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At A Glance | Recipes | Glossary | Talking About Food | Summer of Spice Cooking Class | Mango Tour



Allspice Top  
The best allspice comes from Jamaica. It is a dark brown berry of an evergreen tree from the myrtle family. It has a pleasant fragrant aroma and is available both whole and ground. Ground it resemble small peppercorns. Allspice was one of the original spices brought back to Europe by Columbus.

Is a natural food color and flavoring. Grown throughout the American tropics, annato is a natural food color and flavoring. Its extract is a brilliant yellow color.

Bahamian Lobster Top  
This spiny lobster is abundant in Florida and the Caribbean. It is similar to the spiny lobster available throughout the world in warm waters. In simplest terms, this lobster has no claws. Most of the meat is in the tail. It is available all year round.

Many newly available kinds are in the market place. For a variety in taste try red bananas, finger bananas, or citrus bananas.

Is a white or yellow fleshed sweet potato. It has a thin reddish skin, a slightly irregular shape, and a dry, sweet, chestnut-like flavor. Boniato originated in Central America and is very popular in Latin America. It is much less sweet than our unrelated orange sweet potato. The sweet potato is not related to the potato family, but is in the same family as the boniato. It is often known as the Louisiana yam. Both have a moist orange colored flesh with brown skin.

Of the "Mutiny on the Bounty" fame, was brought to the Caribbean from the South Seas and quickly became a starchy vegetable staple of that region for its sustenance as a starchy vegetable. When breadfruit is green it is similar to a potato. When cooked slightly ripe, its taste is extremely starchy and almost yeast flavored, reminiscent of partially cooked bread.

Calabaza Top  
Also known as the West Indian or green pumpkin, it is really a squash. Many are large ovals or round with outer green and yellow splotches. The flesh should be firm, with a yellow-reddish color. Sold whole or in large chunks, calabaza can be cooked in many pumpkin recipes - often more successfully because of its fine grain, sweetness, and moisture.

Now being grown extensively in South Florida. Look for yellow, ripe fruit. The fruit is about 4-5 inches long with a glossy yellow skin and sharply angled ribs that form a star shape when cut cross wise. They are very juicy and have a crisp sweet flesh. New sweeter varieties are currently being developed by farmers, such as the Arkin and the beautiful full-flavored Fwang Tund.

The key to caviar is freshness. The eggs should have the pleasant aroma of a seawater breeze. Beluga, Osetra, and Sevruga caviar are from 3 different sturgeons, all originating in the Caspian Sea in Eastern Europe; each of these caviars has its own distinctive nuance. "Molossal" printed on a label refers to the small amount of salt used in preserving the fish eggs. There are other kinds of caviar or fish roes from all around the world. Available American varieties range from salmon, trout, spoonbill and hackleback sturgeon to paddle fish.

A pear shaped gourd about 5-6 inches long. It is usually available in a pale green skin, though the white is just as tasty. Its flavor is somewhat of a cross between zucchini and cucumber.

An excellent eating warm water game fish. No other known species of fish is related to Cobia; it is in a family by itself. Sometimes it is mistaken for shark in the water. This fish has snowy white, sweet flesh best cooked in steak form and is available year round.

Until recently fresh conch has not been readily available. Thanks to some conch farming in the Caribbean this situation is changing. It is usually best to tenderize the meat with a mallet, which results in cracked conch or by grinding it. If you are using frozen conch, keep it covered while you defrost it slowly to retain its flavor.

Indigenous to the Mediterranean, where the seeds are used primarily for cooking. The leaves are light green and resemble flat leaf parsley, and are completely different in taste and character from the seeds. Coriander is thought to be a member of the carrot family. It is used in many ethnic cuisines and is also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley. Use perky-fresh leaves.

Is available as both seed and ground. It has a flowery aroma and imparts a slight yellow color to food. This is one of the essential spices of Caribbean cuisine. It is also one of the characteristic flavors of curry.

Florida Oranges Top  
The most common is the Valencia. It is Usually thin skinned with slight windburn markings. Its thin skin makes this the juiciest orange with very sweet juice. The Temple is considered Florida's best eating orange.

Grouper Top  
These are members of the seabass family. The flesh is snowy white and can be cooked either as filets cut thin or as steaks cut thick. Grouper is most often available in filets because the fish grows very large between 15 -25 pounds. Black grouper or Nassau grouper are among the most desirable. Red grouper and Warsaw grouper are usually largest fish of the grouper family.

