Foraging in Bermuda

Today’s guest writer, Barb Freda, spent 10 years on the line of professional kitchens before coming to the world of food writing and recipe development. She served as food editor for Florida Table magazine and dining expert for VISITFLORIDA.com. She now travels, freelances and blogs at her own site, Babette Feasts.
 
Banana tree surrounded by nasturtiums

Banana tree surrounded by nasturtiums

I have had the adventure (all the good and the bad of it) of moving to Bermuda. From a food perspective, it has been a tough row to hoe, because almost nothing is local here (the island is a rock, often referred to by locals as The Rock, which measures 22.7 square miles). We have managed to buy some local fish, which has been spectacular, but the “eat local” movement is a hard sell on a tiny rock covered with a thin layer of soil where most of the food has to be imported.
 
That said, I’ve slowly come to learn of a few bits and pieces I can gather and use—should I want to.
 
Rosemary
 
Okay, this is perhaps not growing WILD, but it grows so prolifically that if I know I’m making a dish using fresh rosemary for dinner, I’ll alter my daily walk to pass by the right rosemary bush, harvest a sprig or three and keep on walking.
 



Surinam cherries

Surinam cherries

Surinam Cherries
 
These are little lantern-shaped cherries that grow on a hedge found all over the island. The few I’ve picked and eaten have been rather astringent, but I’d guess they make for a nice jam or sauce or compote.
 
Loquats
 
The one or two I managed to pick were sour and not worth more than a bite. But some people love these and I did see a loquat bread pudding on the menu at one spot.



Nasturtium

Nasturtium

Nasturtium
 
Everywhere I turn for months, I’ve seen waves of nasturtium flowers nestled in mounds of nasturtium leaves along the roads, along the paths, along any walk just about wherever I go. There’s no reason not to pluck a few peppery flowers to decorate a dinner salad. (Note: i always pick from high up along a wall…somewhere no animal may have…um…”visited.” Just saying.)
 
Wild fennel
 
The fronds smell so strongly of that sweet, anise-y smell, but the plants are so large I haven’t been able to pull one up. I am guessing there’d be a nice, if small, bulb below ground. But in the meantime, a handful of the feathery fronds make another nice addition to a salad.



Green Papaya

Green Papaya

Papaya (pawpaw here in Bermuda)
 
These grow wild, too, but they also grow high up on a skinny trunk. I have not successfully gotten a papaya in good condition because they are all too high up for me. I’d even take a green one so I could make green papaya salad, one of my all-time favorite dishes. I’ve lost my own recipe, but I trust every recipe I’ve ever tried from Molly Wizenberg (a.k.a. Orangette), so here is a link to a green papaya salad she did for Bon Appetit.



Monstera

Monstera

Monstera
 
Monstera is a most interesting fruit and I’ve only found one plant of it wild—and the fruit itself is hard to see for some reason. This is the third of three fruits from the same plant—I’ve seen no others on my walks, although this is supposed to be prolific and tasty: a blend, everyone says, of pineapple and banana. This one is still ripening on my counter. Oh well.
 
Other things DO grow here—I’ve seen local tomatoes, onions, carrots, bananas—just not wild. And the soil affects the outcome, to say the least. I’ve never seen such stubby carrots, but that is because the layer of topsoil just doesn’t allow for long carrots to grow (so I am told). The Bermuda onions are delicious for grilling and I’ve also had some delicious local sweet corn. The tomatoes, sadly, have not wowed me. Okay strawberries…
 
So it’s not really a food lover’s paradise, I would have to say. But I try to get over that when I’m enjoying a drink with a view of the beach from…just about anywhere on the island!


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