Jamaican Food History

Jamaica is the third-largest island in Caribbean Sea, which is about 90 miles south of the region Cuba. Jamaica Island is made up of beautiful coastal lowlands, & the Blue Mountains.

Jamaica’s size & varied terrain allow for a diversity of growing conditions that generates a wide variety of crops. The northeastern part of Jamaica region is one of the wettest spots on the planet Earth with about 100 inches of annual rainfall. 

The beautiful island is also susceptible to hurricanes & suffered more than $300 million in damage when affected by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. 

Origin of Jamaican Food and Cuisine 

In the year 1492, Columbus landed in Jamaica. The Arawaks, (the original tribe in Jamaica), grew papayas, guava, & something called callaloo. The Arawaks produced peppers, peanuts, & beans as well. The Arawaks people heavily influenced the barbecue we all know and eat today. They cooked their meats & seafoods on sticks, sort of like how we cook a meat kebab today. 

Indian & Chinese influences have produced curries & chow meins part of the national menu. Fresh mangoes & pineapples, & bananas combine in desserts such as “matrimony”, a kind of fruit salad bound with thick condensed milk. 

Jamaica region is also home to some of the most celebrated rums & exotic blends, like the award-winning Tia Maria coffee liqueur. Blue Mountain coffee, Jamaica’s own famous drink, is considered one of the finest drinks in the world. 

African settlers also had a strong influence on the Jamaican cuisine and food. The Africans added to this mixture of cuisine cultures a lot of variety. The African people were known for making jerk pork especially in the parish of Portland. Today, jerks are easily available throughout the island, however, Portland has the title of ‘best jerk’. 

The Chinese food has also remained quite famous in Jamaica & can be found in several restaurants around the island. Another great influence on the Jamaican food and cuisine came from the Arabs. 

Their way of cooking has been greatly incorporated into mainstream Jamaican food, & flat bread and pulses (red peas) were also associated with their group. 

The Jamaican food and cuisine owes a lot to the creativity & ingenuity of the host of diverse settlers & the indigenous people. Jamaicans eat food and cuisines that are flavored with rich spices like ginger, nutmeg, & allspice (pimento). 

Allspice, which is the dried berries of the famous pimento plant, is native to Jamaica & an essential export crop. (This is quite different from pimiento, red pepper used in green olives.) Many food meals are accompanied by bammy, that is a toasted bread-like wafer dish made from cassava (or also yucca, pronounced as YOO-kah). 

With the stunning warm waters of the Caribbean Island Sea surrounding the whole region, seafood is a must-item for every Jamaican resident. Lobster, shrimp, & fish like red snapper, tuna, mackerel, & jackfish are in abundance. In-short Jamaican foods and cuisines are extremely rich in flavors and you should try Jamaican food once in your life.

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