We love Barbados cherries. I first saw the name on the front of a juice bottle in Jordan’s supermarket. Barbados has its own cherry, I thought? This was news. A man must have been watching me, because he came over to where I was standing.
He announced, ‘Barbados cherries have one of the highest concentration of vitamin C per weight of any fruit. Period.’
I smiled politely. That didn’t happen much at home. He must be very proud of his cherry. After we got back to Quest, I googled it. Damn straight. The man was right. M. emarginata does have a very high vitamin C content, as well as vitamin A and Bs. But one thing was unclear. Why was it a Barbados cherry? As a low-growing, bushy shrub, the Barbados cherry actually grows all over the tropical Americas.
Perhaps Barbados has just taken this cherry as its own. I read on. As long as there is well-drained and pest-free soil in a tropical climate, this shrub will produce tons of cherries. Barbados has coral-based soil and good drainage. Perhaps that’s why cherry does particularly well here.
I didn’t see the cherries in the flesh though, not for a while. Maybe they were a rare delicacy I wondered? Or no one likes sharing them? Or they were all sewn up for the juice market? It was a mystery.
Then we drove to the east coast, to Bathsheba a few weeks ago. By the side of the road there was a fruit stall. Maybe not even that. I think it was actually just two older men sitting on plastic chairs. They had small, clear plastic bags filled with red, knobbly balls. Cherries! We ground to a halt and bought two bags, then drove off devouring them.
They weren’t quite sweet, but neither sour. The cherries tasted fresh. Healthy. They definitely looked like something you might pull out of a hedgerow. They are smaller than normal cherries and have 3-4 fibrous seeds in their centre.
We tried to find more cherries after that, at fruit stalls. Fruit stalls are all over this island – usually at road junctions. No joy. The vendors all smiled. These cherries are scarce right now. Plus, they’re a favourite food of Barbados’ green monkeys, they explained.
Cheeky monkeys! There are enough monkeys on island ~7,000, to eat much of what Bajans try to grow in their gardens. If you’re growing bananas for example, we’ve heard you have pull a stalk of green ones into your house to ripen here, rather than have the monkeys eat them when they start turning yellow.
Poor Bajans! This situation is different to other Caribbean islands. Other islands don’t have monkeys eating all the homegrown produce. Other islands don’t have monkeys at all. Hold on. Other islands don’t seem to have these superfood, amazing cherries either. Does this even things out?