Destinations · Cuisine · Caribbean
October 12, 2022 Words: Susan Hanson

5 Essential Spices in the Southern Caribbean

Get an authentic taste of the region with Seabourn.

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Take a peek in most kitchen pantries and you’re likely to find a variety of spices from the Southern Caribbean. European colonizers brought their favorite spices to the region, as did plantation workers from Africa and India. These flavorings were soon blended with indigenous red peppers and other herbs, giving a sweet, savory kick to Caribbean cuisine.

Seabourn visits a number of islands in the West Indies that harvest spices, most notably Granada (a.k.a., “The Spice Island”), where exotic aromas waft through the warm tropical air. Here are five fragrant essentials found in every Caribbean home.

Nutmeg
Grenada ranks second only to India in the production of this pantry staple. The nutmeg tree (a dark-leafed, tropical evergreen native to Indonesia) yields a small, yellowy fruit that, when left in the sun to dry, cracks open to reveal a single seed. The seed is then crushed into the piquant seasoning noted for its warm, woody flavor.

Dish It Up: Freshly ground nutmeg is used to enhance marinades and sauces, baked goods, and beverages such as rum punch. Grenadians whip it into heavy cream to make nutmeg ice cream, an absolute must-try.

Cinnamon
This is another spice with Asian roots—specifically, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka)—that is now harvested in Grenada. Considered “true” cinnamon and highly valued, it is derived from the bark of the Cinnamomum Zeylanicum tree as opposed the more common cassia tree, which grows in China and Vietnam. You can tell true cinnamon by its light brown color (cassia powder has a darker, reddish hue), while the sticks have a softer texture than the hard, thicker cassia sticks.

Dish It Up: Cinnamon is a popular topper for fried sweet plantains or mixed with paprika and ginger to liven up chicken and lamb dishes. Do like the Guadeloupeans and dip a cinnamon stick into a cup of creamy Creole hot chocolate.

Allspice
Although it sounds like a hodgepodge of every seasoning on the rack, allspice is made from the dried, unripe berry of its eponymous evergreen tree (Pimenta dioica) native to the West Indies and Central America. When ground, this aromatic spice tastes like a combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves, hence its name.

Dish It Up: Allspice kicks up the flavor of seafood, Creole sausage, stews, and other Caribbean dishes. It also is the key ingredient in the region’s iconic jerk seasoning, which is coated onto chicken or pork before being slow cooked on the grill or over an open flame. The jerk served on Antigua has a sweeter, less pungent taste than its famous Jamaican counterpart.

Cloves
Native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, cloves are the dried flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. Used whole or ground, this spice has a sweet, warm flavor and aroma that reminds many of the holiday season.

Dish It Up: If you see “goat water” listed on a menu, it is not a misspelling. The hearty stew—a mixture of goat meat, breadfruit, pawpaw, cloves, and other spices—is hugely popular in the Caribbean Sample some in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Turmeric
Curcuma longa, a flowering herb that is one of the oldest cultivated spices in southeast Asia, has a golden-yellow rootstalk that is crushed into powder to add color and a powerful, earthy quality to cuisine. What’s more, turmeric has long been used as an Ayurvedic remedy for everything from indigestion to unbalanced doshas; research studies have shown its anti-inflammatory properties and numerous other medicinal benefits.

Dish It Up: Turmeric is the key ingredient in Caribbean curry. You can find excellent curry in Trinidad and Tobago.

Spice up your travels on a Seabourn voyage to the Southern Caribbean. Taste Creole tapas in Dominica and learn how to make traditional fritters in Martinique. Shop for herbs and spices in Granada and make your own chocolate in the Dominican Republic.

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Nutmeg
Spicy Grilled Jerk Chicken
Many different colored rum bottles

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