Stir-fried green banana skin, anyone?
Jamaicans could soon be chowing down on green banana skin – stir-fried or as part of banana fritter, if executive director of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Dr Ronald Blake, has his way. Or, they could opt for stir-fried Spanish Needle which is usually fed to rabbits. Perhaps even chewing on bamboo shoots or snacking on sea grapes which grow wildly in most coastal towns and usually bear fruit in abundance. These are just some of the local additions to Jamaica’s culinary mix that the Jamaica 4-H Clubs will be promoting in the coming months.
According to Dr Blake, of the 20,000 edible plants across the world, a mere 20 of them provide 90 per cent of the plant-based food consumed globally. Now with food security and nutrition brought into sharper focus by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, as well as escalating global tensions, due in large part to the Ukraine/Russia war which crippled the world’s grain supply, Dr Blake thinks Jamaicans are too timid in their choice of foods.
He is challenging them to be much more adventurous in their culinary journeys and the 4-H club is proving to be a pioneer, with the organisation’s Home Economics Department director coming up with a combination of recipes from crops Jamaicans used to eat and others that they have never tried.
Dr Blake used the recent launch of the Strengthening the Adaptive Capacity of Young Farmers and Fisherfolk in Jamaica project at the Denbigh 4-H Training and Production Centre in May Pen, Clarendon, to advance his case.
“I said to my Home Economics Department, I want you to do an experiment with green bananas. I hear when you stir fry that you have nothing better to eat than that stir fry banana skin. It is comparable to the stir-fried eggplant and cho-cho and all the other healthy solid greens that we like to eat. These are the strategic links between this project and what is going to fix the whole issue of food security.”
Dr Blake is also promoting greater consumption of steamed parsley, which is also pronounced pusley and grows in wild throughout Jamaica, and is also used as a bird feed supplement.
Steamed puttigel, which according to jamaicancookery.com is a Jamaican fruit that resembles squash but is not, is a rich source of fibre and vitamin A, was among the items on offer for tasting after the launch. There was a live demonstration of stir-fried Spanish Needle, which also grows abundantly across Jamaica and the samples were well received. Then there were banana fritters cooked with some of the green skin, as well as stir-fried pumpkin leaves with codfish cook-up. And those were just some of the items on offer.
Among the diplomats who seemed hooked on the food samplings was the Head of the Political and Development Team at the British High Commission, Oliver Blake.
“Delicious, it’s really nice. I liked the Spanish Needle that was delicious. I’ve taken photos and will take them back to my wife, so she can see if she can get some of these foods from the market. I really enjoyed it and think it’s a great initiative to use these plants because they grow so freely across Jamaica but they don’t use them. They (Jamaica 4-H Clubs) have shown how they can be cooked and make them really delicious. So certainly, we would eat them if there were available,” he told The Gleaner.