Jamaican Food Glossary

Ackee - The fruit of a West African tree, named in honor of Captain Bligh who introduced it to Jamaica. The ackee fruit is bright red. When ripe it bursts open to reveal three large black seeds and bright yellow flesh that is popular as a breakfast food throughout Jamaica. Ackee is poisonous if eaten before it is fully mature and because of its toxicity, it is subject to import restrictions and may be hard to obtain in some countries. Never open an ackee pod; it will open itself when it ceases to be deadly. The edible parts, sometimes called Vegetable Brains, is the aril, which looks like a small brain, or scrambled eggs, with a delicate flavor. It is best known in the Jamaican dish Saltfish and Ackee

Dasheen - Also known a coco, taro, and tannia, dasheen is a starchy tuber that is usually served boiled or cut up and used as a thickener in hearty soups. While considered by some to have a texture and flavor superior to that of a Jerusalem artichoke or potato. Potatoes can often be used as a substitute for dasheen in recipes. Dasheen is often called coco, but coco is actually a slightly smaller relative of dasheen.
Callaloo -  The other is Chinese spinach, a leafy vegetable typically prepared as one would prepare turnip or collard greens.
Passion Fruit

June Plum
June Plum: The fruit may be eaten raw; the flesh is crunchy and a little sour. The fruit is best when fully colored, but still somewhat crunchy. At this stage, it has a pineapple-mango flavor. The flesh is golden in color, very juicy, vaguely sweet, but with a hint of tart acidity. It can be eaten with salt or made into a drink sweetened with sugar and flavoured with ginger.
Plantain (Ripe)
Susumber or Gully Bean is a bushy, erect and spiny perennial plant used horticulturally as a rootstock for eggplant. Grafted plants are very vigorous and tolerate diseases affecting the root system, thus allowing the crop to continue for a second year. They have a bitter taste and are disliked by many for this reason. They are usually cooked with Saltfish and coconut milk to make a mild stew. 

Limes are one of the first trees to be planted by Jamaicans when they move into a new house is the lime tree,so there are always plenty of limes around for a cool refreshing drink. This small lime has a very strong sour taste as opposed to the larger varieties.
Otaheite Apple

Cherimoya - Pale-green fruit with white sweet flesh that has the texture of flan. Used for mousse and fruit sauces, the fruit is best when fully ripe, well chilled and eaten with a spoon.
Avocado (Jamaican Pear)

Allspice, Pimienta - Dark-brown berry, similar to peppercorns, that combines the flavors of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.

Annatto - This slightly musky-flavored reddish yellow spice, ground from the seeds of a flowering tree, is native to the West Indies and the Latin tropics. Islanders store their annatto seeds in oil—giving the oil a beautiful color. Saffron or turmeric can be substituted. The Spanish name achiote is sometimes referred to as achote. 

Beans, Peas - Interchangeable terms for beans. Kidney beans in Jamaica are called peas. Often combined with rice, used in soups and stews or pulped and made into fritters.

Bitter, or Seville, orange - Also called sour and bigarade orange. It is large, with a rough, reddish-orange skin. The pulp is too acid to be eaten raw, but the juice is used in meat and poultry dishes. The oranges are also used to make marmalade. A mixture of lime or lemon, and sweet orange juice can be used as a substitute.

Breadfruit - Large green fruits, usually about 10 inches in diameter, with a potato-like flesh. It was also introduced to Jamaica from its native Tahiti in 1793 by Captain Bligh. Breadfruit are not edible until they are cooked; they can be used in place of any starchy vegetable, rice, or pasta. When cooked the flesh is yellowish-white, like a dense potato. Breadfruit is picked and eaten before it ripens and is typically served like squash—baked, grilled, fried, boiled, or roasted after being stuffed with meat or in place of any starch vegetable, rice, or pasta. It makes and excellent soup.

Calabaza - A squash, also called West Indian or Green pumpkin. It comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. The best substitutes are Hubbard or butternut squash.

Carambola, Star Fruit - Tart or acidy-sweet star-shaped fruit used in desserts, as a garnish for drinks, tossed into salads, or cooked together with seafood.

Cassava - This tuber is also known as manioc and yuca. A rather large root vegetable with a 6- to 12-inch length and 2- to 3-inch diameter, cassava has a tough brown skin with a very firm white flesh. Tapioca and cassareep are both made from cassava. There are two varieties of the plant: sweet and bitter. Sweet cassava is boiled and eaten as a starch vegetable. Bitter cassava contains a poisonous acid that can be deadly and must be processed before it can be eaten. This is done by boiling the root in water for at least 45 minutes; discard the water. Alternatively, grate the cassava and place it in a muslin cloth, then squeeze out as much of the acid as possible before cooking. Bitter cassava is used commercially but is not sold unprocessed in some countries.

Chayote/Cho-cho - A small pear-shaped vegetable, light green or cream colored, and often covered with a prickly skin. Bland, similar in texture to squash, and used primarily as a side dish or in gratins and soufflés. Like pawpaw (papaya), it is also a meat tenderizer.

Cherimoya - Pale-green fruit with white sweet flesh that has the texture of flan. Used for mousse and fruit sauces, the fruit is best when fully ripe, well chilled and eaten with a spoon.

