While on vacation in the Caribbean, you might be tempted to try everything and everything. However, there some Caribbean foods aren’t exactly suitable for a foreigner’s plate.
In order to avoid stomach sickness that could ruin your entire vacation, it’s best to skip the following foods:
Lionfish aren’t native to the Caribbean Sea. However, they were somehow introduced (possibly thanks to people ditching their pets into the sea) and now they are quite numerous. Since they have no known predators, they are wreaking havoc on reef ecosystems. Therefore, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began suggesting people eat more lionfish to help get rid of them.
However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tested about 200 lionfish in 2010 and found that more than 25 percent of them had ciguatera-causing toxins. Ciguatera is a type of food poisoning common to certain fish. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even neurological problems.
Nevertheless, opinions differ on just how dangerous it is to consume this fish. There have not been any reported cases of sickness caused by lionfish, but there have also been little studies carried out to prove that they are harmless. That being said, it’s best to be careful about where you get your lionfish, as some reefs carry more risk than others. Or, you can forgo this dish altogether.
2. Tap water
Ok, it’s not a food– but it is definitely something you shouldn’t consume in the Caribbean. Tap water isn’t quite up to the standards you may be used to in your country. Even if you see locals drinking tap water, don’t assume that it’s also safe for foreigners. Their stomachs may be used to the substances contained in the water, but yours may not be. Don’t ruin your vacation with the runs– play it safe and buy bottled water.
3. Unripe ackee fruit
While in Jamaica, you might be tempted to try ackee, the national fruit. But don’t try to pick it off a tree– unripe ackee is highly poisonous. Locals know that it’s safe to eat once the pods are red and have opened. However, you’re better off trying it cooked in Jamaica’s national dish– ackee and saltfish.
4. Cassava (when not correctly prepared)
Cassava is a root veggie commonly eaten in Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. However, if you eat it raw or not properly cooked, chemicals called cyanogenic glycosides can release cyanide into your body. There’s no harm in eating this veggie as part of a properly-cooked restaurant meal, but stay away from attempting to cook it yourself if you are unfamiliar with how to do it properly.
5. Mountain Chicken
It’s not exactly chicken, but it tastes like it and lives in the mountains, so hence the name. The Giant Ditch Frog is a delicacy in Dominica and Montserrat, but its population has gone down dramatically due to over-consumption. It’s now endangered, so if you see it on a restaurant menu, it’s probably illegal! This is one Caribbean food you should always avoid. (Yes, we know it’s soooo hard to pass up on eating a frog…)
Main image: Giant Ditch Frog (Tim Vickers)