Drink It In
Fruit juices provide the quintessential
FOR MANY WHO CRUISE THE CARIBBEAN, the rst authentic taste of island avor occurs with that initial sip of a refreshing Caribbean fruit uice. Whether it’s served over ice at a port-front restaurant, a local market stall or in front of a private home — or whether it’s mixed with a little something to add further avor and spirit — the refreshing fruit uice drink is inextricably mixed with the oy of experiencing this wondrous place.
Squeezed from fruits that grow in profusion in the sunny, warm and humid regional climate, the juices are low cost and as commonplace as pure water. (In fact, coconut uice is so prevalent that its household name is “coconut water.”) The trees that produce these fruits are endemic throughout the community, promoted for agribusiness and integrated into the public landscape for their aesthetic beauty.
Coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) — with their large, spreading fronds that sway in the warm breeze — are considered one of the most beautiful of all coastal Caribbean fruit trees. The plant's history dates back thousands of years. It is alleged that before humans transported them, the rst coconuts arrived in the Caribbean via ocean currents on which the buoyant seeds floated across from Africa. And, though the coconut shell is hard and di cult to crack, one of the fruits’ three “eyes” is soft enough to pierce, almost as if it were designed for a drinking straw. The juice from the edible seeds of tender, young coconuts is naturally, albeit mildly, sweet; some call it nutty or astringent. Whether it’s called juice or water, most agree that it’s refreshing — and healthy.
So is lime juice, the sour squirt of citrus most identified with a tropical, distinctively Caribbean taste. The vernacular use of the word “limey,” a slang term for British people, once related back specifically to 19th-century British sailors in the Caribbean who drank lime juice in an e ort to prevent scurvy. Medical o cers in the Royal Navy noticed that scurvy improved when the sufferer ate citrus fruits, so they provided stashes of local limes and added lime juice to their daily grog ration.
Vitamin C-rich citrus juices are universally available in the islands, and it’s typical to be given the choice of one individual juice or blends of two or three, including grapefruit, pomelo, lemons, oranges and tangerines. Today, the Caribbean citrus industry is so widespread that it has developed into a major export business with fruits that line supermarket shelves in the United States. Other truly tropical crops — wax apple, mango, papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, pomegranate, mamey — are all juice-friendly, though some are enhanced by adding more liquid such as water, lime juice or sweetened condensed milk.
One of the most refreshing Caribbean juices comes from the exotic, green, oval-shaped, prickly-skinned soursop or guanabana (Annona muricata), which tastes like a cross between a strawberry and pineapple, but with a creamy, custardlike texture. That texture may explain why it’s also known as wild custard apple. Typically, this nutrient-rich fruit is made in an electric blender or strained in a juicer, though there are
cooks who use simpler tools such as a hand-held mesh bag or food mill. Most thin the resulting juice with sweetened condensed milk or add some sugar or honey and a touch of vanilla to taste, and serve it over ice.
Passion fruit ( edulis) is widely popular as a unique and sweet juice throughout the Caribbean. The esh easily blends into liquid and the seeds, when strained and planted, grow into climbing vine fences profuse with intricate owers that result in abundant fruit. Spanish missionaries, claiming that the ower’s appearance could symbolize the Passion of Christ, gave the fruit its name; subsequently, they used this household staple as a teaching tool to convert indigenous people to Christianity, pointing to the three stigmas as the three nails, the ve stamens as the ve wounds, the ve petals and ve sepals as the ten apostles in Gethsemane, the corona as the crown of thorns and the purple petals as the purple robe the Romans used to mock “the King of Kings.”
Juicing advocates say the health bene ts of raw, natural juice made from Caribbean homegrown fruits are practically infinite. Some declare that nutrient-rich juice helps prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer and various inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Some go even farther, arguing that juices can cure hangovers, detox, cleanse, even enhance the libido. Juices from colorful, antioxidantrich fruits — such as pomegranates — are said to reduce wrinkles, protect against sun damage and minimize inflammation, while their phytochemicals are said to help stop the growth of aromatase, one of the major enzymes responsible for breast cancer growth. Add a splash of almond milk or coconut water — which is packed with simple sugars, electrolytes, and thirstquenching minerals — and, they say, you’ll optimize your health quotient.
Of course, beyond their potentially positive medical attributes, Caribbean juice combinations are tasty, too. Other indigenous Caribbean flavorings can enhance a purée; consider a sprig of cilantro, a pinch of nutmeg or some grated ginger.
Once home, fruit juices can keep the spirit of the region alive in your fridge — a delicious, easy and practical way to incorporate the taste of the Caribbean into everyday, post-vacation life. Pour over ice, sip and enjoy
Other indigenous can enhance a purée; consider a sprig of cilantro, a pinch of nutmeg or some grated ginger.
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