Eating local at Jamaica’s Round Hill Resort

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good apple. But when I travel to the tropics, I like my fruit to be a little more… tropical. So when I headed to the breakfast buffet on my first morning at Jamaica’s Round Hill Resort, I was beyond thrilled to see a whole fruit buffet lined up in front of me, with classic options such as pineapple, papaya, mango, banana, star fruit and passionfruit as well as a couple of local options – the pear-like otaheite and the lushly sweet naseberry.

After breakfast, during a tour of the property, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Round Hill has a policy of supporting and promoting local foods and producers – and really, with roadside stands heaped with pyramids of fresh mangoes, it makes a lot of sense to make use of what grows easily on the island. For instance, one of the cottages has a starfruit tree in front, the produce from which is used fresh and in juice at the breakfast buffet. But I was a little surprised at the extent of the resort’s organic garden and that they employ a full-time staff member to manage it.

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Billy, who calls himself a farmer, was eager to show me around the land and demonstrate his hard work and commitment to organic growing methods. In a timing that seems off-kilter to a Canadian, summer is the off season due to high heat and humidity, so Billy had been busy planting rows and rows of peanuts, a legume that fixes nitrogen into the soil to provide nutrients for other plants. I was also interested to see marigolds planted throughout to attract pests, as well as a row of corn plants (well past their prime at this stage) on one end of the garden, also to keep pests away from other crops, Billy explained. But I got the greatest kick when we smelled the leaves of the garden’s allspice tree – it was like sticking your nose into a spice jar. (Traditionally, allspice wood is used in preparing jerk, as its smoke adds an extra flavour to the meat.)

The next day for lunch, I ordered a vegetable wrap and salad and enjoyed it all the more knowing it contained fresh herbs and the tiniest cherry tomatoes from Billy’s garden. And on my last night, I snacked on peanuts from another local farmer as I sipped on a tasty (but oh-so-strong) Planter’s Punch in advance of a margarita pizza – topped, of course, by Billy’s fresh and flavourful basil.

By: Kat Tancock