Eat Like An Islander

Everyday staples of West Indian cuisine tend to provoke a “huh?” response from even sophisticated American cooks. Following are some of the most common mystery ingredients, which often can be found in West Indian or Asian food shops, or online.

Alligator pear
A creative (and visual) term for avocado.

The green, elephant-ear-shaped leaf of the local variety of taro. Although often compared to spinach, it has a heartier, appealingly woody flavor.

Known in Latin America as chayote; a pale green, shiny vegetable that’s shaped much like a knobby pear.

The starchy root portion of the callaloo plant; also known as taro root.

Conch, a mollusk encased in a beautiful spiral shell.

The red membrane that encircles the fresh nutmeg nut.

Tree bark said to have cleansing and stamina-enhancing properties. The syrup is used to make a carbonated tonic drink called Mauby Fizz.

Sea moss
Irish moss seaweed, also thought to have tonic effects. Locals add soda water to sea-moss syrup for a bubbly drink.

Seasoning pepper
Used fresh, these smallish peppers can be red or green and can range from bell-pepper mild to jalapeño hot. They taste something like a Scotch bonnet.

Shadow beni
A weedlike plant that tastes remarkably like cilantro.