Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grenada + nutmeg: Inseparable

Quick, now: Name a use for nutmeg.

I'm willing to wager the vast majority of the people reading this post immediately answered, "Eggnog!"

And while the spice is indeed a vital topping for the Christmas beverage, it's used in lots of other things, too, from cookies to sausages. You'll even find nutmeg and its sister spice, mace--they're both made from the same fruit--in medicines and cosmetics.

You'll rarely find a place as passionate about nutmeg as the Caribbean island of Grenada. Islanders use the fruit's sweet-smelling shells to build garden paths. Women in markets sell strings of nutmeg to intrigued tourists. In fact, Grenadians are so fond of the pear-shaped fruit, they put it on their flag.

So what is it with Grenada and nutmeg?

The British introduced nutmeg trees to the island in 1782, and it turned out that Grenada has an ideal combination of soil and climate for cultivating them. They grew like mad and spread everywhere, becoming a significant part of the local economy.

But it wasn't all smooth sailing. Hurricane Janet in 1955 wiped out 75 percent of the island's nutmeg trees. Almost a half century later, Hurricane Ivan caused similar destruction. In both cases, islanders worked hard to revive the industry. Today, nutmeg trees are beginning to flourish once again.

When I was in Grenada recently, I visited an organic farm belonging to Maca Bana, a charming, family-run resort. The farm is a short drive from the resort, high on a hillside. Originally it was completely planted with nutmeg, but Maca Bana's owners have added lettuce and other vegetables for use in the resort's restaurant. In an unusual twist, the resort's guests are welcome to come to the farm and pick their own dinner ingredients, which they can cook up in their villa kitchen. They may also have the chance to meet Brian Godwin, the farmer who nurtures all this organic bounty and is more than happy to show it off for visitors.

Brian Godwin gives visitors a glimpse of nutmeg.

So if you ever go to Grenada, hit the beach, by all means. But to really get a "taste" for the islands, don't forget to hit the fields, too.

Photo credits:
Flag: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".
Brian Godwin: Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet, copyright 2009.

Disclosure: I travelled to Grenada as a guest of the Grenada Board of Tourism.


Jessie V said...

i can't wait to go - it looks so fantastic there!

Laura Byrne Paquet said...

It really is a lovely place, Jessie!

Stephanie said...

Lovely post, fantastic photo :)

LadyE said...

I've always loved the smell of nutmeg. I remember my mother always stored whole nutmeg in a plastic bag with a grater.

Anonymous said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................

Laura Byrne Paquet said...

Thanks for the compliment, Stephanie! And after seeing the beautiful photos on your blog, I'm doubly flattered. :-)

Laura Byrne Paquet said...

LadyE, I was listening to a radio show the other day that explained that smell connects us to our memories as no other sense can. I bet the smell of nutmeg brings back your mother's whole kitchen!