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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Find Culture and Photo Ops in the Food Markets of the Caribbean

There are few better places for immersing yourself in local Caribbean culture than island food markets.

Wander past open stalls laden with fruits and vegetables you recognize and some you don’t, dodge the children running in and out of the aisles as kids everywhere do, see vendors swapping gossip—it’s a glimpse into a world beyond the souvenir shops.

Best yet, they’re only a stone’s throw from the piers.
Ask a local to identify one of those strange food items. A few weeks ago in Dominica, a vendor told 
Sorrel destined for juice
me his pile of what looked like red flower tops was sorrel (in the hibiscus family), which the locals use to make juice during the Christmas season.
When you show some curiosity, you’ll learn something about the island where you’re spending your time and money.

And if photography’s your thing, these markets offer great photo ops.

But a word of warning: at some markets, such as Granada’s Spice Market, some vendors sell aggressively. And at all the markets—like those anywhere else in the world—you may find some locals who look at you with suspicion, yet others who are friendly and welcoming, and willing to answer a well-meaning question or two.

So, here’s my top list of food markets:

Roseau farmers market
Dominica (Roseau) farmers market—pineapples, bananas, mangos, ginger and many other types of fruit and vegetables are sold from open stalls in the capital city of Roseau. When you get off the ship and walk down the pier, make a left and walk down to the waterfront. For more on the market, visit the website of the Uncommon Caribbean.

Fresh from the sea in Barbados
Barbados (Bridgetown) fish market—all matter of seafood—mahi-mahi, tuna and swordfish, to name a few— is cleaned in full view and sold to the public. It’s along the Princess Alice Highway and if you’re walking into Bridgetown from the ship, you can’t miss it on the right-hand side. 

Spice Market in Granada

Granada (St. George’s) Spice Market—spices in bags or baskets for home use or gifts can be bought very inexpensively at the colorful and frenetic market on Grand Anse Beach. For a few dollars, you can get a unique necklace made of turmeric, nutmeg and bay leaf—spices grown on the island (note: the necklace deteriorates very quickly)

Curaçao (Willemstad) floating market—vendors come to Curaçao from Venezuela to sell their papaya, coconuts and more right from their wooden boats

And while you’re absorbing the local culture, you might consider purchasing an item or two to help the island economy. The vendors become considerably warmer when they have an American dollar or two in their hands!

Know of any other food markets? Do share!