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Purely Dominica

Purely Dominica

My wife Ruth and I have been visiting Dominica ever since 1987 and we have purchased land and built a house in Calibishie. We will retire to live in that house in 2008. We’ve been keeping a list of fruits and vegetables that grow here and which we can identify. At this writing, the list is 75 items long – and we’d wager that some Dominicans could easily add to the list – and we’re hoping to learn, too. But here, in alphabetical order, is our list (the asterisks indicate that there are varieties of the fruit or vegetable).




List of Fruits and Vegetables in Dominica

Almond, anise, avocado, banana, basil, bay leaf, breadfruit, callalou (the young leaf of dasheen, but eaten separately from the root), carrot, cashew nut, cashew plum, cassava (careful! This must be properly prepared or else it is poisonous; it had been a staple of South American Indian diet when the Caribs arrived.), castor, celery, cherry (not the same as the European/American cherry), chives, christophine, cinnamon, cocoa, coconut*, coffee, corn, cucumber, dasheen* (in at least three colors, with different taste and texture), eggplant, figs (not a true fig, but a separate tiny variety of banana, sold in the US as “ladyfinger bananas – they taste a bit different), ginger, gooseberry, grapefruit, green pepper, guava, hot pepper, jelly (the young coconut with clear “water” and soft flesh), kanip (outwardly these look like green grapes; they’re sold in plastic bags on the street in Roseau), karambola (this is “star fruit” and there are both sweet and tart varieties), lemongrass, lettuce, lime (sometimes called “lemon” locally), mango* (the cultivated or “Julie” variety is the best), mint*, noni (the health juice is made from the fruit of this Carib “healing plant”, and its leaves make tea), nutmeg, okra, onion, orange*, papaya (also called “paw-paw”), parsley, passion fruit (mmmm! Wonderful!), peas (the wild ones are called “pois sauvage” and “bogasou”), pepper, pineapple, plantain, plum (different from the European/US variety), pomegranate (“Chinese apple”), pomerac (or “maimi apple”, it tastes like a pear), pomsitta, potato, red banana (tastes the same, but is much larger), scallion, sea lemon, sea moss (makes a great drink – this is the only sea plant in the list), season pepper, sorrel (this flower is used to make the Dominican Christmas drink; usually red, but there is a rare white variety too), soursop, spinach (not the European/US variety, but used the same way), sugar cane, sweet potato, sweetsop, tania (perfect as a potato substitute, and the fritters taste like potato pancakes or “latkes”), tea, thyme, tomato, vanilla, watermelon, and yams*.


Collectively, dasheen, plantain and tania in all their varieties are served as “provision”.


The cashew is amazing. The nut grows outside of the fruit. As American, I’d only been familiar with salted cashew nuts from a can or jar. I had no idea that the nuts had to be coaxed from their shells by roasting. And I didn’t even dream that there would be a cashew fruit. The fruit hangs down from the tree with the nut at the bottom. The cashew “plum” fruit can be eaten skin and all; there are no internal seeds, and boy-oh-boy is it ever juicy (you’ll need a napkin) and deliciously sweet!

It is hard to go hungry with this abundance. All may not be native (the coconut and breadfruit aren’t; remember Captain Bligh’s mission on the Bounty?) but they’re found in Dominica now. The soil is fertile and rainfall plentiful; something is always in season. And, in addition to this vegetarian list there are edible land and stream animals, fowl, and seafood of all kinds. Have we found Eden?

This post was guest blogged by Dan Tanner

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Comment by Dan
2007-07-19 00:27:48

My mistake, the pomerac is not the mami apple but rather is the Malay apple. It too was brought to the Caribbean by Captain Bligh.

Comment by Jen
2007-07-19 07:32:29

Nice post, Dan!

The variety of fruits and vegies are amazing here, aren’t they?

Sorry we still haven’t made it over…

Comment by Dan
2007-07-25 20:03:41

Sometime aster I posted this article I received an e-mail about my post from a nice lady named Alicia, who was born in Dominica but who emigrated to the USA a long time ago. She wrote:

“I read your blog about the different foods in Dominica. You are not even close to identifying all the foods available. The best way to do this is to find the very old folks in the villages; they would no doubt recount stories on all the various foods.

Many foods I ate whilst growing up that you did not mentioned. Since you have me reminiscing, I will list those that I can remember. Some I ate but have forgotten the names. Add these to your list:

Next time you visit ask anyone about the fatpoke; (it is used as a hedge in the US: it has a black or brown fruit, which is absolutely delicious; googlue; cashima; seagrapes; farine; poir-doux? (means sweet peas); aloes;( same used in the US as a moisturizer, can be eaten with salted cod -fish); mammi-apple; apricot; (and they are nothing like the small ones in the US.They are huge, grow on very huge trees, and are extremely fleshy. Very good juice when blended-also called zabuico?), watercress; (the very best), seamecoutoi or worm grass,( used for tummy aches); pomecoolie; (the leaves are used as a refreshing drink, and the yellow fruit with reds seeds eaten as a fruit- incidentally, I attended a workshop here in the US and that very leaf and fruit were identified as poisonous – I was amazed since we grow up eating them with no ill effect; koclyia, used as a refreshing drink; orange leaves and lime leaves;(make excellent teas; coubarwe- I am not sure if the younger folks would know this- but they grow in a brown hard shell in the forest, on tall tress- they smell awful but taste great). Hope that helps with your list.”

Wow! Quite an amazing and informative comment! I did not explicitly post that I know I’m learning, and have far to go. We have learned from neighbors and friends. One friend is one of 14 kids whose mother was widowed when her husband was lost at sea while fishing for a living. He and his siblings literally survived on such edibles. Another friend and neighbor is 87 and has been very helpful — he makes tea from many, many different plants. We did not know that you can also make tea from lime and orange tree leaves, and plan to do it when we return. I forgot that I’ve eaten Dominican apricots; they should have been on my list. I have eaten sea grapes elsewhere, but had not seen them in Dominica myself. I know the mammi-apple, and that it was brought from Polynesia. I had eaten one, but never saw the tree, in Dominica. There is a photo at

Thank you again, Alicia.

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