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Blog Home > Archive (July, 2018)

Learning about other cultures is a fascinating journey, and Cayman culture is worth the exploration. Take some time to see if you can find the following trees of cultural significance to the Cayman Islands and their products on your next trip to the island. (Make a scavenger hunt out of it!) Some produce literal fruits that are happily consumed, while others have been used to create essential products for the island. 

Ironwood Tree

There are common trees around the world called Ironwood, but the tree referred to as the Ironwood tree in Cayman is endemic to the Cayman Islands, important to the culture and unfortunately endangered. Used to build the framework for early homes (like Dovovan’s grandfather’s home), the wood of the tree is heavy, water resistant and termite proof. Ironwood was first used in Wattle and Daub construction and then throughout the years in various construction.

Where they grow: Dense forests such as the Ironwood Forest, Forest at Crystal Caves, and Mastic Reserve

Where you can see them in use:

nurse leila home
Nurse Leila’s home pictured above is a Wattle and Daub structure built with ironwood.

Another ironwood supported structure is the Old Savannah Schoolhouse built in 1940.

Silver Thatch Palm

Also used in the Wattle & Daub buildings (for roofs) of early settlers, the Silver Thatch Palm was used in a multitude of additional products, many with economical value, and is vastly significant to the history of the Cayman Islands. The Silver Thatch was weaved into ropes, hats, brooms, baskets, fans and much more. The thatched rope was in high demand from neighbors in Cuba and Jamaica and thereby created a roping industry that helped support the island. Because of it's impact, it's no surprise the Silver Thatch Palm is the national tree of the islands.

Where they grow: All over the island and especially present on the East End

Where you can find products: Try the Cayman Craft Market at The Waterfront in Georgetown or one of the local Farmers Markets for thatched products.

A Caymanian shows off a broom made of Silver Thatch in front of the plant itself in her yard.

Breadfruit Tree

The Breadfruit Tree has long been providing sustenance to those living on island. According to A Cayman Childhood Remembered by Jackie Bodden, a Breadfruit is “a large, round, usually seedless fruit with a starchy pulp. When cooked it tastes similar to an Irish potato.” The breadfruit is still a popular fruit today among Caymanians—in fact Lisa, our property manager, gifted me a breadfruit during my last trip to Cayman. She said that Caymanians love to eat breadfruit with fish, with gravy, with fried chicken, with anything!

Where they grow: All over the island, and grown in the yards of many residents.

Where you can find breadfruit: When in season you can buy breadfruit in local grocery stores, and some local restaurants such as Da Fish Shack in Georgetown or Vivine’s Kitchen in the East End.

Breadfruit growing on Lisa's tree.

two breadfruit

Ackee Tree

Speaking of what to eat breadfruit with, ackee and cod is another dish that Caymanians love to pair with the fruit. The Ackee tree bears a red fruit that can be toxic before it is ripe or when it is too old, so it’s important to get the fruit from a store or a local that knows when it is ready to eat. When ripe it’s full of many healthy nutrients. The meat of the ackee fruit looks similar to scrambled eggs, and has a slightly sweet and slightly bitter taste that is the perfect compliment to the codfish. The ackee and cod dish is especially popular for breakfast.

Where they grow: Grown in the yards of many residents, these trees became prevalent when Jamaicans migrated to Cayman in the 60's according to Roger Ebanks.

Where you can find ackee: Eat like a local and grab ackee and cod for breakfast at Full of Beans Cafe or Champion House II, both in Georgetown.

caymanian woman with her ackee tree
Mrs. Nettie, a local Caymanian, shows us an ackee tree in her yard.

Seagrape & Popnut Trees

Original homesteads in Grand Cayman were often shaded by seagrape and popnut trees. Popnut trees were also used in the making of Cayman catboats (along with mahogany and fiddlewood trees). Both trees tend to grow near the shore. The seagrape tree is known for its green leaves with red veining and the edible fruit that it bears (ask a local how to tell when seagrapes are ripe for eating). The popnut tree has yellow flowers that last only a day and turn maroon by the end of the day. It also has a brown leathery fruit bulb that resembles a nut.

Where they grow: Head to the sea and you’re sure to find one or both of these trees. You can enjoy the shade of seagrape and popnut trees at Smith’s Cove and many other beaches on Grand Cayman, including our very own beach here at CCC!

seagrape tree
Catch this seagrape tree by the swing here at CCC. There's also one by the boat shed on the other side of our beach.

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Give a warm welcome to Josephine! She is our newest Office Assistant, who will be greeting you when you check in for your next visit.

Josephine has lived in Cayman for over thirty years. Originally from Jamaica, she moved to Cayman after college, where she got her degree in hotel management. Starting out, Josephine worked at the old Cayman Holiday Inn, the inn on the beach, where the Ritz Carlton is now. While working there, Josephine first met our very own Lisa Hernandez! When that hotel closed, she spent around fifteen years in the banking industry. But after being outside of the hotel business for years, Josephine realized she missed hospitality. “Tourism is my passion,” she said. And lucky for us, she reconnected with Lisa and joined us here at CCC!

Since starting in May, Josephine says she’s really enjoying the whole Christopher Columbus package, from meeting all the guests to the wonderful staff to the grounds itself. “The property is so pristine—who wouldn’t want to work here?” She also adds that “the staff is very nice and knowledgeable, very professional.” Another one of her favorite parts of the job is being so near to the beach and the ocean—and who could disagree on that?

To Josephine, the best thing about the island is its people. “Cayman is the people. Everyone is very real. It’s why people keep coming back to visit.” She appreciates how friendly and kind Caymanians are, noting that not everywhere in the world is so welcoming and hospitable. Caymanians are the face that truly makes the island the paradise that it is. 

If you’re a first-time visitor, Josephine recommends that your first stop should be, of course, Christopher Columbus. But next should be Stingray City. “There’s nowhere else like it in the world. If you come to Cayman and don’t go to Stingray City, you’re missing out.” Josephine loves to visit Stingray City herself, and also enjoys stopping off at the Coral Gardens to admire all the amazing plant life and flowers in the ocean. “It’s an experience. So beautiful!”

In her free time, Josephine enjoys her hobbies. She has a green thumb and relishes time in the garden in front of her house. Passers by enjoy admiring all the flowers, plants, and vegetables she's tended. Her favorite flower is a gladiolus, which comes in all colors. Gladiolus flowers grow really well back in her native Jamaica, but they have a little more trouble blooming from year to year in Cayman. Her Christian faith is also a huge part of her life. Josephine enjoys sharing the Bible and teaching others about God. When she takes a moment to recharge, her favorite snack is avocado with tomato and cucumber, or avocado toast—yum!

Don’t forget to introduce yourself and make Josephine feel welcome next time you’re at the condos!

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