Thousands of feet above the bustling city of Kingston, Jamaica, an elegant jungle estate awaited us — the headquarters of Belcour Preserves. Nestled deep down in a valley next to a cold mountain stream, the lovely old plantation house is surrounded by acres of citrus orchards and gardens spilling over with decorative ginger, flowering vines, giant fan palms, and scores of aviaries. Steep rainforest swathed hills rise up on either side. The estate has been in existence since the 1700s. At that time it served as a station for buying coffee beans brought down from the highlands. Robin and Michael Lumsden have lived here since 1998. Before that, it was the country home of Robin’s parents. Its elevation served as a cool respite to the steamy lowlands of Kingston.
Cooking and gardening have always been Robin’s passion. At first she just “fooled around” with the guava and other fruits, which flourished on the property. Finally, in 2008, the couple decided to "make a go” of bottling their special preserves. They started with a lovely five citrus marmalade but have since branched out into a whole line of savories, pepper sauces, and several different fruit preserves. “We’re going well,” said Michael. “We’re still growing. We’re here to stay.” They are currently in negotiations with Shop-Rite to carry their line.
They served us lunch at a lovely old table in the center of the house laid with fine-bone English china. Dark, polished wood stretched out to surrounding verandas where a Doctor Bird, the national bird of Jamaica, flittered down to feed at a hummingbird station. Out beyond the gardens, threescore bee colonies provide the stock of dark honey that gives Robin's sauces a complex earthy sweetness. “We put honey in everything,” said Robin, laughing. “It’s been our inspiration. A hobby on steroids.”
They are in the perfect location for bees. “Down in the valley, the bees fly up empty," Michael said. "They gather all their stuff in a three-mile radius, then they glide back down.”
We relished our lunch, which included a curry ackee, taro fritters, jerk chicken, a “coconut rundown” with peas dish, rice laced with pumpkin, a salad of avocado accompanied with tomato chutney, and plantain baked with nutmeg and fresh honey. It was all fresh, local, and wonderful. We dashed everything with Michael’s favorite bottled sauce, a “really hot” mustard made of roasted scotch bonnet, honey, garlic, and mustard. Out on the porch, their corpulent black lab groaned. “He lies under the mango tree and stuffs himself on mangos,” confessed Michael.
Just before we glided out into the garden for a walk, parrots squawked from the treetops. We finished up with the most delicious fresh-stewed guavas accompanied by a coconut panacotta, all drizzled with that dark, delicious mountain honey.