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In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in Jamaica, staking claim to the land owned by the Tainos, also known as the Arawak Indians. Since then, this tropical paradise has been home to many different cultural groups and settlers, including Spanish, British, Chinese, Indian and Arabic settlers. Jamaican food is a direct result of the rich blend of heritages and culinary styles.

Food Paradise 

Jamaica’s key ingredients are as vibrant as the land itself, providing colorful fruits such as breadfruit, apples, mangoes, oranges, and the national fruit, the ackee- all introduced when the British conquered the island in 1655. As the northeastern part of the island is one of the wettest spots on the planet with approximately 100 inches of rainfall each year, the nutrient-rich soil also aids in the production of guava, pineapples, and bananas. Jamaican food is notorious for the complex flavors created by a medley of spices, such as ginger, nutmeg and allspice, the spice made from dried berries from the pimento plant. This waterlocked nation has the pick of seafood, including lobster, shrimp, and fish such as snapper, tuna, mackerel and jackfish. Meat from animals such as goat and chicken are also incredibly popular on the island, and are considered essential parts of the most traditional Jamaican recipes.

Years ago, before the invention of a coal fire and stove, the Arawak natives of Jamaica invented the spit-roasting method of cooking fish and meat on a device called the ‘barbacoa’, a wooden grate that stood on four sticks over a slow-burning fire. These days, the Jamaican people have developed this method of cooking even further, curing and cooking the meat either dry or wet-rubbed with a blend of spices. This is known as jerk, the quintessential cuisine in Jamaica. Considered a “soul food”, jerk is widely beloved for the complex explosion of flavor and health benefits.

Aside from jerk pork, chicken, fish, and sausage, Jamaicans have a few favorite dishes that have become synonymous with the island. Curry goat, for example, was first brought to the island in the 17th century by East Indian indentured servants to the British settlers. This succulent goat dish is flavored with curry, thyme, and garlic, and is often served over rice and beans. Oxtail is another favorite in Jamaica- a slow-simmered, hearty stew filled with sauteed vegetables, beans, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and paprika. For sweet tooths, plantains are often fried with brown sugar, maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla extract and served as a quick and easy dessert.

A Religion of Peace and Love 

In 1930, a religious and political movement was sparked in Jamaica and began to spread around the world. Rastafari is a combination of Catholicism and mysticism, and promotes prayer, meditation, and night-long drumming ceremonies (bingis). For many devout Rastafarians, diet is a big part of their ritual and practice.

Most Rastafarians place an emphasis on the natural way of being, even down to the food. Following rules laid out in the Holy Bible, many abstain from pork or shellfish, and many are even vegan or vegetarian. This meat-free diet encourages natural, organic crop growth and sways away from the use of chemicals or additives. Above all, Rastafarian’s ascribe to what is known as the “two great commandments”– love of God and love of your neighbor. Jamaica is a breathtaking island, with tender and loving people. Every act they commit is done with care, love and peace, and it shows even into their food.

Countries in Region Kingston, Ocho Rios, Negril, South Coast, Montego Bay, Port Antonio
Population 2.961 million
Regional Flavor Profiles Herbal Spices, Smoky, Sweet
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