A small, round, thin-skinned fruit pulpy fruit, usually with many seeds. It is astringent when green but very aromatic when ripe. The acidic ripe flesh has a pleasant gritty texture. It is also available in the form of a paste or jelly.

Hearts of Palm Top  
Commonly the heart of a sable palm which are farmed for this purpose. They are found in several forms in the market place. The fresh 2 foot logs need to be trimmed to the soft flesh of the heart. Currently, they are most often found canned.

Key Limes Top  
These limes are much smaller and rounder than other limes and their color is yellow-green. This lime variety is not as readily available, but its citrus characteristic is tart-sour with just a hint of sweetness.

A small golden or orange fruit about 1 1/2 inches long and oval. The rind of this fruit is often more sweet than its flesh, which is usually very sour. Technically this is not a citrus.

Limes Top  
Are almost indispensable in this cuisine and the most acidic of all fruits. Look for the bright green fruit. 90% of the world's lime production comes from South Florida.

Available fresh in late spring the lychee is a small red, rough skinned cluster fruit. Peel away the skins and you'll discover its creamy white flesh that tastes like a wonderful tropical grape. Florida has probably the only commercial crop of lychees on the U.S. mainland, consisting of the Brewster variety.

Mahi Mahi Top  
Are also known as dolphin, but bear no relation to the mammal. They are large flaked and sweetly moist fish. Their skin is a brilliant blue-green-silver-gold. Mahi Mahi is available throughout the world from tropical and subtropical seas. Their sizes vary greatly but they are good eating either steaks or fillets.

Is derived from a tropical plant that bears edible tubers.The skin is usually deep brown, its flesh white to yellow. They are cooked similarly to the potato but require a little less cooking time.

This is probably the most favored and esteemed fruit in the Cuban community. Its matte brown skin gives way to a rosy-colored, lush, custard-like pulp. The flavor is a cross between peach, apricot, and almond. Most fruits are the size of an oversized grapefruit though somewhat oblong.

As many as 120 varieties are grown around the world. The exterior skin color ranges from green when unripe, to a yellow- orange and a rich orange-red when ripe. When a mango is ripe, it will give a little to finger pressure and have a wonderful sweet perfumed aroma. Readily available varieties of mango are the Hayden, Keitt, Kent and Tommy Atkins. A Dominican cook once related a story to me about mangos back home. He described mango or Mango Bajito, as an "attitude". He said it was the lazy man's fruit since the mango tree offers shade and sustenance. When mangos become ripe, they fall off the tree to the ground. A man at ease, resting from the hot sun, need only to sit under the tree to receive his delight and refreshment.

Nutmeg Top  
Is grown in Jamaica and Grenada and is a powerful sweetly aromatic spice.Use a small grater to obtain the spice from the nut.

Papaya Top  
Unripened these are usually found oversized with firm deep green skin and light green to pink flesh, and are used as a vegetable. Ripe papaya is available from the Caribbean, Mexico, and Hawaii. The pulp is sweet and can be eaten uncooked. The flavor is somewhat tropical floral.

A beautiful, colorful, tropical fish that many divers are familiar with. Historically this was a popular eating fish of the Old World. The parrotfish has a sweet, soft white flesh, usually cooked in filet, and is available year round.

Peppercorns, Black
My favorites are from Costa Rica grown in the Tolamanca rain forest. Buy only whole peppercorns and grind them fresh as needed. I would suggest investing in a good pepper mill with an adjustable grinder.

These are shelled black seeds and do not impart color to the food.

Sweet and hot, fresh and dried chilies all belong to the genus Capsicum Annum. Though peppers are native to the New World, they spread rapidly in the trade for roots around the world, handled mainly by the Portuguese spice traders. Chili peppers have become popular in most tropical countries. Scolville heat units are used to measure the heat intensity of a chili pepper. This scale is a subjective rating by professional tasters, used in a similar fashion to a Richter scale for earthquakes, but this scale is measures the heat in your mouth. The range can vary from 0 - 5 units for sweet peppers to 1500 -2000 for jalapeno to 60-80,000 for Tabasco to 100,000 -250,000 for scotch bonnets. Peppers range individually in heat, so taste a little from the small end before deciding how much you'll need for a dish. Much of the extreme heat is in the seeds and ribs.

