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Food

On The Coconut Trail In Jamaica

By Iris Brooks
Published July 10, 2008

According to folk wisdom, coconut has almost as many healing properties (antiseptic, bactericidal and aphrodisiac) as it does culinary uses.

Beyond its luscious taste in tropical drinks, its nutritional content (a coconut is said to have as much protein as a quarterpound of steak) and its fragrant oil, the allpurpose and all-important coconut—which also provides material for roof thatching, shampoo, fuel, furniture, buttons, and bracelets—is an inviting symbol of the island of Jamaica.

 

While I have enjoyed spicy and sweet coconut curries in Thailand and sipped delicious, thick coconut smoothies in Hawaii, most recently I was on the coconut trail in Jamaica. We piled into a white Jeep and drove around this third-largest island in the Caribbean (about the size of Connecticut) with our eyes scanning for coconut as we navigated past goats, boats, horses and egrets, noting shacks that offered unusual pairings: ice cream and hair gel, bar and bicycle repairs—even a restaurant/car wash.

 

“Jellymen” sold coconuts along the roadside, which was mostly devoid of standard signage, although we did pass one reading “Welcome To Western Consciousness,” and another round, red and white sign promoting “silence” as we drove south to Jake’s, a boutique property named after a parrot. Jake’s—where you can mingle with the locals on Treasure Beach—has funky décor and great food (delicious coconut vegetable stew) and prized piña coladas (made by Dougie at the outdoor bar), along with a saltwater pool and a brand new open-air Driftwood Spa featuring local healing herbal teas such as cerasee (a creeping herb with yellow blossoms that helps settle the stomach) and treatments with coconut oil. Back on the road, after a series of steep switchbacks that took us high above the sprawling city of Kingston, we were embraced by the cool air and lush green foliage of the Blue Mountains. The alluring Strawberry Hill compound is filled with antique Jamaican décor such as four-poster mahogany beds, and vintage photos of musicians who have worked with Chris Blackwell, the legendary record producer and founder of Island Records and Palm Pictures (and a recent convert to organic farming and rum producing) who is also the owner of Island Outposts—the intimate hotels that cater to individual needs, and the alternative to the man