Emanuel Alexander, alias Ras “Faii”, is a herbalist and firm believer in the gifts of nature and the benefits of organic farming and eco-tourism.
For centuries certain plants, herbs, fruits and nuts have enhanced our daily living. Their use is part of our Creole heritage which we celebrate during the month of October.
This is the national tree of Saint Lucia. It grows in parts of Africa, Central America and here in the West Indies, often as an ornamental shrub, but is also used in traditional systems of medicine. The fruits produced by the tree when young can be used as a vegetable; when mature and with a hard outer coating, the rounded shell can be cut in half to make soup bowls, salad bowls and interesting craft works – check them out in our local markets.
Classed as a fruit, but often thought of as a nut, the coconut is actually a one-seeded drupe. In Sanskrit, the coconut palm is known as Kalpa Vritsha, the tree which gives all that is necessary for living. We consume the water, cream, flesh, sugar and oil, while the husk and leaves are used as materials in furnishing and decorations. Coconut flesh is highly nutritious and rich in fibre, in vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and in minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. For centuries coconut has been claimed as a potent cure for nausea, rash, fever, ear-ache, sore throat, bronchitis, kidney stones, ulcer, asthma, syphilis, dropsy, tooth-ache, bruises and lice, and that’s the abbreviated list!
Sugar cane is a strong species of grass. Sugar cane juice has a high concentration of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and manganese. The juice is a good source of glucose which helps to rehydrate the body and gives it a boost of energy. So, the next time you feel fatigued or dehydrated, drink a glass of cane juice – it’s available from roadside vendors.
Cocoa is considered to be a rich source of antioxidants which may impart anti-ageing properties. Cocoa also contains a high level of flavanoids which can have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. The seeds of the cocoa tree, known as cocoa beans, are roasted and ground to make chocolate, which we all know is delicious! If you have a craving for chocolate, or want to take home a little piece of the island, try our locally-made chocolate bars.
Cassava, also called Manioc or Yuca
Introduced to the island by the Amerindians back in the 1500s, the grated cassava pulp of this tuberous plant is used to produce cassava flour, farine, bread and tapioca, even a laundry starch. Interesting fact: a cyanide-producing sugar derivative occurs in varying amounts in most varieties. Indigenous peoples developed a complex refining system to remove the poison by grating, pressing, and heating the tubers. The poison (hydrocyanic acid) has been used for darts and arrows. Bakeries around the island sell cassava bread but don’t worry – it’s quite safe to eat it!
Papaya, also called Pawpaw
The ripe fruit of the papaya is usually eaten raw, without skin or seeds. The unripe green fruit can be eaten cooked, usually in curries, salads and stews. The black seeds of the papaya are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste; they are sometimes ground and used as a substitute for black pepper. Both the fruit and the plant’s latex are rich in papain, an enzyme that makes it good for tenderizing meat. Interesting fact: papaya plants grow in three sexes: male, female and hermaphrodite.
Tel. (758) 487 1135
Facebook: Emanuel Alexander