By: Kristin Bourne
Eating healthy is challenging in today’s modern, busy world. And, the island of Anguilla is especially arid, not known for any lushness or abundance of naturally growing staples. "Eating clean" is not always easy.
Welcome to a wonderful place,
Organic produce tends to be priced much higher and the majority of what can be purchased in the grocery store has been shipped in to Anguilla. Freshness can be lost by the time produce reaches your kitchen and plate.
The great news?... We can now avoid long shipping times and additional expenses of import!
Sensational Flavours is an organic farm that opened in Anguilla on April 2nd, 2016.
The farm itself had been in place previously, busy growing produce and supplying some of Anguilla’s grocery stores. Now, every Saturday morning, the farm and their market is open to the public.
I found out how welcoming they are on my first visit. As I drove east toward Sensational Flavours' location in Mt. Fortune in the eastern end of Anguilla, I noticed rare and plentiful rain clouds were moving from the east and toward the west.
Anguilla doesn’t get much rain, so if you spend a lot of time on-island, this is usually a welcomed change of scene as it nourishes the land and fills many cisterns, which provide water to the people. I laughed to myself at my timing, knowing it would be excellent for Sensational Flavours to have this rain.
The marketplace tent on a rare, rainy day
I waited out the heavier rain, emerged under a light drizzle and made my way to the marketplace tent. (NOTE: The marketplace has two tented areas. No other shelter is available.) The other tent was smaller and where Salih Abdur Raheem, the founder of Sensational Flavours was roasting corn.
At the larger marketplace tent I met Jemmi, who explained what was on hand. The marketplace tent displayed the fruits and vegetables that had been organically grown right there on that very land. The majority of the agricultural goods they offer are priced at $2 US per pound. Items like kale, tomato and lettuce are $2.50 US per pound.
Sensational colors at Sensational Flavours
Jemmi explained that not every agricultural item is grown on the property since cycles dictate what’s available. For example, the plantains they had that day were brought in from Dominica. The staff takes pride in their work and won't hesitate to point out what is grown on-site and what is brought in. Their goal is to eventually have every single option be a Sensational Flavours-grown item. They are close!
The majority of produce is theirs and things do run out… When I arrived I saw pumpkin and by the time I left, the pumpkin had sold out. The staff can tell you what is coming up soon and what will soon run out, too. Everyone working the market has their heart and soul in Sensational Flavours and the work they do. It is refreshing and heart-warming.
As the rain continued to slow, I met Salih and he guided me into the field. It was a gorgeous sight… Corn, guinea corn, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, sweet potatoes, melon and papaya. Rows and rows, growing right there in arid Anguilla! And, that’s just to name some. The rotation of what’s available will be fun to watch via their Facebook page.
From the farm looking toward the marketing place, I see...
Corn and kale
I learned that Anguilla’s aridness isn’t a bad thing for certain crops. For example, watermelon… A watermelon that gets an abundance of water will be one that tastes a little more watered down. A watermelon grown in Anguilla is the best tasting watermelon because of the lack of rain. That’s great news if you like a sweet watermelon!
Salih’s cousin Owen and he both confirmed that everything they are doing is organic and free of chemicals and pesticides. They use natural fertilizer and such things as fish emulsion and seaweed from Anguilla. When I asked of any major pest issues Salih said, "Only with the corn." They purchase organic pesticide from the US to control it, and it works.
Owen and Jemmi also pointed out the forthcoming herb garden, which will yield arugula, chives, cilantro, thyme, parsley and rosemary. Something else to look forward to!
Homemade kale muffin
Back at the tent, Jemmi’s twin sister told me of their baked goods. It just gets better and better… Muffins! Kale, zucchini, carrot and beet.
Local juices were also on the table that morning, along with Nat’s hot pepper sauce, and a kitchen area where homemade Johnny cakes, soup and fried fish were being prepared.
There was a variety of fish and the soups will vary from callaloo, conch, fish and farmers soup (made from everything on the farm).
Worm grass and basil bush tea
I had a bush tea (of worm grass and basil) and I sampled a hot Johnny cake. It is now in my top 3 favorite Johnny cakes in Anguilla. The bush tea was perfect for a cooler, wetter morning on the island, too.
All of their colorful juices are made on-site and they vary depending on the fruits and vegetables that are available.
I purchased one of each that day: passionfruit, beet, carrot and avocado. Their potential full list of options include: sorrel, guava, cucumber, plantain, golden apple, grapefruit, lemonade, mauby an ginger beer. They all sell for $3 US.
Hot Johnny cake
Lastly, to sample even more of the goods… I purchased a fried fish (freshly caught by a local fisherman and cooked by Owen), sweet potatoes, bananas (grown in Island Harbour, Anguilla), peppers, a kale muffin, the juices and last but not least… Salih’s task that had kept him plenty busy for the morning… roast corn.
The roast corn set up was a show in itself and if you stick around long enough, you’ll see the lovely man go out in to the field, chop down freshly grown organic corn and walk back with it on his shoulder. Whoever happens to be around helps shuck it and then? On to the hot coals it goes where Salih tends to it. Snapping, crackling, popping - it’s a cool sound. And, I have craved the taste of the corn ever since.
There's Salih, roasting his own homegrown, organic corn. It's a treat!
When I asked Salih if he did this every Saturday, his answer was no. The corn roasting only takes place when the corn is ready - and it sounds like I was fortunate enough to catch the last of the ready corn.
I had been lurking around Sensational Flavours for so long, I wasn’t ready to leave. I do love the charm of Anguilla’s East End but I’m sure it was the people at Sensational Flavours that made it hard to leave.
The passion behind what Salih and everyone with Sensational Flavours have been working toward accomplishing for so long now has manifested and will surely continue in a good direction.
Providing healthy food is vital work. Enjoying the process of continued hard work must come from a place of strong motivation. Salih and Owen told me they learned at a young age from their grandfather. Salih also noted a major influence - Frankie. He farms and has a stand in the The Quarter not far from Proctor’s restaurant on Saturday mornings.
Warm hospitality is found on the Sensational Flavours grounds
How nice it is… Anguilla’s organic farm and market, Sensational Flavours. With the efforts behind it and the delightful accompaniments, it is a wonderful addition to Anguilla, especially for those of us who are trying to find a balance between eating well while enjoying it. Everything I have tasted from Sensational Flavours, from my steamed sweet potatoes I made that night, to the fish, the muffin, and the local juices have been excellent.
Don’t hesitate to go and check it out because even on a rainy day, it’s a special place on a special island.
Directions: It’s easy to find in Mount Fortune as it’s on the main road. Mount Fortune is inland from Sile Bay and Savannah Bay in the east.
Hours: Saturday from around 7-8am to around 4-5pm. Farm tour requests can be made for during the week.
Tel.: Call 264-582-0434 or 264-235-4191.