You shop every week at your local farmers market, choosing only the freshest fruits and vegetables that are in season. Now, imagine eating the same way when you vacation on an arid Caribbean island. Impossible? Think again.
Many of the Caribbean's islands have such thin soil and limited access to fresh water that they can only support scrub vegetation. Because of that, residents of islands like Anguilla rely on imported fruits, vegetables, and other food stuffs from North America and Europe through neighboring St. Maarten.
This lengthy process is not only expensive, but also challenging when it comes to sourcing quality perishable foods, like greens, tomatoes, and fresh herbs. With both frugality and sustainability in mind, a few resorts have taken on the challenge of growing their own produce in a variety of creative ways.
CuisinArt Resort & Spa, Anguilla
Credit: Cuisinart Resort & Spa
Wanting only the freshest, quality ingredients for its guests, CuisinArt Resort & Spa built a special 18,000-square-foot greenhouse in 1999 to grow crops for the resort using an innovative hydroponic system. From vine-ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant to tender lettuces, microgreens, and herbs, 90% of the produce served in the resort’s restaurants are grown in the greenhouse.
From Executive Chef Daniel Le Guénan’s perspective, having access to such fresh, perfectly ripe food in the Caribbean is precious. He says, “to get fresh herbs like parsley, dill, and basil each day is key for a chef like me… It becomes easier to create a menu when you have fresh vegetables. CuisinArt’s organic garden also supplies the resort with many local tropical foods, like avocados, guava, pumpkins, and star fruit. Guests are also able to tour the garden and help harvest produce, before taking it back to the kitchen to use in in a hands-on cooking lesson.
Hermitage Bay, Antigua
Credit: Hermitage Bay
CuisinArt is not the only Caribbean resort to focus on the growing trend of sourcing local and fresh food in the Caribbean. On the island of Antigua, Hermitage Bay is a luxury resort created with a gentle, environmentally sustainable hand, paying close attention to preserving the existing natural environment. In order to supply guests with only the freshest produce, the resort has begun growing its own organic vegetables, like peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and herbs, at a kitchen garden on-site.
Guests can even use some of this garden-fresh produce during the resort’s weekly cooking classes, hosted by a local Caribbean chef. Working to reduce its use of non-organic produce, Hermitage Bay also composts most of its fruit and vegetable scraps in accordance with the UK Soil Association’s organic gardening principles, using it as a nutrient-rich soil additive for their garden.
Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda
Credit: Little Dix Bay
On Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands Little Dix Bay has joined the Caribbean local foods movement, as well. While the sparse rainfall and arid environment of the island makes growing produce a challenge, it isn’t stopping Chef Hemant Dadlani. Determined source the freshest ingredients he can get, and “to create interest in the importance of agriculture, no matter what scale it’s on,” Dadlani has a group of resort employees, and their families and friends, growing a variety of produce, such as spinach, peppers, tomatoes, fresh herbs, mangos, and papaya, for him and his guests. The project has been well-received, and there is talk of a probable on-site greenhouse.
If you can’t escape to the Caribbean this winter to taste the fresh produce being grown at these resorts, try one of Chef Dadlani’s favorite dishes, red snapper with a sweet potato-cucumber salad, which uses local Caribbean sweet potato, and locally grown cucumber and micro tarragon. Or, try Chef Daniel La Guenan's Caribbean-flavored osso buco, pot au feu style, or Chef Banhan's Fish and Eggplant Curry, a light dish that is full of rich coconut and curry flavors.
Anguilla, British West Indies
Rates start at $740 per night for the winter season.
Antigua, West Indies
Rates start at $1,200 for the winter season.
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Rates start at $650 for the winter season.