By own admission, my curiosity about food is at times an embarrassment to my loved ones. On this occasion they were encapsulated in a rental jeep at the bottom of a hill, looking for all the world like they were ordinary tourists with their cameras trained on the beautiful vista ahead. Their goal was to casually disassociate themselves from the crazy, inappropriately attired lady, hiking up a small hill behind them.
It was Christmas and I was vacationing with my sister in Tortola. One taste of an intoxicating, local, drink and I had become a woman on a mission. What was this magic elixir? The homebrew I had tasted was called guavaberry wine and it was made with a fruit that I hadn’t heard of before. Later on I learned that a delicious pie and a liqueur (pictured above) were also made from the same berries.
What are guavaberries? First off, they don’t taste anything like a guava. The berry itself is yellowish-orange or a very dark red to a blackish purple. They are also known as rumberries in some parts. My apologies for the crappy, blurred photo it was dark in the freezer and I couldn't get my old point and shoot to focus. I had already weirded out my hostess enough. I didn’t reckon she would have taken too kindly to my hauling out her berries and attempting to style the shot.Click here for a picture of the tree and clearer image of the fruit.
I am thinking that this might be something that grows in Trinidad but we may have a different name for it. So many of our local fruits have been forgotten in our pursuit of foreign imports. Have you seen this fruit? Do you know it by some other name? Please let me know in the comments.
The time that I was in Tortola, I drove my sister crazy looking for this darn tree. Guavaberry pie and wine evokes such a sense of nostalgia in Virgin Islanders that you would think there would be a guavaberry tree on display in the botanical gardens, but no. We climbed the highest peak in the Virgin Islands to get to Sage Mountain National Park – don’t bother.
We asked every tour operator we encountered to help us locate a guavaberry tree. Most didn't know or so they pretended:-) FINALLY on the last day of our stay, as we were leaving the beach, I struck up a conversation with some taxi drivers who were setting up for a barbecue. They didn't know where I could find a guavaberry tree but they knew a woman who made guavaberry pies - just up the hill.
Before I knew it I was standing, slightly embarrassed, trailing sand and dripping salt water into this woman’s immaculate kitchen. My sense of shame was heightened by the fact once I opened my mouth, I knew that my Caribbean accent would expose me as an imposter, not a tourist – well not really.
Sure enough, when I started speaking they realized right way that I was myself an islander. Now the strange looks. How could I be West Indian and not know about guavaberry? I know isn’t it shameful. That’s exactly why I am here peering into the depths of your freezer. Nervous laughter. Not only did this kind lady open up her freezer for me to take pictures, she also cut me a generous slice of her pie. Score! You gotta love Caribbean hospitality!
Upon my return, my sister and husband were annoyed because my diversion had made us late to catch our flight home - no matter I had pie!
Here is a picture of a guavaberry pie that my sister was supposed to bring for me this Christmas. Sigh, all I got for Christmas was my sister. She forgot the pie but so thoughtfully took this picture before she and her roommate ate it all.
There is a lesson here. The lesson is that fancy ingredients do not necessarily come from far flung corners of the earth. You can bring something exciting to your table wherever you are in the world with local ingredients. You just have to ask questions. Oh yeah, and NEVAH trust your sister with pie!