21 May 2024

The Carenage, Grenada
Paradise on a plate
Spicy Grenada is packed with fun, flavour and friendly locals, and TV chef Rosemary Shrager found it very much to her taste
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ou'd think that being a chef, I'd want to escape the kitchen while on holiday – but the opposite is true. I jump at the chance to experience new flavours and gather inspiration. And where better to tickle your taste buds than in Grenada? The island is well-known for its zesty spices and self-sufficiency – the only food it imports is milk.

It is known as the 'Island of Spice' because of the production of nutmeg and mace, crops of which it is one of the largest exporters in the world. Interestingly though, nutmeg was introduced to Grenada by chance. In 1843 a merchant ship called in on its way to England from the East Indies. The ship had a small quantity of nutmeg trees on board which were left in Grenada - and this was the beginning of Grenada's nutmeg industry that now supplies nearly 40 per cent of the world's annual crop.
Pink Gin Beach, Sandals LaSource Grenada
Spice heaven, and all grown locally
Autumn heralds guavas, sweetsop (sugar apples) and soursop (similar to pawpaw), and then there is the temptinglynamed mammee apple, which is a Caribbean version of a peach. I stayed in the southwest of the island at Mount Cinnamon on Grand Anse Beach, near the charming town of St George. It offers well equipped self-catering villas, each with its own terrace and wonderful views of the bay. You can cook your own supper, but the bubbling restaurant scene is difficult to resist. Beach bars abound. I especially liked the Beach Cabana at Mount Cinnamon, where they serve fabulously strong cocktails made with local rum at all hours of the day and night.
Meat and fish are plentiful and, because the soil is very fertile, the vegetables, fruit and salads are the glossiest you will ever see. Grenada's seasons are similar to our own, which means that spring brings cauliflower, broccoli and pumpkins. Exotic fruit - mangoes, star fruit, passion fruit, melon and skin-up, which is like a lychee - are the stars of the summer.
"It is known as the 'Island of Spice' because of the production of nutmeg and mace."
Grenada consists of the island ofGrenada itself and six smaller islands in the south-eastern Caribbean. People come across from the nearby islands to enjoy a weekly bonfire on the beach at Mount Cinnamon, at which local musicians play. This is the Caribbean at its best. Just beware of those generous drinks measures if you want a clear head in the morning.

The restaurant Yolo (which is text speak for 'you only live once') specialises in sushi and Asian cuisine. I order plums, mangoes, cherries andm avocados, all picked that day. The fish is as fresh as can be - so the tuna tartare, its signature dish, almost leaps off the plate.
"Even the paths are made of crushed nutmeg shells. A fitting tribute to this fragrant and friendly island."
The island's fabulous produce at St George's market
The next day, I watch a fish cookery demonstration at Mount Cinnamon: a traditional dish of kingfish marinated in coconut, ginger, lime, spices, peppers and chives, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over a wood fire, and served with delicious breadfruit chips. If you want to mingle with Grenadians, there is nowhere better than a rambunctious food market. St George's market brims with local spices and everything else that is grown on the island.

In a 17th-century working plantation - a colonial house and estate - you can witness the crops of fruit, exotic flowers and spices in their regimented glory. Here, I learn to cook the Grenadian national dish, oil down. This is a hearty, one-pot meal with salted meat, chicken, breadfruit, callaloo - which is like spinach - and dumplings. The whole lot is stewed in coconut milk.

Delicious! The food odyssey continues in the evening when I visit BB's Crabback Caribbean restaurant, overlooking the harbour. My favourite place to eat on the beach is La Sagesse, on its own strip of sand from which you can swim in a bath-temperature sea. No tour of the island would be complete without a visit to the River Antione Rum Distillery - the last one in the Caribbean to make the drink from cane sugar, as they did in the 18th century. Rum is not to my taste, but it's interesting to see the process behind it. Belmont in the Grand Etang area is more to my liking. It's a fully functioning plantation and organic farm. We taste goat's cheese and salt fish fritters, a popular local dish. Even the governor grows her own vegetables. Her Excellency Dame Cecile la Grenade is the first woman governor on the island.

She received an OBE from the Queen - the island is part of the Commonwealth, so the Queen is Head of State - for the food business started by her mother. Her extensive gardens are full of exotic vegetables, fruit and spices - a dream to any aspiring cook. Even the paths are made of crushed nutmeg shells. A fitting tribute to this fragrant and friendly island.

Original article published in July 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.
Chill-out time on the beach at Mount Cinnamon
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