Saturday, 17 June 2017

Tobago: Harvest Sunday

When we think of Harvest Sunday in the UK we think of something in the autumn when schools and churches collect non-perishable foods for old people's homes and underprivileged families.  In Tobago Harvest Sunday is a food, family and friends gathering that happens somewhere on the island every Sunday!

Each village has it's designated Sunday which falls on the same Sunday each year.  The village holding Harvest when we were there on the 1st Sunday of May was called 'Belle Garden'.  There is no set number of families taking part, its just if you want to you get together with other family members and cook large pots and cauldrons of food, stock up the fridge with local beer and soft drinks
and crank up the music ready for an afternoon to evening of eating, drinking and music.

The Sunday we were in Tobago we (Mr R and I) were invited to a family's home in Belle Garden.
Shorn Richards is the chief cook for the day and with a big smile he beckoned us to come closer and see what he was doing.  Shorn would have a taste and deftly sprinkle a little more of spice or tomato puree or whatever was needed!
When we arrived there were huge bowls with various meats and fish marinating waiting for their turn in one of the great pots.  Shorn was planning on cooking tuna, chicken, pork, local blue crab,
rabbit and iguana.  I must admit I was not too upset that the iguana wasn't ready by the time we left!!

When recipes call for coconut milk no one opens a can but in true Caribbean style they grate the flesh from the coconut, put it in the blender with water and blitz.  Next you strain the milk from the pulp and use that in your recipe.  Nothing is wasted though as the pulp will be squeezed out and used in cakes and sweet breads.
As the pots were so big and the fires so hot you need a very long wooden spoon/stick to stir.  Of course you just know I wanted to get one of these and bring it home with me.  It's a long story but I am happy to report that my spoon made it home safe and sound!
As the food starts smelling amazing and the day heats up friends and family as well as other villagers start to assemble ready for the festivities! Each family provides this feast absolutely free in the spirit of sharing.

As well as the large pots cooking there were several of the women in the family in the small kitchen cooking what the locals call 'provisions' - a mixture of plantain, dasheen, casava and sweet potato.
Mr R had a good time making new friends in spite of the difficulties understanding some of the local dialect. Clinking a couple of beers together is the same in any culture so he was happy waiting outside, drinking beer and chatting while the food preparations were in full swing.
Tobago is an island rich in culture and traditions and it was an honour and a pleasure to participate in this traditional Sunday lunch.

We came to this village as strangers and left as friends with hugs all around and a promise that I will come back the first Sunday of May next year and help with the cooking!  It's a date!
The event comes to an end when the food and drink are finished or the music stops!  Then it's all about planning for next year.

I was a guest of the Harvest Sunday celebrations in Belle Garden.  I was not required to write a positive post and as usual all photos are my own and are not to be reproduced without my written permission.


  1. This sounds like so much fun! I love that if its a Sunday you know this is happening somewhere on the Island. How lovely of them to let you take part.

  2. It was such a great experience - everyone was really hospitable to us the whole week!

  3. How nice to be invited into a home like that. Nice memories. Nice to see Mr R in the post too :)

  4. This was a really interesting read! Sounds like you had a fab time :D PS I love the sound of using fresh coconut in recipes!

    1. We had a great time - there were loads of unique experiences for us in Tobago!