for prime ministers and outstanding patriots, adjoins the Shrine area, to the north.

 

Rose Hall  Great  House

On the outskirts of Montego Bay, on hills overlooking the sea, the Rose Hall Great House was built in the mid 19th century and is the former home of the legendary White Witch of Rose Hall, Annie Palmer. The Georgian building  was  restored in the 1960s after lying in ruins for many years.  The tour gives the opportunity to hear the scary history of Annie’s escapades and see the fine restoration and antique  furniture. A pub and restaurant are also on site.

Website:  www.rosehall.com

 

Spanish Town Square

Spanish Town, Jamaica, still retains a fine collection of 18th century buildings in its main square. The Assembly House on the eastern side of the square was built between 1755 and 1762, and finished over several years. It is now used by the St. Catherine Parish Council.

On the west, King's House, the Governor's Official residence until 1872, was built in 1765.

On the north, the Rodney Memorial and the buildings on either side were built to commemorate Rodney's victory over the French in a 1782 battle.

Unfortunately, the Court House, which was built on the south side in 1818,  was gutted by fire and has not been restored.

 

20. Tid bits – Top 5 Popular Jamaican Veggies:

 

Callaloo

Callaloo, is a Jamaican variety of spinach, a leafy vegetable, and it plays an important role in the Jamaican diet. Steamed callaloo is often served with breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is cooked with codfish and used in soups, most popular of those is the Pepperpot soup, in which Callaloo is the main ingredient.

Typically steamed or sauted with onions, garlic, tomato, thyme and scotch bonnet pepper.

Many Jamaicans have popularized it by substituting it for it’s north American counterpart in non-traditional Jamaican dishes such as quiche and omelets etc.

Callaloo is rich in nutrients including; iron and other minerals, vitamin C, flavonoids, calcium, and vitamin A. Callaloo has over four times the calcium, over two times the iron, and over two times the vitamin A compared to broccoli and other vegetables.

Jamaicans use Callaloo in a plethora of dishes many also juice for it’s nutritional benefits, it’s recently become so popular that it’s now sold in all major supermarkets across the island.

 

Cho Cho (christophine)

The Jamaican chocho or chayote is an odd member of the family of melons, gourds, squashes, and pumpkins. This Jamaican chocho is actually a fruit, it is about the size of a small pear, is boiled or sauted and served as a 'vegetable'. Jamaican chocho is thought native to southern Mexico and Jamaica.

Unlike its many seeded cousins, the Jamaican chocho [cha yo' tay] contains a single seed. The fruit is usually planted whole lying on its side. The Jamaican chocho seed sends out its roots and stem from the bottom of the fruit. The vines are trained to an overhead support so the fruit hangs and can be readily picked from below. It’s enjoyed in soups, stews or steamed vegetable dishes.

 

Breadfruit

Legend has it that the Bread Fruit was brought to Jamaica from Tahiti by Captain William Bligh on his second voyage to the South Pacific in 1793. His main reason for introducing breadfruit to Jamaica was to feed the slaves.

Unfortunately the slaves did not take to the taste, so the fruit/vegetable sat around and grew wild for some time; it was even fed to the hogs.

Like its name, it tastes like doughy bread. Dark green breadfruits are ideal for roasting. If the breadfruit has brown spots it is becoming ripe, you can also roast it but it will be a little sweet and soft when it is finished.

People in Jamaica typically roast breadfruit in order to cook it and it’s normally enjoyed right off the fire. Alternatively many Jamaicans enjoy it fried in slices and seasoned with sea salt to taste. Alternatively it can be eaten once roasted.

There are two different types of Jamaican breadfruit, yellow hearted and white hearted. The Yellow heart variety is much sweater than it’s white hearted counter part which tends to be much blander in taste. Bread fruit has grown on the Jamaican people and has since become a staple within traditional Jamaican cuisine.

 

 

Okra

A great Jamaican vegetable, the Okra was said to be have been brought to Jamaica by the salves of West Africa. This green  inger looking vegetable is of the pepper family, longer than the Jalepeno pepper without the heat and spice of a typical pepper. It also has quite an interesting slimy interior which if cooked for short periods lessens the slime factor. If cooked for long period such as in soups or stews it cooks down quite a bit.

Okra is widely eaten in soups, and often with fish. Okra is seen quite regularly in Jamaican’s Ital cuisine that is enjoyed by the Ratafarian followers who subscribe to a strict vegetarian diet.

 

Cassava

Cassava, was originally grown by the indigenous tribe of Jamaica, the Tainos, is a starchy, tube like ground provision is extensively cultivated as an annual cropand is a staple with the average Jamaican’s diet. Many enjoy it with all meals and substitute it where others would enjoy rice, pasta or potato. Because of its starchy and mild flavour many use it for both savoury and sweet dishes.

 

It’s also the main ingredient in a national favorite that cannot be missed on any trip to the island, Bammy.  Bammy most commonly served with fried or steam fish and festival at the majority of Jamaica’s beach food stalls.Today, it is produced in many rural communities and sold in stores and by street vendors in Jamaica and abroad.

 

When ready to eat, the wedges are soaked in coconut milk for a few minutes and then fried to a golden brown.