BREADFRUITBetween 1780 and 1786 Jamaica suffered from alternating hurricanes and long periods of drought that destroyed crops. “Slave” provision grounds were hard hit and there was a major food shortage. The planters were concerned because they knew that without a reliable food source, slaves would die of starvation.

There was talk about a tree in the Pacific Islands that provided a source of ‘bread’ all year round. The planters offered large rewards to any captain who would bring back such a miraculous plant. Captain William Bligh, an experienced 33-year-old seaman, sailed from Portsmouth, England for Tahiti and Timor to collect seedless breadfruit plants and deliver them to Jamaica.

Five months and over 1000 plants later, Bligh set sail for the Caribbean nut two weeks into the voyage, the crew mutinied. They set Bligh and 18 crew members adrift an open boat and threw the breadfruit plants overboard. Some were even used to stone Bligh. The mutineers set a course for Tahiti, leaving Bligh with very little food, dependent on his pocket watch, sextant and his navigational skills for survival. Luckily for him they were outstanding.

Bligh was exonerated and sent on a second voyage to collect the breadfruit. This time, he managed to deliver more than 2,000 plants representing five different varieties to the Caribbean. On February 5, 1793, his ship, The HMS Providence, landed in Jamaica, stopping first at Port Royal and moving on to Port Morant where some of the trees were unloaded and planted at the Bath Botanic Garden where some of the trees remain today. Plants were also distributed to other parishes.

Bligh was awarded 1500 guineas by the Jamaican Assembly. The breadfruit grew naturally on Jamaican soil. Today, the breadfruit tree can be found all over Jamaica and enjoys strong ties to Caribbean cuisine. On that 1793 voyage, Capt. Bligh also introduced what we now call otaheite apples. Their name comes from their island of origin,iti, which in the 16th and 17th centuries was widely known as Otaheite.



ricenpeas“Rice and Peas” is the undisputed winner of the title “Most Eaten Jamaican Food”. Other Jamaican dishes like jerk chicken may be well known internationally, but rice and peas is the old faithful that we have every Sunday, that can accompany every meat dish known to man, that makes Jamaicans feel at home even when we’re far away.

The Jamaican version of this dish derived from the Akan cuisine Waakye and is made in a similar way except without millet leaves, baking soda and stews. There is no pepper nor thyme in the Waakye version. Thyme was introduced by the British in Jamaica, and Jamaicans started using pepper in their dishes.

African slaves played an active role in the establishment of rice in the so-called “New World” and African rice was an important crop from an early period. Rice and bean dishes were a staple dish among the peoples of West Africa, and they remained a staple among their descendants subjected to slavery.

In Jamaica, planters supplied slaves with weekly rations of salted fish and slaves agitated for the right to have and maintain small parcels of land as subsistence farms. The enslaved planted coconuts, rice, kidney beans, and gungo beans also called pigeon peas. They figured out a way to use all their crops, hence cooked rice and peas with fresh coconut milk, herbs and spices.

Why Sunday?

The ‘freed’ slaves were only granted one day from work , achieved  through rigorous negotiations with owners as many owners feared that allowing their slaves to go to church could make them able to read, which in their estimation was detrimental to the plantation. The Missionaries insisted that Sundays should be a day of worship and with mounting pressures from England, along with oftentimes subtle sabotage on the plantations,  the slaves were granted their request and a law was passed forbidding the slaves to work on Sundays and holidays. The act said in part….

“Article VI. We enjoin all our subjects, of whatever religion and social status they may be, to observe Sundays and the holidays that are observed by our subjects of the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith. We forbid them to work, nor make their slaves work, on said days, from midnight until the following midnight. They shall neither cultivate the earth, manufacture sugar, nor perform any other work, at the risk of a fine and an arbitrary punishment against the masters, and of confiscation by our officers of as much sugar worked by said slaves before being caught.”

The freed slaves would therefore use Sundays as the day of honor, sometimes having big gatherings after Sunday service to not only honor that day of rest, but for the preservation of the family, the socializing with neighbors and more importantly reaping the fruits of their harvest. It is from this tradition that Sunday was seen as the Family day, a day of thanksgiving where the best of everything was displayed , used and celebrated.

The dish is very nutritious. Rice is rich in starch, an excellent source of energy. Rice also has iron, vitamin B and protein. Beans also contain a good amount of iron and an even greater amount of protein than rice. Together they make up a complete protein,] which provides each of the amino acids the body cannot make for itself. Rice and beans are common and affordable ingredients, often available in difficult economic times.
Thanks to #NeoMakeba for original post.