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Feeding the Soul

The island is rife with opportunities to explore and sustain a plant-based diet. Labels like vegan or vegetarian are concocted to define those embracing a meat-free lifestyle, but in Jamaica, everything is simply ital.

The Rastafarian movement has been a definitive part of Jamaica’s cultural identity with an undeniable influence on local cuisine. Ital is a word coined in Rastafarian culture to describe natural foods prepared without salt; however, the term is loosely applied to all meatless dishes. Rastafarians are traditionally advocates of sustainable living and reaping the fruits of one’s labour. Ital is not a fad or trendy social media hashtag; for many it is a vital part of their existence.

“There’s something special and spiritual about sitting in a Rasta man’s shop as he prepares his ital stew for you,” says Keisha McDonald, co-owner of Kushite’s Vegetable Cuisine. She and her business partner, Kush Tafari, are two of a growing number of entrepreneurs that are changing the face of local vegan food. Their fine-dining approach to vegetable cuisine was revolutionary when they started Kushite’s back in 2010.

Ital Shops

Ital shops are at the core of Jamaica’s burgeoning vegan food scene. Structures range from modest street-side shacks to small and tastefully decorated eateries. Ital stew is more about the sense of fellowship and communion than it is about the hearty merger of vegetables steamed in coconut milk then seasoned with freshly grounded herbs and spices. The love and patience that goes into the preparation of each dish enhances the flavour just as much as the fiery scotch bonnet pepper and callaloo mixture of a pepper pot soup. Visiting an ital shop is an authentic experience and sweet immersion into local culture, such as the warm greeting from the Rasta man as he hands you a cup of freshly made sour sop juice blended with homegrown limes. Ital is Jamaica’s soul food.

Vegetarian Restaurants

Ackee Quinoa, Jerk Breadfruit and Callaloo Lasagne are snippets of the array of plant-based meals offered at restaurants like Kushite’s Vegetable Cuisine and New Leaf Vegetarian. Vegetarian restaurants maintain the distinct flavour identity of local cuisine. The infusion of Mediterranean and other international cooking styles is a testament to the island’s rich history and traditions of past and present inhabitants.

Other restaurants like the Regency Restaurant at Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in Kingston are responding to the rising demand for healthier meal options. They introduced a gourmet vegetarian menu in an effort to enhance the fine-dining experience for their guests. Café Africa specialises in African-inspired cuisines with vegan-friendly options. Fufu (Ghanaian cassava dish) and matoke (Ugandan plantain polenta) are fixtures on their menu.

Farm-to-Table Dining

St. Elizabeth is the island’s largest agricultural-producing region. Located in the Pedro Plains area of the parish, Dool’s Organic Farm offers an al fresco dining experience.

 

Walkerswood / Associated Manufacturers Ltd.

Walkerwswood is the name of a village in rural Jamaica. We are famous for our Jerk Seasoning and over 20...