Friday, November 21, 2014

Eating Like The Locals In Saint Lucia

Some of the joys of traveling to a foreign country are for the opportunities to learn about the area's culture, visit historical places, eat local foods, see local crafts and meet the people.

St. Lucia Cathedral in Castries
Saint Lucia Cathedral in Castries, largest in the Caribbean

Beach and Ocean view from the Windjammer in St. Lucia
View from the Windjammer resort

St. Lucia is a volcanic island, very lush with plenty of sunshine, rain and nice tropical temperatures. The conditions are perfect to grow all sorts of fruit bearing trees and a variety of produce, as our island tour driver said if you go hungry in St. Lucia it is because you are lazy. On our island tour we could see trees full of fruit everywhere we looked and it seemed as if every family had their own garden, too.

View of the Pitons - Saint Lucia
View of the Pitons


Banana trees in a home garden - St Lucia
A typical home garden 

What do St. Lucian's eat?

Let me start by saying that I loved it all but I would because I love starchy foods, the more carbs the food has the more my taste buds like it and that is not necessarily good for me or my waistline. St. Lucian food is tasty, filling and many of them rich in carbohydrates but I was on vacation so I had to try them.

The list of fruits and foods St. Lucian's grow and eat is almost endless, including: bananas, fish, cassava bread, coconut water, soursop, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, and guava.

Local fruit vendor in St. Lucia

Bananas

I love bananas of all sorts and types but did you know there are over 1,000 types of bananas in the world! Bananas are divided into two types: bananas you can eat right away called dessert bananas such as the yellow bunch you buy at the grocery store, and those needing cooking before eating such as plantains.

St. Lucia grows 6 different varieties of bananas. There are banana fields and banana trees growing all over the island, it's no wonder Saint Lucia is a leading exporter of bananas in the Caribbean.

Banana trees in a Saint Lucia plantation
Banana plantation in Saint Lucia

Traveling along small roads in St. Lucia you will find many roadside stands selling fruits, homemade goods and local crafts. At one such place we stopped to buy a few bananas and learned a few facts about them. One fact became rather obvious after the first bite: they were very sweet and delicious. I learned that allowing the bananas to fully ripen while still on the plant gives them the most flavor and sweetness. Unfortunately for the rest of the world to enjoy bananas means picking them not fully ripe so they can make the journey to their final destination. Bananas at our stores will never taste as good or as sweet as the bananas found in St. Lucia.

With so many banana fields, it is no wonder green figs and salt fish is the national dish of St. Lucia. Green figs are actually unripe bananas. They are harder and taste more like potatoes with no noticeable banana flavor.

Green figs and Fish - typical dish in Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia's national dish, Green Figs and Salt Fish.

Green figs and salt fish is a hardy and filling meal eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We had it for lunch at the Castries market from one of several local vendors and sure enough it was full of flavor and filling. The dish comes with a variety of sides such as rice and others that I could not really tell what they were but I can say were savory. The fish that day was dolphin cooked with their local fish spice that tasted very good and fresh.

Local diner in Castries, St. Lucia
Local diner in Castries market, Saint Lucia


What else do Saint Lucian's do with bananas?


They make banana ketchup! It may sound strange but is actually tasty.

Here are some interesting historical facts about Ketchup:
  • Most people associate ketchup to mean "tomato ketchup".
  • Originally ketchup was made without tomatoes.
  • Ketchup may have started in Asia, or China or Indonesia. It was mostly a prickly fish sauce, not vinegary, more like a soy sauce.
  • Later the word ketchup meant a condiment sauce made primarily with vinegar bought in a bottle. 
  • Early types of ketchup were walnut ketchup and mushroom ketchup.
  • The first instance of tomato ketchup made from tomatoes was in Maine in 1814.
  • The word ketchup went through several word transformations, some of the previous names were: kechap manis, ketsiap, catsup, but in 1711 it became "ketchup".
  • In 1872 Heinz introduced their tomato ketchup at the Philadelphia Fair.
And as they say, the rest is history.

St. Lucia's banana ketchup has no artificial color or additives, is made completely from bananas with sugar, vinegar and local spices that give it a delightful Caribbean flavor. The most popular brand is Baron Banana Ketchup introduced at the 2013 international food industry competition placing in the top 5 in originality and quality.

Local Fish in Saint Lucia

If you like and enjoy fish then St. Lucia is the place for you. Our island tour took us through two fishing villages, Anse la Raye and Canaries. Both were charming and quaint even in the rain which caught up with us for a while.

Fishing village in Castries, Saint Lucia


Fishing village canoes floating in the ocean, Saint Lucia
Fishing canoes at the end of the day - St Lucia fishing village

The highlight was stopping at a local make-shift fish market where local fishermen were selling their catch. We browsed through the choices and after making our selection, for an extra 50 cents our fish were cleaned, ready for cooking back at our place.

Today's catch at a local fish village - Saint Lucia

Local fisherman cleaning today's catch - Saint Lucia
Fisherman cleaning our fish

We also stopped at a small local restaurant and ordered lunch-to-go of Green Figs and Fish. After snorkeling at Anse Chastanet, we ate our delicious lunch under palm trees and beautiful views. I highly recommend it.

Beach at Anse Chastanet, Saint Lucia
Anse Chastanet beach area


View from the beach at Anse Chastanet
View from the beach at Anse Chastanet

Eating like the locals in St. Lucia was a wonderful experience but I concluded one week is not enough time to sample all the variety of foods and fish available. I guess I need to go back and I hope you go as well, it is a beautiful place.

For suggestions on what to do, look at my post 5 things to do in St. Lucia.

I hope you enjoyed the information and photos, please like in G+ and Share with your friends.

Wishing you all Happy Travels in your neighborhood.

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