By Angel Nuñez
While the mahogany tree is the national tree of Belize, there is a thought that the national tree of San Pedro could be either the coconut tree or the almond both of which abound in San Pedro. First I will deal with the almond tree. The modern Sanpedranos normally use the almond for the nut found inside the shell of the tough seed. Of course very few if any will take the effort and the time to crack the seeds to extract the nut. No, rather they go to the store and buy a bag or can of roasted salted almond nuts. Some doctors recommend the consumption of the almond nut for its valuable oil which helps build the good cholesterol of the body.
HOWEVER THE OLD TIMER SANPEDRANO enjoyed the almond in a totally different way. Children mostly enjoyed eating the sweet meat found outside and all around the seed of the almond. Some people sold the almonds at five almonds for one cent, so that five cents gave you a bagful of twenty five ripe almonds. Then moms would make a delicious almond candy and jelly the same way they used coco plums, papayas, and craboo. The more patient children did use their hammers to crack the seed and eat what was there of a nut. And there is one more edible use of the almonds. Folks would make a ‘ceviche’ using the almond fruit, lime, salt and of course lots of pepper. However, the most pleasant thing about the almond tree is that it served as a suitable place to tie a hammock unto two thick branches to enjoy a perfect siesta after the midday lunch.
People do not use the coconuts today as much as it used to be twenty five years ago. The coconut milk is used today in San Pedro to cook some white rice, rice and beans, and that is about it.
THE OLD TIMER SANPEDRANOS used the coconut products in a large variety of ways. The milk was used to cook the rice and beans but was also used to prepare a fish soup with milk called sere, sort of the same thing as the Garifuna hudut. The coconut milk was additionally used in the baking of sweet buns and Creole bread as well as in the sweet potato pudding, bread pudding, and breadfruit pudding. With the coconut oil Sanpedranos fried their fish, manatee meat, and any other foods that required frying. What’s more Sanpedranos made their own coconut oil. Whenever mom or dad would sit to grate the coconut meat, children would sit at the foot of mom to beg for the first bits of the delicious and juicy grated coconut meat. This could be enjoyed in its natural state or sugar could be added. What’s up for dessert? The tender, thin, sweet and juicy layer of coconut meat found in half mature coconuts. Again this was a delight as it was or with some sugar or condensed milk.
When the refrigerators finally came into being, coconut popsicles were added to the delightful treat for the Sanpedrano family. You would think that’s it for the coconut but you are sadly mistaken. The green coconut husks were used to create a dense smoke used to repel mosquitoes - San Pedro’s home-made mosquito repellent. Then the dry, brown coconut husks were used as fuel in the kitchen to bake, roast, toast and even fry and on special occasions to make a darn good barbecue.
Count them up-all the uses of the island’s coconuts. And of course I have not yet mentioned that Sapedranos used to export coconuts to the United States of America. Darn right that at one time the coconut tree had far more uses than the mahogany tree which is our national tree. Did I mention that there are some people who could weave hats with the coconut palm leaves. That is use number eleven. And why did I fail to mention that the palms were the main source of decorations of the streets and stages for parades or the visit of some important dignitary to San Pedro? That rounds it up to one dozen uses of the famous coconut tree. So would it be the almond or the coconut that has won the right to be considered San Pedro’s national tree.
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