If you missed part one of this series, you can read it here.
We have discovered the truth to the tomato shortage on Grenada! It is the fault of Americans. Let me explain. Tomatoes can be picky to grow, they need care. The plants fall over when heavily fruited. They require watering, but not too much. They can be seasonal. They require pest control. All of this leads to a headache for farmers. Rowle told us farmers have started to grow sourop based on demand from health conscious (ill-informed) Americans. He pointed out a farm which recently converted to sourop from tomatoes. What the heck is sourop you ask? It is an ugly looking fruit that some people claim will cure everything from the common cold to cancer (there is no medical evidence to support this). Sourop requires very little effort to grow and loves the soil in Grenada. Just stick it in the ground and wait. That’s it, not too much work for the farmers. The monetary yield is much higher than tomatoes. Hmm. More money and less work, I can’t say I blame the farmer.
On the subject of odd fruits, we were introduced to skinup (Melicoccus bijugatus) by Rowle. He pulled over to a street vendor to buy himself some skinups. “What are those? We see kids selling them everywhere in town”, we ask. While these little fruits are not totally indigenous to Grenada they are not found on most other Caribbean islands. Rowle showed us how to eat them and told us they are also known as Spanish Limes. We’re now addicted. We’re going to need professional help weaning ourselves off skinups when we leave Grenada. Kids eat these little fruits like candy. They are sweet and juicy. The cover is hard and is popped open, then once exposed, the pulp and seed are sucked out. It tastes a little like a pear/mango combination. The best part is they are really cheap. We purchased two bunches for about 75 cents. Spit the seeds out the window and in a couple of years they’ll be a skinup bush on the roadside along with avocado, cashews, mangoes, bananas, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cocoa. I think I am starting to understand why they call this the spice island.
While spitting our skinup seeds out of the window, our conversation turned to island politics. It seems as though most Grenadians are not happy as part of a British Commonwealth. When Hurricane Ivan hit and devastated most of the island, Queen Elizabeth made a speech promising England would help rebuild Grenada better than it was before Ivan. The help and money never arrived. Instead countries such as Cuba, China, Venezuela, Jamaica and Canada have invested here. The politics are complicated and I would need more than this post to attempt to explain. Let’s just say, I admire the Grenadians for being able to talk about politics without feeling the need to raise voices or disrespect people of other parties.
Because we promised to not tell anybody where his favorite beach was located, Rowle took us there. He is terrified the tourists will find it and some investor will want to build a hotel, or worse a golf course and hotel. Winding down unpaved roads, still spitting skinup seeds, the trees subsided to the most remarkable breathtaking beautiful beach. It was here we met Pope (no picture please). Pope is 72 years old, he was once a bus driver. Now he comes to this spot and sells fruit. He is there every day. When we met Pope he was cooking lunch on a charcoal pit. Charcoal is used all over Grenada because it is cheaper than propane gas. Most Grenada homes have a Charcoal pit outside to cook with. And by pit, I do not mean Webber Grill. I mean hole in the ground. Grenada has an abundance of trees and therefore charcoal is not expensive. We chatted with Pope. He said there is no other place on earth he would rather be than his little secret spot. The area around the beach is shaded by manchineel trees. These trees provide excellent shade. However, manchineel trees are ranked as being in the top five deadliest plants in the world. They excrete a toxin that will cause blisters and even death in humans. To stand under them in the rain would result in a trip to the hospital as the sap mixes with the rain and will drip. The trees product small apples – deadly toxic apples. If this land were developed, the first thing the developers would do is cut down all these trees to protect the unknowing tourists. The locals are wise to the trees. We shook hands and promised him his secret beach would stay a secret. He gave us each a fresh Banana and refused to take money for them. Rowle smiled as we parted ways from our new found friend.
Off The Beaten Path
Our circumnavigation of Grenada took us down the airstrip of the old airport (destroyed by Ivan). It is now a drag racing site. Rowle explained nobody can drive very fast on the Grenadian roads. He said they can drive to the old airstrip to race their cars. It is always open. How fun! Once a year there is a big drag racing event. Entrants arrive from all over the Caribbean. Getting their cars here must be extremely expensive. We took a spin down the old airstrip. If you come to Grenada be sure to drive the old airstrip, they’ll be skinup trees there in a few years. We seeded them for you.
I disagreed with Rowle about not being able to drive fast on the island. I said it has obviously been a while since he has been on a bus. The bus drivers are crazy. They drive at the speed of light only when they are slowing down. He explained they drive that way because they are drunk. Then he laughed and said, “Well maybe not drunk or all of them”. Apparently, drinking and driving in Grenada is not a crime. Well, sort of not a crime. If you are really drunk, yes this is a problem. However, the police do not carry breathalyzer equipment. So they can ticket for not wearing a seat belt but can’t check to see if drivers have been drinking. The rule of thumb is to be less drunk than the police officer.
This island is incredibly clean. Rowle told us on the main roads trash is picked up every day. If people live on a side road it is two times per week. The various parishes on the island will paint electric poles or rocks with Grenada’s flag colors. This is all part of an ongoing contest between the parishes to be featured on the official government postcard. Keeping the grass at the roadside is immensely important to the image of the parish. For this, Grenadian lawnmowers are used.
Rowle dropped us off at the marina about 6 pm – some two hours past our time. Cindy gave him a really nice tip to make his day extra special because, he made my day extra special. This is what birthdays are all about.