Gay Globe Trekker

Caribbean Goes Organic

Coming Up: Courtesy of a Bon Appétit assignment, Jon Paul warms up to memories of an organic Caribbean.

Because winter mornings in my oddly under-heated ground floor living quarters can be chilly, I’ve developed a trio of survival tricks— cuddling up with Frida, huddling under Finish mohair blankets, and boiling a pot of steel oats.  Today, I add warm memories to that list courtesy of Bon Appétit magazine and my tremendous editor and friend Dana.  The publication sent me to the Caribbean to cover an emerging trend of hotels and resorts working with local, organic farms to source the freshest ingredients.  Below is a tasty excerpt from the magazine about my experience at Jake‘s in Jamaica and Rosewood Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda, but click here to read much more.  True foodies should pick up a print edition (yes, those do still exist) since featured recipes from the trip are only available in hard copy!  And if your travels take you to other Caribbean ports-of-call, don’t miss this helpful blog post on  Wishing you a warm—and green—holiday.

Excerpt from Bon Appétit January 2011:

The fresh cucumber juice at Jake’s, a bohemian-chic hotel on Jamaica’s Treasure Beach, has a grassy taste and a tangy kick of spice that lingers on the back of my tongue. It’s a fittingly refreshing welcome drink. “What’s its secret?” I ask Dougie, the 60-something caretaker at the poolside bar. From inside a thatched hut displaying the requisite Bob Marley photo, he smiles knowingly. “Local cucumbers and ginger. Freshest you can get, mon.”

This enthusiasm for fresh, local, organic food is by now a well-established mantra in the food world, but it’s late in coming to the Caribbean. Agricultural production in the region has actually declined with the boom of tourism, and farmers have left the field for lucrative jobs in the hospitality industry. Until recently, low food prices made it easy for residents of Caribbean islands to buy necessities from overseas—the region now imports food at a staggering annual cost of nearly $3 billion. Even on large islands like Jamaica that are still teeming with farmland, bad roads and high prices make fresh local food a last resort for the booming resorts. Complicating matters even further are inter-island trade restrictions: Chances are, a mango in the British Virgin Islands arrived frozen on a plane from the United States, rather than fresh off a boat from nearby St. Lucia.

But there’s a seismic culinary shift going on in the Caribbean, to source more produce locally, and when possible, organically. Increasingly, guests with sophisticated palates—accustomed to enjoying organic food at their local farmers’ markets—are demanding more from their Caribbean food experience.

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