Are members of the same family as bananas and bird- of-paradise. They are much larger but not palatable raw. They are usable in many stages of ripeness from green which have a firm texture and are eaten as a potato-like starch or fried as a chip, to yellow or yellow-brown, which is eaten more as a vegetable. Plantain, ripen all the way to the almost black- Plantain Madoros, can be cooked as a fruit.

Are usually sold whole on an average size of 1 1/2 - 2 pounds. Silvery skinned, it is possibly one of the tastiest fish in the sea, and usually, one of the most expensive. The pompano has small or short flake, a firm texture and a moderate amount of "good oils", which makes its flesh taste rich. It is found fresh in the market from Oct to May.

One of the most misused seafood terms. often used when referring to larger shrimp. Prawns are different in shape and flavor than shrimp; their meat is deliciously sweet, and their texture a little softer than shrimp. Through successful aqua culture farming prawns are much more available than they have been in the past.

Rock Shrimp Top  
Are small hard-shelled shrimp. Because they are difficult to clean they have not been in abundant supply in the market until recently, where they're now widely available, shelled and cleaned. The rock shrimp meat tastes a bit more like lobster than shrimp. They are mostly available during the winter months.

Shark Top  
Among the many varieties of shark available are makos, blue, and black tip. I prefer mako shark for its firm texture and swordfish-like flavor. Shark is lean meat with firm circular flesh. It is available year round.

The flesh is white, small flaked, and sweet tasting. Snapper is available in both round (whole, cleaned) 1 1/2 -2 1/2 pound fish and in the form of larger fillets coming from 3 - 5 pound fish. Among the numerous snapper varieties available, are red snapper, yellowtail, mutton, gray, schoolmaster, and mangrove.

Soft Shell Crabs
These are blue crabs in the molting stage that have shed their outer shells completely. The entire soft body, legs and shell, is edible and delicious. Look for them fresh throughout the summer.

Sour orange, bitter orange
If this rough skin red reddish-orange fruit is not readily available, you can substitute a combination of orange and lime juices. Bitter or Seville orange is too sour to eat raw, but that tartness is wonderful for marinades and marmalades.

Stone Crabs
Stone crabs are truly the pride of Florida's gourmet natural resources. The meat is rich, sweet and firm in texture. Floridians have long been zealously passionate about-and protective of-their stone crab resources. The claw meat is available in jumbo, extra-large, large and medium. Jumbos weigh 2 to a pound, extra-large 4-5 per pound, large 6-8 per pound and medium 9-10 per pound. While jumbos are often the most prized for their grandeur and convenient to eat, they are also the most costly; large or medium claws are great for cocktail parties or finger food. They are available fresh from Oct. 15 to May 15. They are always cooked by the crab trappers immediately after they are caught so are available only cooked.

Tamarind Top  
Grows on big beautiful trees in the Caribbean, Central America, and Florida. I have several growing where I live. Their velvety-gray been pods are filled with brown gooey pulp surrounding large shiny brown seeds. Tamarind has a wonderful sweet-tart tropical flavor with a unique quenching finish.

Tuna has become one of the most important fish in the market. Fresh tuna is bright red to rosy pink, depending on its variety and fat content. The Japanese revere "toro" which is the fatty meat from the bluefin tuna. Two other excellent varieties are yellowfin and bigeye tuna.

Wahoo Top  
Is the gourmet's mackerel, though much leaner than any mackerel. It has white fine circular flake with a delicate texture. This is a favorite of game fisherman who yell WAHOO! when they hook one. You may see this listed on the menu at Japanese sushi bars as "Ono", which means sweet.

Yam Top  
Comes from a vine that grows everywhere in the tropics, and is a large edible root. Yams or name comes in many sizes. The skin is usually brown with a white-yellow flesh. The texture is slightly mealy with a nut-like flavor. What we are used to calling a yam here in the U.S. is actually a sweet potato.

Yuca, Cassava, Manioc
Is a widely used tuber in Latin American and Caribbean kitchens and a native root of Brazil. This spindle-shaped root is usually sold waxed and has a shiny bar-like skin. The flesh is white, crisp and hard. During cooking it tends to split apart into wedges, perfect for yuca steak fries. Tapioca is made from processing the starch of the yucca plant roots.

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