Drink It In

MSC Buon Gusto - - Contents - Irvina Lew

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.

Op­po­site: Pome­gran­ate juice. Above: Bazz Smooth­ies on Tor­tola

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