Some Common Plants of Jamaica
Mangos are the favorite fruit of most Jamaicans - with a great variety of Mangos growing across the island. Popular varieties include the Julie, East Indian, Stringy, Blacky, Number 11, and the Table Mango. Mango season is roughly from May to August. The parish of Westmoreland is know for it’s variety of mangos, and holds a yearly mango festival in the town of Delfland.
The papaya (called “Paw Paw”) grows in the wetter regions of the island. It is very popular in Jamaican cuisine, often served in fish dishes, or in deserts. Papaya is often used to treat common stomach ailments.
The Banana is very important to the history of Jamaica. This delicate tree grows across the northern parishes. The parish of St. Mary’s and Portland have huge commercial banana plantations, owned by companies such as Dole and Chiquita. There are a variety of bananas in Jamaica, which are cooked and eaten raw.
The coconut is used in Jamaican cuisine, as well as eaten raw. The liquid from the immature coconut (called a “jelly coconut”) is considered a very healthy and cooling drink.
Bamboo is an important building material across Jamaica. This member of the grass family grows in damp areas - and is harvested and dried for use in building houses and other structures.
The Ackee fruit is the national fruit of Jamaica. It is used in the popular breakfast dish, ackee and saltfish. The ackee is poisonous until it is fully ripe and opens. Tastes and looks very much like scrambled eggs when cooked.
A variety of cactus grow across Jamaica, especially in the southern parishes. St Elizabeth is known for it’s very large cactus, due to the dry climate and fertile (red) soil in the parish.
Noni is a medicinal fruit of Jamaica. It is fermented and turned into a tonic. The juice is thought to boost the immune system, and is exported to the US and Europe.
Coffee grows in the high mountains of Jamaica. The climate of the Jamaican mountains is perfect for coffee production. The Jamaican “Blue Mountain” coffee is considered the best in the world, selling for $60 a pound in the US.
Breadfruit is a favorite of Jamaicans. When cooked, it resembles the texture and flavor of bread. It is one of the highest yielding food plants, and was brought to Jamaica by William Blight, of the HMS Bounty, as a cheap food for West Indian slaves.
Ganja (Marijuana) was introduced by workers from India in the mid 1800s. It is traditionally used in Jamaican folk medicine, and is considered the largest cash crop on the island. Ganja is illegal in Jamaica, though smoked quite openly throughout rural Jamaica.
Guava is another popular Jamaican fruit. It is turned into jelly or juice. The fruit and leaves are used as a traditional stomach medicine. Guava fruit is also found to have the effect of lowering blood sugar.
Sugar Cane is the most important crop in the early history of Jamaica. The British developed jamaica for it’s sugar crops, and many slaves were brought from Africa to work in the sugar cane fields of Jamaica.