Spices are a key component of Caribbean and general island cuisine. While islanders tend to gravitate toward more fresh herbs and spices, for society as a whole, the use of natural seasonings were generally more prevalent back in the day.
However, today, we are all going back to the use of natural herbs and spices. This is because artificial seasonings tend to contain Mono sodium glutamate (MSG)—a food additive and flavor enhancer, which has been reported to cause certain adverse effects. Now, although there has been no definitive evidence to support these claims against MSG, natural herbs and spices, on the other hand, have many widely known properties. These properties offer nutrients. They also naturally enhance the flavor of most dishes, without the extra salt or additives.
Spices commonly used in Caribbean/island cooking:
Turmeric is a rich, bitter spice from the ginger root family. It’s one of the main ingredients in traditional curry blends. Hence, it used a lot in Asian and Caribbean cuisine. It also brings out the flavor in greens, soups, teas and even smoothies!
Nutmeg is a warm spice used in sweet and savory dishes. It works well in porridges, desserts, as well as creamy and cheesy dishes.
Pimento, otherwise known as Allspice, has an exotic flavor that does a good job at complementing black pepper in many dishes. Whether ground or whole, this West Indian favorite is a feature in Jamaican jerk rubs and marinades, as well as the classic Caribbean “rice and peas.” Pimentos are also a common seasoning for beef and pork.
Cinnamon is a sweet, fragrant spice that is often added to sweet and savory dishes; but mainly used in baked goods like cakes, puddings, biscuits, muffins etc.
Cumin is a warm spice used in many West Indian and Caribbean dishes. It is also popular in Mexican, East Indian and Middle Eastern Cooking. It is typically used in pork, seafood, rice, and bean stew dishes.
Curry is a blend of spices that is used in a number of island dishes, including curry chicken, curry mutton, as well as seafood dishes, involving shrimp and lobster.