Tangerines, star fruit, breadfruit, wild watercress.
We’re not perusing a menu in St Lucia. We’re touring a local farm owned by The Richards family for more than 40 years. Isaac Alphonse, the purchasing manager for The Landings, the 120-plus unit new resort where we are staying (www.landings.rockresorts.com), is showing us around and tells us we could help plant if we’d like to.
In fact, there is a new “Give and Getaway program” designed to do just that—to show us St. Lucia farms tending to the crops while we learn about the eco-friendly techniques that farms use to promote local sustainability. If we had time, we could visit the Friday night Fish-Fry in Anse La Raye where some of the fruits and vegetables we see are cooked and sold.
We can eat them right at The Landings Resort too, Alphonse buys fruits and vegetables from this farm. He’s so enthusiastic that he sometimes comes here in his free time to help, though he tells us he grows all varieties of fruits and vegetables at his home. “My wife would rather have flowers,” he laughs. What happens to all the produce they can’t use? “We give it away,” he says. “That is the St Lucia way.”
St. Lucian farms, unlike farms elsewhere grow all varieties of crops–avocadoes, guavas, yams, one potato like vegetable called a Dasheen, bananas and plantains, coconut and cucumbers. “This is a big farm-over 70 acres,” Alphonse tells us, all planted on hilly terrain and tended by just four people. We run into 23-year-old Solomon Chelcher who has already planted 60 new Dasheen plants—all by 9:30 am. St. Lucians would eat it mashed or fried, they tell us. I offer to help but Solomon is done.
Instead we tromp around the mud, checking out a plantain here, a lime there, two varieties of oranges, tasting a tangerine and a star fruit, tapping a pumpkin to see if it is ripe, opening a coconut to drink the sweet juice.
It gives you an entirely new appreciation for where our food today at the resort will come from! There is an entire field of green onions, eggplant and cocoa. Richards is a “true farmer,” I learn because he farms so many crops, and the resort tends to serve and buy what is in season-over 120 different fruits and vegetables during the different seasons.
He picks a tangerine from the tree and hands us some pieces. So yummy! There are so many varieties of fruits and vegetables here-four varieties just of yams! More than 20 of mango! Five kinds of avocado, some larger than I’ve ever seen. Alphonse says his four kids love when he brings a pitcher of ice and some sugar into their big garden and make fresh lime and orange juice to drink under a tree. “But they don’t like weeding the garden,” he laughs.
We meet Cecilia Richard—mother of 5 and grandmother of 15 who lives with her husband at the top of a hill with one of the most spectacular views I’ve seen of the hills, the farms and far away, Martinique on a clear day, she laughs, brandishing the machete to cut the coconuts for us.
The resort may be five star all the way, but standing here in the Richards’ garden is authentic Caribbean all the way—from the family’s warmth and hospitality to , the pastel colored houses on stilts dotting the green landscape in the countryside, the banana and coconut trees swaying in the breeze and the rain shower that starts and then stops just as suddenly.
Is it time to hit the beach—and sample some of the fruit we’ve just seen—maybe in a drink?