The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives, yet it has also given us time to reflect on many aspects of modern life and begin making positive changes on a personal and communal level. One such positive trend has been the growing movement to eat more locally grown produce. “Eat what you grow” is a developing trend in the region and the world, and one which was made even more vital as we experienced the sudden and disconcerting interruption of the global supply during the pandemic. Eating what we grow and growing what we eat is a wonderful way for us to rediscover the connection to the land while enjoying delicious, home-grown, nutritious foods. Here are some examples of the types of amazing produce cultivated right here in T&T:
First brought to the islands from India with the arrival of the East Indian indentured labourers, the mango has become one of the most beloved fruits on the islands. The choices are immense with over seventy varieties grown on our soil.
Many Trinidadians and Tobagonians relish peppers, which is good news considering that they are packed with health benefits. Notably, the Trinidad Scorpion Pepper, native to Moruga, boasts a whopping 2,000,000 units on the Scoville Scale, making it one of the hottest peppers in the world!
Peas and Beans
What would Trini food be without pigeon peas, channa, kidney beans? These and other legumes are staple features of the diet in the “blue zones” of the world: areas known for the longevity of the local people.
Trinidad is home to some of the finest cocoa in the world. The famed Trinitario cocoa bean, prized for its superior flavour and used by almost all local chocolatiers, was originally developed here in the 18th century as a cross between two varieties of cocoa: the Criollo and Forastero. Research shows that dark chocolate is one of nature’s medicines and may even help to alleviate mental troubles such as depression and anxiety.
Local dishes always call for a healthy addition of fresh herbs and seasonings. Easy to grow and cultivate, herbs such as chive, chadon béni, and Spanish thyme play a key role in adding that delicious flavour to many of our most beloved foods.
Many leafy greens such as kale, lettuce, and spinach are packed full of vitamins and nutrients, and with the advent of hydroponics it has become easier than ever to grow these healthy and delicious greens right in our backyards.
Root vegetables such as cassava, yam, dasheen, and eddoes have long been used in many local dishes including our hearty soups and stews. Rich in fibre, these foods are filling, nutritious, and extremely versatile in their preparation.
A popular ingredient for many local dishes such as choka and buljol, tomatoes are surprisingly easy to grow and often yield a large harvest. Tomatoes are most plentiful during the hot Dry Season.
The spiky coconut trees, which are found throughout the islands, are one of the Caribbean’s most iconic fruit trees. Fresh coconut water is not only hydrating but also a wonderful source of antioxidants.
Our tropical islands possess the perfect climate for all kinds of delicious citrus fruits. Packed with vitamin C, fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and lemons are tasty and nutritious.
Photos: Shaun Rambaran