in the Islands
Bouquets of thyme,
parsley, celery, chives, sage and other herbs (locally
called seasonings), sweet and hot peppers,
ginger root and bay leaves, trays of allspice and cloves,
tied rolls of cinnamon bark (called simply
"spice" in Barbados)-- all this and more can be
found at open-air markets throughout the Caribbean,
including Road Town on Saturdays (above drawing by Dee
Carstarphen from Maverick
Nothing compares with a lively spice like
fresh that its threads of bright scarlet mace are still
clinging to the outside, waiting for the nut to be
freshly "ground" onto a frothy rum drink.
As we peer into a jar of spiced rum at
Cane Garden Bay, at what appears to be large and strange
roots, the term "spices" takes a somewhat
Maybe the cooks are not telling all their
A dish, a gumbo, a mystery, even a love
potion in the old calypso songs, Callaloo is emblematic
of Caribbean cooking. Garlic, scallions, thyme and a
Scotch bonnet pepper contribute to a combo that can be
used to season many Caribbean dishes. And the parsley-
substitute cilantro (coriander) is often added..
Sauteeing the seasoning in the cooking
oil is a handy medium for the transport of flavor to food
items, often in combination.
Bonnet Pepper. Another item grown in and
identified with the Caribbean is the Scotch
bonnet pepper, considered the hottest pepper in the
world (alongside the Mexican habanero
used in the Americas).
The Scotch bonnet pepper contributes its
fiery heat to world-famous jerk seasoning as well as its
distinctive, apricot-like aroma and fruit pulp.
Called Scotch bonnets for their wrinkled
crowns, these little chile peppers look like walnut-sized
lanterns, coming in a rainbow of colors.
When handling, wear gloves and don't
touch your skin or especially eyes. Neutralize skin
touches with sugar. They can be de-seeded to lessen their
impact. Or substitute a bird or jalapeno pepper.
See a recipe for Scotch
Bonnet Pepper Sauce (christophene can be
substituted for the cho cho squash).
Garlic. Garlic has
become a universal flavoring item. Garlic is highly
concentrated so a small number of cloves are often used. Roasted
garlic is more mellow.
and Chives. Scallions give an onion flavor.
The green tops can be used as a garnish.. Shallots are
frequently substituted in many dishes.
Chive sticks make a nice delicate
onion-based garnish. The West Indian chives have thicker
stems, but some of the flavor of shallots.
Onion, of course, is also a flavorful
vegetable, but must be distinguished from the basic
flavoring accenting the cooking oil.
One of the most widespread and popular culinery herbs in
the islands and elsewhere, thyme, with its pungent flavor
(which may increase upon drying), is said to bridge the
gap between milder island spices such as allspice and
nutmeg and the stronger hot peppers (see jerk seasoning).
Ginger can be added for an eastern taste,
sometimes replacing thyme.
or Cilantro (Coriander). Parsley is a
ubiquitous additional seasoning and/or garnish. In the
Spanish Caribbean, cilantro
traditionally is used like parsley with its lacy green
and heavily aromatic fresh leaves (which do not dry
Often called coriander in recipes,
although strictly speaking, coriander refers to its
seeds, with their sweet musky fragrance conveying the
herb's aroma, especially notable in Indian mixed spices
such as curry powder.
Utilizing the basics of garlic,
scallions, thyme and a chile pepper, this Barbados
seasoning used in Baxter's
Road Fried Fish adds onion, chives, parsley,
marjoram and allspice and a little salt. Process into a
thick paste and store in sealed containers (from Sky Juice and
From the days of sail and salt fish, the BVI's
Salt Island was
an important stop for the British Royal Navy. Salt-based
seasoning is still favored in the British and U.S Virgin
Islands and elsewhere.
is the recipe from the Maverick
Sea Fare (see
review) for seasoned salt: "Grind the following
in a mortar and pestle: 1/2 cup salt, 2 cut up cloves
garlic, 1/2 cut up medium onion, 1 stalk celery with
leaves, 1 sprig parsley, 2 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/4
tsp. cloves, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. thyme." Great
for dry marinades!