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Jamaican Foods-- Page One


Jamaican cuisine is healthy because it is made with many unprocessed foods, uses smaller portions of meats, has a high content of fish, beans, and vegetables, and, most of all, because it is an eclectic mix of the best that African, European, Indian, and Chinese cuisines have to offer. Moreover, Jamaicans have always been aware of the relationship between food and health. Perhaps Jamaican cuisine is healthy due to luck or happenstance. How else can anyone explain why some of the most highly rated medicinal herbs, e.g., ginger, garlic, all spice and hot peppers just happen to be the basic seasonings used in Jamaican cuisine.

In this section we will provide information on some of the benefits of some common Jamaican foods.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers
scotch bonnet peppers


The Scotch bonnet pepper is an essential ingredient of Jamaican cooking because of its distinctive flavor. It looks almost identical to a habanero pepper but it has its own unique flavor. To get the flavor of the scotch bonnet without the heat, which is mostly in the seeds, you can use the skin sparingly. Or use it whole in soups and remove it without breaking the skin after the soup is cooked. Scotch bonnet peppers are available at Jamaican food stores, but be careful and ask questions, because many times regular habanero peppers are sold as Jamaican scotch bonnet.

The Scotch bonnet (Capsicum chinense) is a variety of Chile Pepper, similar to, and of the same species as, the habanero. Habanero, which in Spanish means from Havana, is heavily cultivated in Mexico's Yucatan province, is the most intensely spicy chile pepper of the Capsicum genus. Unripe habaneros are green, but the color at maturity varies. Common colors are orange and red, but white, brown, purple, and pink are also seen. Typically a ripe habanero is 2–6 cm (1–2½ in) long. It is found mainly in the Caribbean islands, with a shape resembling a Scot's bonnet. Most Scotch bonnets have a heat rating of 150,000–325,000 Scoville Units.

Although habaneros are believed to have originated in Cuba, it is nonetheless an important part of cuisine in the Yucatán peninsula, where it is often served roasted as a condiment with meals. Approximately 1,500 tons are harvested annually in the Yucatán.

Other producers include Belize, Costa Rica, and some US states including Texas, Idaho, and California.

The Scotch bonnet is often compared to the habanero, as they are two varieties of the same species. Both the Scotch bonnet and the habanero have the characteristic thin, waxy flesh. They have similar heat level and flavor. Although both varieties average around the same level of heat, the actual degree of "spiciness" varies greatly with genetics, growing methods, climate, and plant stress.

 Pimento Berries (also known as allspice)

pimento berries (all spice)


Pimento is an essential ingredient of Jamaican cooking and the essential ingredient in jerk sauce. The wood was first used to smoke jerk in Jamaica to produce the characteristic flavor. Nowadays the berries serve as a good substitute. Dried pimento berries looks almost identical to whole black pepper but it has a unique flavor. Pimento is also a good home remedy for upset stomach in which case it is either chewed or crushed up and used to make tea. It is used in the preparation of beans not only because of its excellent flavor but because it is believed to reduce the flautuance caused by beans.

Pimento was discovered in Jamaica by Spanish explorers in 1509. The named originates from the Spanish 'pimenta' (pepper or peppercorn). Most people call the tree "pimento' and the berries 'allspice'. Because the pimento berry has the flavor and aroma characteristic of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper, all combined in one spice it is called allspice.

Pimento is used in sauces, pickling, commercial sausage preparations, and curry powders. It is also used in many dishes, including cakes. It is used to flavor barbecue sauces.



Coconuts are widely available in Jamaica and are consumed in a variety of ways. At early maturity the coconut is mostly used for the refreshing beverage encased in the kernel. At early maturity the "meat," or "flesh" is very soft and delicate and constitutes a thin layer on the inside of the kernel roughly an eighth of an inch thick. After the "water" is consumed, the flesh spooned out and consumed. At full maturity the coconut is used primarily to make oil. The "meat," the white part of the coconut is crushed and the oily liquid is extracted and distilled by boiling to remove water leaving a residue of oil. The crushed-up coconut is used in cakes and candy. Forget what you have heard about this main staple of the Jamaican diet. Coconut oil is, "rich in lauric acid, "which new research shows raises good type HDL cholesterol, lowering heart disease risk, Lauric acid is also anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antiviral, says lipid researcher Mary Enig, Ph.D., which also may help fight heart disease." (USA Today Sept. 26-28 2003)




People in Jamaica and St. Vincent roast breadfruit. In Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada, the favorite way is "oil down, that is steamed in coconut milk, while in the Leewards, they like it boiled. It can be turned into flour, which then can be used to make bread. Ripe breadfruit can be used to make breadfruit wine, patty, gizzada, pudding, cake, and punch.'



Jamaican foods: callaloo

You could say that Callaloo, a leafy vegetable, plays a role in the Jamaican diet that is similar to the role Spinach plays in the American diet. But that would understate the importance of callaloo in the Jamaican diet. And those who have had both agree callaloo has more going for it than spinach. Steamed callaloo is often served with breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is cooked with codfish and used in soups. And it is used increasingly in non-traditional Jamaican dishes such as quiche and omelets etc.

Callaloo is rich in nutrients including : iron and other minerals, vitamin C, flavonoids and other phytochemicals, 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.

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