Tuesday 21 August 2012

The Arrival of Fruits and Veggies

That not only people crossed the Atlantic to find new homes for themselves in these islands, but also a variety of fruits and plants, also made that crossing and like the people are now taken quite for granted as being of this place. These introductions began quite early.
The tribal people would have brought plants from "down the main," perhaps fruit trees like paw paw and pineapple and custard apple. We can only guess at these, but we do know that the Spaniards brought in a wide range of plants.
The sugar cane which had its home in the far east, came with them by way of Egypt, Sicily, Malta and the Canary islands. It was first planted in the Americas in Santa Domingo in 1520. The banana also arrived with the Spaniards. A priest first planted it in Santa Domingo in 1516 but it did not become a plant of great economic importance until after 1835. In that year a Martinique planter called Jean Francois Pouyatt, first planted the Gras Michel Banana at his property in the Jamaican parish of St. Andrew.
A year later, he exhibited some bunches of the banana at a fair and was given a prize of one doubloon worth about 12 dollars. Later the English and the French took a hand at brining in plants. the mango for example was taken from a French ship seized as a prize of war by one of Admiral Rodney's Captains. The Frenchman out of an Indian ocean island named Isle de Bourbon contained several varieties of mango which were being shipped to Martinique. These mangoes eventually found themselves all over these islands. A British governor of Jamaica, Sir John Peter Grant, around 1865, introduced several new varieties of mango. Cinnamon found its way to these islands aboard the same boat that had the first mangoes. Another significant import was of course the breadfruit, which is linked with the famous Captain Bligh and the mutiny of the "Bounty".
Bligh made a second voyage after his disastrous first attempt, and brought from the Pacific islands in H.M.S. Providence such valuable plants as the Jew Plum or Governor plum and the Otaheite Apple which we call Pommerac as well as the breadfruit. The ackee more famous in Jamaica was also brought by Bligh from the West coast of Africa. Citrus fruit crossed the Atlantic as did rice with the Spaniards. they experimented with grapes. They also brought nutmeg and almond trees, camphor the oil palm, rubber trees and Guinea grass may have made its own way. Ornamental plants like the oleander, the arum lily and honey suckle and violets which were all brought between 1770 and 1790. Water cress also arrived around this time as did the tamarind tree which came from India and the Kola nut from West Africa. The Casuarina from far off Australia. The bamboo found through out the West Indies first arrived from the far East. Para grass came from Venezuela. Very important was coffee which has its first home in Ethiopia and which was first used as a beverage in Egypt and the Mediterranean a long time ago. HenryVIII enjoyed it. There were coffee houses in London in 1625. It was first planted in Jamaica in 1728 and arrived in Trinidad a few years later.
As we know the coconut came on the wings of a storm to plant itself on the Mayaro beach. Now let us look at the other side of the picture. The Caribbean islands are a part of the Americas and the Americas gave as well as received.
When Columbus returned to Europe from his voyages of discovery he was greeted as 'discoverer of the New World', but the world which he discovered was not new. It had been settled by man for thousands of years from the far off period, some 25,000 or more years ago, when parties of Mongolian people crossing over by way of Siberia into North America. The process of wondering and settling took thousands of years. Generations of these early Americans spread out over the wide plains of North America, worked their way down the continent into central America and settled there, others moved through Panama into South America and fanned out across its great river basins and down the long spine of the Andes.
In the course of this long period of time, many of them passed from the first primitive state of being gathers and hunters of food to more advanced stage of being growers of food. They mastered the art of agriculture. Significantly, they produced societies capable of very advanced forms of mathematical calculation and scientific observation achieving the capacity to study processional astronomy. It is unknown whether they brought there capacities with them or whether these evolved on the continent.
"By the time Columbus arrived, the American Indian had learnt to cultivate more food and plants than all the rest of the world put together," wrote Prof. Phillip Sherlock. So though the West Indies and the mainland received so much , they were able to give. Amongst these gifts were maize, various varieties of potato, hard woods, imperishable, as they were called a quantity of herbs and plants from which important medicines and drugs are made, and, as Prof. Sherlock remarks, "a bird which people all over the world call the turkey, its not from Turkey at all, but from North America."

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