102 - The Other Spice Island
By Mary Luz Mejia
If you're hankering to make some of your own jerk pork and need to find the real-deal Jamaican pimento spice, you'll want to head over to Kensington Market's Caribbean Corner. Staffed by friendly folks who know their yams from their sweet potatoes, this bustling shop carries all the essentials necessary for a home-cooked Jamaican meal.
Sorrel is on hand for those wanting to make the unique tart and refreshing drink that uses this tropical, hibiscus-like flower as its base. The crimson flower is sold dried and then steeped at home in water to make a ruby red drink that resembles cranberry juice but tastes like nothing else. It's a delicious and natural diuretic, consumed in Jamaica all year round, but especially during the Christmas season when the flowers are in bloom.
Any Jamaican cooks worth their salt will always ask for whole nutmeg, foregoing the pre-ground variety that they'll insist doesn't have the same depth of flavour. The Caribbean Corner sells them whole so that cooks can grate only what they need, releasing the spicy sweet sensation that makes Jamaican cakes, drinks and puddings such tasty treats.
The market also carries pimento, not the chilies or bell pepper variety, but the kind that is made from the allspice berry. Tasting of cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg and clove, the spice was embraced by the island's colonists and today is found in numerous Jamaican dishes. The rest of world knows this berry as allspice, but since it only grows in Jamaica and southern Cuba, it's fair to say that if Jamaicans want to call it pimento, they can do so. Whatever they call it, your escoveitched fish or jerk meats wouldn't taste the same without it!
171 Baldwin St.
photo credit: Mary Luz Mejia