The simple wooden table in front of me moans with produce. Some I know – mango, papaya, sweet potato, jackfruit – and some I don’t – bread nut (similar to a chestnut), soursop (a cinnamon apple) and mamey (a fleshy red fruit ).
There are aromatic cinnamon sticks, gnarled chunks of ginger, peanut-like shells containing tamarind, plump and shiny gourds, and five-sided star fruits.
There’s also a small, round yellow fruit with a bright red core: it’s nutmeg, which helped give Grenada, the Caribbean island I visit, its nickname, the Spice Island.
Grenada, although only 21 miles long and 12 miles wide, produces over 20% of the world’s nutmeg.
Nutmeg is such a valuable export that it is known as “black gold” and even features on the national flag.
I’m at the Belmont Estate, a sprawling 300-acre estate of fertile farmland that lies in the parish of St Andrew in the northeast of the island, experiencing some of Grenada’s bounty firsthand.
After telling me about the list of exotic foods grown here, Jason, an estate manager, hands me a brown-yellow oval pod and asks me to peel the skin off.
This reveals a slimy set of seeds that give off a light chocolate scent. Belmont, like other estates on the island, grows cocoa—another successful export—to be processed into chocolate in its on-site kitchen (tours available).
Lunch at the restaurant allows me to taste some dishes from this jewel of the West Indies.
In addition to Coconut Bake, a traditional bread made from flour and coconut, I try callaloo – a leafy spinach-like vegetable – steamed with garlic and onion; green banana and salted fish croquettes; cou-cou – a cornmeal dish similar to polenta – and a fish curry with “provisions” (vegetables including yams, cassava and potatoes).
Everything comes from a few miles or even meters away and tastes delicious. It’s an example of how Grenadians eat every day and a reason the island won last year’s inaugural title of Culinary Capital of the World.
Erik Wolf, founder of the World Food Travel Association, which launched the award, explains: “It helps champion destinations that are lesser known for their food. Each participating country had to prove that it met five categories, including culinary culture and culinary sustainability, which Grenada did very impressively.
Residents are delighted with this recognition. Belmont owner Shadel Nyack-Compton said: “We were blown away when we heard we had won. We are so excited that a small island like ours, without sophisticated gastronomy, can be recognized.
Later, I head to Grenada’s small and charming capital, St George’s, in the southwest – the route through the lush but winding and mountainous volcanic interior of the island. Pastel-colored houses cling to steep hillsides, lush flower bushes line the roadside, and trees groan with ripe fruits and vegetables, ready to fall, to be picked by the mona monkeys living in the forest.
The place names are a legacy of Grenada’s time as a British colony – it gained independence in 1974. As well as the street signs I walk past the National Cricket Stadium – people are mad about cricket here .
In St George’s, where captive boats float in turquoise water, I meet Belinda Bishop, a chef who shows me around the main market.
Some elements here are used in dishes such as the ones I’ve tried before. Others have more, shall we say, unique uses, like lumber, a tree bark that, when brewed with rum, is said to have properties similar to Viagra.
I’m more interested in a sponge-like mass called sea moss, touted as the next superfood. “That’s one of the reasons we all look so young here!” says Belinda, ‘because it’s packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients.’ You can buy it ready to use as a gel, which you add to food or water, so I buy several jars, hoping to lose ten years on my face.
We walk around for a few hours, tasting clove oil (good for toothaches), soursop tea (for sleeping) and an unusual but tasty porridge – made from condensed milk, tania (a kind of yam) and mint leaves – called tania log.
Before we part, Belinda gives me a necklace adorned with nutmeg, mace, cinnamon and ginger. Several weeks later, it still scents my house – a lovely reminder of Spice Island and its unforgettable food.
Five fun things to do in Grenada
1. Swim under a waterfall at Annandale Falls. One of the most visited falls in Grenada, it is set in a scenic and sheltered forest park. The area offers access to walking trails, an herb and spice garden, and a cafe bar serving rum to help you warm up after your swim.
2. Traveling down the gentle Balthazar River can seem like a lazy, winding experience. Make no mistake – the palm trees scroll by as you transition from a smooth to an inelegant leap from one set of rapids and whitewater to the next, making for an exhilarating run, wet and wild. Email Funtantastic Island Adventures for pricing.
3. The House Of Chocolate, in St George’s, is a small museum exploring the history of cocoa production on the island, as well as the techniques used. There is a cafe and a shop that stocks bars from local makers.
4. Sample local rum at Grenada Distillers Limited in Woodlands, which has been producing an extensive range under the Clarke’s Court label since 1937. Try anything from light rum to dark, spicy and flavored varieties (from lemon to passion fruit).
5. Visit the Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park, established in 2006 to restore the reef to marine life after Hurricane Ivan. From a circle of children to a journalist with a typewriter, the sculptures are made eerie by layers of seaweed.
Rooms at the True Blue Bay resort from £172 pn. For curated experiences with Belinda Bishop, visit flavorsofgrenada.gd; puregrenada.com
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