Conch - Also known as lambi or concha. These large mollusks from the gastropod family are up to a foot long, with a heavy spiral shell with yellow that shades to pink inside. When preparing conch soup, conch salad or conch fritters, the tough conch flesh mush be tenderized by pounding.

Dhal - Hindu name for legumes; in the Caribbean, it refers only to split peas or lentils.

Escovitch/Escabeche - The Spanish word for "pickled." It usually refers to fresh fish (and sometimes poultry) that is cooked in oil and vinegar, or cooked and then pickled in an oil and vinegar marinade.

Guava (Unripe)

Guava (Ripe)
Guava, Guayaba - Tropical fruit that has over one hundred species. It is pear-shaped, yellow to green skinned, with creamy yellow, pink, or red granular flesh with rows of small hard seeds. Ripe guava have a perfume like scent. Guava is used green or ripe in punches, syrups, jams, chutneys, and ice creams.

Hibiscus - Also known as sorrel, rosell, or flor de Jamaica. This tropical flower is used for drinks, jams, and sauces. The flower blooms in December, after which it's dried and used to make a bright red drink that has a slightly tart taste and is the color of cranberry juice. It should not be confused with the American hibiscus found in the garden.

Jack - A fish family of over two hundred species, these colorful saltwater fish are also known as yellowtail, greenback, burnfin, black, and amber jack. These delicately flavored fish tend to be large, weighing a much as 150 pounds, and readily available in waters around the world. Tuna and swordfish may be substituted.

Lobster - Caribbean rock lobster. Unlike the Maine variety, this lobster has no claws.

Malanga, Coco- A relative of dasheen or taro, this tuber is prevalent throughout the Caribbean.

Mamey Apple - The large tropical fruit, native to the New World, yields edible pulp that's tangerine in color. The flavor is similar to a peach.

Mango - A native of India, this fruit is known as "the fruit of the tropics.” Green mangoes are used in hot sauces and condiments, while ripe mangoes appear in desserts, candies, and drinks.


Name - This giant tuber could be called by any of a variety of different names. The Spanish translation of the word ñame is yam. The outer skin is brown and coarsely textured, while the inside is porous and very moist. The ñame grows to enormous size and is considered to be the "king" of tubers.

Otaheite Apple

Otaheite Apple - This pear-shaped apple ranges from pink to ruby red in color. This fruit is usually eaten fresh, but also poached in wine, or juiced and served as a beverage.

Papaya - Also known as "pawpaw" in Jamaica. Green papaya is often used as an ingredient in chutney or relishes and as a main dish when stuffed. When ripe, it is yellow or orange and eaten as a melon, or served in fruit salad.

Passion Fruit, Maracudja, Granadilla - Oval-shaped fruit that has a tough shell and a color range from yellow-purple to eggplant to deep chocolate. The golden-yellow pulp is sweet and it must be strained to remove the seeds. Used in juices, desserts, drinks, and sauces.

Pickapeppa Sauce - This sauce is manufactured at Shooters Hill near Mandeville and is a secret combination of tamarind, onions, tomatoes, sugar, cane vinegar, mangoes, raisins, and spices. Since 1921 the company has produced this savory sauce which has won many awards and is distributed throughout North America. The sauce is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of one year.

Saltfish - Saltfish is any fried, salted fish, but most often cod. With the increasing availability of fresh fish all over Jamaica, some cooks are moving away from this preserved fish, which originated in the days before refrigeration. Still, Jamaicans have a soft place in their hearts for the taste of this salted cod (sold around the world in Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese markets under some variant on the name bacalao). Ackee and Saltfish is the preferred breakfast of Jamaicans. When imported saltfish has been unavailable, Jamaicans have been known to make their own from fresh fish.

Soursop, Corossol, Guanabana - Elongated, spike-covered fruit, slightly tart and delicately flavored. It is used mainly in drinks, punches, sherbets, and ice cream.

Stamp and Go - Spicy-hot fritters popular throughout the Caribbean. Methods, ingredients and names vary from island to island.

Star Apple - The local fruit is the main ingredient in a popular holiday dish called matrimony, a mix of star apple and oranges. In is similar to an orange but is made up of clear segments. The eight pointed star that gives the fruit its name can be seen when sliced.

Stinking Toe - A pod that resembles a human toe, this fruit possesses a foul smelling rough exterior. The sugary power inside is eaten, or used in custards or beverages.

Custard Apple
Sugar Apple, Sweetsop - The flesh of the sweetsop is actually of black seeds surrounded by sweet white pulp. The sweetsop is native to the tropical Americas.

Tamarind - A large, decorative tree that produces brown pods containing a sweet and tangy pulp that's used for flavoring curries, sauces, and even beverages.

Yellow Yam
Yam - Similar in size and color to the potato, but nuttier in flavor, it is not be confused with the Southern sweet yam or sweet potato. Caribbean yams are served boiled, mashed, or baked.

Yautia - A member of the taro root family, the yautía is the size of a potato, but more pear-shaped. It has a brown fuzzy outer skin. The flesh is white and slimy and is custard-like when cooked. It is one of the most natural thickeners, used to thicken soups, stews, and bean dishes. There is also a purple yautía which is also called mora.

Yucca /Cassava - Root vegetable similar in length and shape to a turnip, with scaly yam-like skin. Universally made into flour for breads and cakes, and used as a base for tapioca.