WHAT DO YOU CALL IT? Part 3
Since we seem to be on a roll, here are a few more Caribbean favorites with which you may or may not be familiar.
This first fruit got me into so much trouble as a child. It grows on a palm tree that is loaded with “pickers,” those long thorns that could do great damage when they connect with skin. This fruit and its tree held a total fascination to me. When ripe they are yellow on the outside with a shell-like skin covering very sticky yellow flesh that you had to scrape off with your teeth. Getting the fruit out of the trees was often the subject of dares. The entire surface of this palm is covered in thorns.
One Sunday afternoon I disobeyed instruction not to cross the train line close to our home in Trinidad and Tobago. But the call from the fruit-laden Gru Gru Bef tree on the opposite side of the track was too much to resist.
Needless to say that even though my friends and I were successful in getting some of the fruit, we were left pretty scraped up and had enough thorns imbedded in extremities to require careful removal with tweezers. Thankfully that was declared punishment enough by my Mum. This fruit is called Banga in Jamaica.
Next is a herb that is a staple in my culinary life. Chadon Beni (Shadow Benny) is also called Recao or Culantro and has a very assertive flavor. It is different from its cousin Cilantro, although they have a similar aroma.
The leaves are long and serrated at the edges and are as fragrant as the roots of this plant. This is one of the main ingredients in the Puerto Rican staple, Sofrito. When in flower, a long stem grows out of the center of the plant and spiky flowers appear with seed buds in the center of the spikes. If left to go to full seed, this is one of the most self-reproducing plants that one can grow.
My absolutely favorite fruit is one that I haven’t eaten in decades. Balata is one of the sweetest and most juicy fruits I have ever encountered. The seed of this fruit looks just like the seed in a Mesple or Sapodilla. It also has a very similar consistency to Mesple. The 1-inch fruit with a shell covering similar to the Gru Gru Bef has a rather large seed surrounded by the sweetest, slightly grainy pulp. This hard-to-find fruit grows in heavily forested areas and is associated with pythons. Folklore reports that snakes guard its much sought after deliciousness.
Finally, in a nod to our farmers who are very often fisherfolk, here is a fish that I also have not had in decades. Called Cascadoo, Cascadura or Hassar, this is no ordinary fish. The outer covering of this river fish looks like ancient body armor. When cooked, the flesh has a sweetness to it that is unlike any other that I have tasted. Cascadoo is usually served curried with rice, dumplings or ground provision, such as dasheen, cush cush, tannia and sweet potatoes.
Have you had any of the above? Please share your experiences with me at [email protected].