As I find myself looking forward to the ripening of the sea grapes while scanning nearby trees for signs of fruits transforming from lime green to deep red, I remember the anticipation and excitement of mango season that then makes way for the same sea grapes and right after (though sometimes before), breadfruits.
This causes me to be patient…and grateful. To be present…while still looking forward. To not compare but to accept and give thanks for what is given in good time. The concept of seasonal fruits is a reminder to:
a) live in joyful expectation
b) give thanks for the fruits we have freely been given and for those to come
c) savour the flavours and nutrients of the gifts we receive
d) be patient
In Barbados, imported fruits like apples, strawberries, oranges, blueberries and peaches are often in abundance in the supermarket, but seasonal fruits are a favourite among the people of the land. We wait both patiently and excitedly for them. Sea grapes, known by many names – from ‘uva de playa’ and ‘raisin bord’ to mangrove grape and Jamaican kino are a watery seaside fruit grown on a stout well-spread shrub with coarse, almost-rounded leaves. Each grape is smaller than the smallest marble you can picture so eating them by the handful (minus the seed inside) is standard.
With each season comes a new fruit (sometimes in 2s and 3s.) On the heels of a lovely mango season that’s now rounding off, we get ready to welcome in a small and watery fruit, found growing on a beachside shrub. We watch the trees for the first signs of the fruit that announces its presence in the form of a tiny lime green ball. They take months to ripen but collecting sea grapes is a fun seasonal excursion for some families, adventurous friends and foragers. Like breadfruit, they are in abundance but sea grapes (like their name explains) are mostly but not always by the seaside. Some are sprinkled a bit inland but still within walking distance of the beach.
A fruit you literally are not ever likely to eat just one of. At least a handful or small bag of these is the general quantity to satisfy a fruit-hungry tummy.
Here are some benefits to eating sea grapes:
- helps skin glow and hair look lush
- strengthens bones and joints
- helps sharpen eyesight
- can ward off diabetes, obesity and reduce high blood pressure
- when you put the leaf on your head it can help ease pain there
- tea from the leaves can alleviate asthma, runny tummy and ‘time of the month’ pain
- can help treat skin ailments
How to eat sea grapes:
Pick by gently pulling the fruits from the branches. There are no thorns so no need to be finicky about it, but keep an eye out for clawed climbers that would nibble a stray toe of left unattended. Collect a small bagful, and please be considerate to let other fruit fans have their share too. Wash and sprinkle with salt, or dip and consume “real-time” in seawater. There isn’t much pulp, but the taste is worth it. Look out for the small seed just beneath the pulp; those aren’t edible.
You can collect add them to your compost heap at home, try germinating and planting, pelt in the sea or leave near the tree for birds to nibble off any leftover fruit.
September to October is typically sea grape harvest month in Barbados, from my scouting and sourcing experience so far. (Note this year it’s looking more like October though I was enjoying handfuls of these in September of 2016.) Evidence is seen on the roadside approaching town and near roundabouts in the countryside at this time. Small bags of the grapes (accompanied by a light-to- generous dose of salt most of the time) are sold for Bds.$2.00 (Usd.$1.00) at the moment.
Seagrapes and sweet purple/green grapes have two distinct tastes; the first one always comes with seeds, and the shape is slightly different (the first round and more firm, the second oblong). They do however share two things in common. Both are a watery type of tiny fruit. Natural juice made from them is refreshing on a sunny day and they are a light delicious fruity snack that grows on shrubs with big heart-shaped leaves, near the sea. An important note to remember especially if you go to pick sea grapes on some of the less crowded beaches, crabs like to gather and dig holes and chill under the bushes so watch your toes, move confidently but consciously still.
A fruit-bearing fence
Sea grape bushes can made beautiful hedges for residential houses. These are 3 big ones on the south coast. The second is about 5 metres tall and the third one is a healthy manicured hedge making a natural border between two houses. Since the tough branches tend to wrap around each other, it would be a serious task to get through this making it secure and beautiful and a food source.
Ever had seagrapes?