Published: February 27th 2008
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'Up in de hills, where de streams are cool,
An mullet an janga swim in de pool,
I have ten acres of mountain side,
An a dainty-foot donkey dat I ride,
Four Gros Michel, an four Lacatan,
Some coconut trees, and some hills of yam

Evan Jones

The plants of the Caribbean are extremely colourful, with exotic looking flowers and fruits. Some of the most common species were brought by early settlers for food, or to decorate their garden and remind them of home, so the vegetation of today is almost certainly very different to what it looked like before Christopher Columbus first sighted the West Indies in 1492.

Scrumptious fruit is everywhere, in many places you can literally stop on the side of the road, run into the forest, pick some ripe bananas, papaya, breadfruit, soursop, you name it, straight from the tree…and then drive off laden down with the tastiest, freshest meal you have ever had.

The flowers are also pretty amazing, with bushes laden down with all the colours of the rainbow: Red ginger, hibiscus, heliconia, bird of paradise and so on. These plants don’t just look pretty, they are also harvested for a wide variety of uses. There are flowers to wash your hair with or make juices you can drink, nuts for making oil or flavouring rice dishes, spices to make the most boring meal a delicious feast.

Some plants are almost essential to life in certain regions, for example the coconut tree: the trunk is used for building, the leaves for weaving and thatched rooves, the juice made into drinks or refined for oil, the husks sculpted into dishes, the jelly and meat added to food….

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