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Purely Dominica

Purely Dominica

lima beans

Editor’s note: I’m not a complainer. Really, I’m not. But having lived my first 68 years in the USA, I find that things being different take me some getting used to. Understand, please, I’m not asserting that “different” is wrong. It’s probably right for here; only I’m unused to it.

The Dominican Difference #2: When to eat Lima beans. Here in Dominica they’re called “butter beans” and people let them become hard, brown mature seeds before they gather them.

When they are hard brown and dry they must be soaked a long time before cooking or cooked in a pressure cooker in order to make them soft and palatable. I understand why it’s customary to gather dry beans here. They are not grown in patches, and it is seldom that enough can be gathered for one meal, especially a family meal. And, many Dominicans, especially in days past, had no refrigeration, meaning only dry beans could be stored.

In the USA these beans are called “baby limas” when they are small and green, and “lima beans” when they are large but before turning dry and brown and hard. After they turn brown, they’re called “navy beans”, because the navy could store those in bags. Trust me, the baby limas and limas are delicious. They can simply be boiled for a short time. Serve them with butter. For an extra delicious treat, take some sweet corn off the cob and boil the kernels with the beans. The dish is called succotash.

We like these beans so much that I gathered some seeds in the wild and we planted them. Placed in a pot, they sprouted overnight! I half expected to see a giant atop a beanstalk. We planted a row of them along wires we strung between poles so that now we have a “butter bean” crop.

Pretty much goes the same for wild peas (“bougasu” in Patois; “pois sauvage” in French). They are delicious raw in salads when still green, although they can be stored or used as seeds when brown. The pea plant has a pretty little flower, from which the peacock gets its name. Look carefully at the flower and you’d easily see the bird’s body and tail fan. One pea variety has a pretty reddish leaf and potted makes a nice house plant; I suppose its peas are also edible.

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pot-herbsPhoto by thomas pix

It seems that our small island culture most popular flavorings are sugar, salt, ketchup and mustard. The closest thing resembling culinary herbs on our plate is the sprig of parley,which at most times is perceived as a garnish!

Yet as gardeners and most of us know that there is are lots of flavors and nutrition that come with the use of culinary herbs. Adding herbs to your food give you the best of both worlds – concentrated nutrition with a whole world of health benefits as well as a variety flavors beyond salt and pepper. There is no question that herbs bring a depth of flavor and added nutrition to almost any meal.

Just as vegetable gardening, culinary herbs can also be very rewarding. In addition to the enjoyment of a wonderful variety of flavors, making use of homegrown herbs in the kitchen is a great way to enhance your wellbeing.

I’d personally love to see fresh garden-grown herbs become a larger part of every Dominican diet, let’s go back to the diets our grandparents and their parents grew up on. Where everything was grown and produced locally. Also I’d especially love to see kids more exposed to the variety of flavors and nutrients available in culinary herbs. I know there are lots Dominican parents who teach their kids the importance of eating health; but in a society where everybody wants everything quick-to-go we’re slowly losing our kids to the fast-food menus.

Remember, it’s the little things that we do each day that keep us healthy. Adding herbs to our food regularly is a better approach than just thinking of using strong herbs when we’re sick.

Here are some culinary herbs that can be grown in the ground, in pots, or even in small containers on the windowsill that get plenty of sunshine:

Note: Some herbs should be used with caution, especially if pregnant or nursing. Please check with your healthcare practitioner before using herbs for medicinal purposes.


Health Benefits: Used as a cough remedy; considered antifungal and antibacterial. A primary constituent, thymol, is the main active antiseptic ingredient in Listerine mouthwash.
Culinary Uses: Savory, very versatile. Used in soups and stuffings, as well as marinades for meat, fish, and poultry.


Health Benefits: Antimicrobial, antifungal, antiparasitic; has antioxidant effects. Traditionally used for coughs, colds, and mild fevers.
Culinary Uses: The “pizza herb.” Used in tomato sauces, and to flavor fish and meat.


Health Benefits: Has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Used traditionally for minor digestive complaints, sore throat, and headaches.
Culinary Uses: Mixes well with cheese; traditional in Italian dishes. Commonly added to stuffing, sprinkled on turkey and pork. Tasty in bread, as well as bean or pea soups.


Health Benefits: Used traditionally as a memory aid and to help concentration. Also for joint pain, sore muscles, and minor digestive problems. Antioxidant, antifungal. Currently being studied for its anti-cancer properties.
Culinary Uses: Herb used with roast lamb, chicken, pork, vegetables, cheese, and soups.


Health Benefits: Extracts of the leaves are antiviral and antimicrobial. Traditionally used for coughs, colds, and bronchitis. Added to a balm for cold sores.
Culinary Uses: Has a slightly bitter, minty taste. Can be used sparingly for salads, mixed fruits, vegetable dishes, stews, and marinades.


Health Benefits: Can aid digestion by relieving intestinal gas. Helps relieve bad breath.
Culinary Uses: Used with pickles, seafood, salads, cottage cheese, breads, soups, and vegetable dishes (cucumbers, cauliflower, beets, etc.).


Health Benefits: Antimicrobial. Traditionally used to treat indigestion, loss of appetite, and joint pain.
Culinary Use: Used to flavor meats, fish, vegetables, and rice. Popular in Mexican, Asian, South American, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisines.


Health Benefits: More than a decoration on your plate! Mild diuretic. Chew on parsley for fresh breath. Supports digestion; helps relieve bloating and gas.
Culinary Uses: Sprinkle on fish and chicken. Used in vegetable dishes, soups, stews, and tomato sauce.


Health Benefits:Basil has demonstrated anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Culinary Uses:It is very versatile in the kitchen, a wonderful addition to soups, sauces, fish, chicken, vegetables, and meats.

Readers: Are there any culinary herb gardening tips you would like to share? Favourite recipes using herbs? Please share them in the comments below. Lets inspire and encourage each other to grow and enjoy healthy, delicious food with unique flavors that can only come from herbs.

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Dominica local food produce.jpg

In our quest for eating healthier foods, we are advised to eat low-saturated fat foods, less sodium, more fiber, more complex carbohydrates and lower calories. The foods that are most promoted are usually imported ones to us in the Caribbean, since more is known about them than our local foods. Therefore, we seek out whole grain cereals and breads, fruits such as American apples, plum and grapes, and vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. How do our local foods compare?

Most people know the adage:  â€˜An apple a day keeps the doctor away!’ This is probably because the American apple has fiber to facilitate gut health and rid the body of waste. But do you know that one guava fruit has four (4) times the amount of fiber, slightly more potassium and 19 times the amount of Vitamin C as an American apple? In comparison to a whole bunch of grapes, 1 guava has 25 times more Vitamin C, four times more fiber and about the same amount of potassium. Likewise it would take 15 American apples to supply the Vitamin C content of just one West Indian Cherry!

Cranberry juice has become very popular because of its benefits to bladder health. But have you considered the benefits of Coconut water which has less than half the calories, and appreciably more potassium than cranberry juice? A glass of cranberry juice will provide about 150-200 calories, while the same glass of coconut water contains only 50 calories while giving 400mg potassium compared to the 60mg from cranberry juice.

For those of you concerned about the sodium content of coconut water, be assured that a single glass will provide only 60mg sodium compared to 700mg in V8 canned vegetable juice. Also, be assured that coconut water has no fat.

The fat of the coconut resides in the jelly and will thus be found in coconut milk, but there is no cholesterol since the coconut is of plant origin and cholesterol is only found in foods of animal origin. This means that butter has cholesterol, but coconut milk, like vegetable margarines, is free of cholesterol. Moreover, the traditional way of cooking with coconut milk for flavor is better than using margarine, which is often substituted in porridge, rice and peas, and soups. A tablespoon of coconut milk has only 38 calories and 4g fat compared to 111 calories and 11.5g of fat in the same amount of margarine.

Also the fat in coconut is healthier for the body than margarine fats. Two other fats that are often mislabeled are the Ackee fruit and the Avocado Pear. Neither has any cholesterol and the fat is monosaturated – the same type of fat that we pay so much for in Olive Oil

Admittedly, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts, like other vegetables, will provide Vitamin C, minerals, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals, but they are no match for Callaloo in terms of calcium, iron or Vitamin A (Beta carotene).  Callaloo has more than four times the amount of iron, with more than twice the Vitamin A of the American vegetables. Whole grain cereals are indeed a good source of fiber, but calorie for calorie our provisions are equally beneficial.

The Irish Potato, whole wheat bread, and whole corn provide the least fiber per serving. Those of better value are whole brown rice, Green Banana and Sweet Potato, providing 1.5g per serving of about 70 calories. Richer still is whole oats at 1.96g, but topping the list is our local Breadfruit at 2.45g of fiber for a serving of 2 slices.

So next time you reach for foreign produce in the supermarket, remember our local produce is best. For you ex?pat folks, next time you see Caribbean produce, consider trying something different; it is better for you. And that’s without even considering the amount of toxic sprays, waxes, and unnecessary plastic and polystyrene wrapping that adds to the polluting of our bodies and our precious ecosystem.

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Dr. Miranda Fellows, Director of Carib Wellness in Nevis and can be contacted at 869 469 2147 and 869 466 9355.

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