Learn about the medicinal and practical uses of St. Croix plants, trees, and fruit.. Read about the importance of our agricultural products, and realize how they have not only shaped our lives, but our economy and culture as well.



Trees- Turpentine Tree

Turpentine Tree

This tree can grow to 40 feet or more living wildly in deciduous woods, or as a cultivated ornamental. It is native to the West Indies, Central America, and South Florida where it is known as the Turpentine tree. Cruzians, on the other hand, prefer to call it “The Tourist Tree” because the trunk’s bark is red and peeling. Branches hold 3 to 11 oval, pointed, short-stalked leaflets, each 2 to 4 in. long and small 5-parted flowers in inconspicuous clusters. The wood is very light and not useful for construction. Leaves, bark, root, and resin, are used in a variety of ways in native medicines. The resin obtained by injuring the bark, is used as glue, in varnish, and as incense. The sap is also put on sores and wounds to stop bleeding. The leaf and bark are used as an infusion for a weak back.

Trees- Sandbox

Sandbox

Nobody, including monkeys, would attempt to climb this tree. In fact, locally, it is better known as the Monkey-No-Climb. Its yellow-gray bark is covered with short, squat, fleshy spines. When we say covered, we mean covered! Though native to the West Indies and Central America, this tree can be found in our rainforest, many 100 feet or more and contains an irritant milky sap. The fruit, or “sandbox,” are a flattened sphere, 3 to 4 inches across, dry husked, with shallow vertical valleys like a pumpkin, outlining 10 to 20 cavities within. They are green at first, then brown and contain large crescent shaped seeds. The large fruit explodes when dry and can be dangerous if standing nearby. Its seeds are toxic like those of castor beans, which they resemble. Open fruit was once commonly employed as a container for sand used in drying ink after writing, hence the name sandbox. The leaves, alternating and simple, are narrowly heart-shaped, hairy, and possess prominent veins. They are mixed and pressed with salt and applied to swellings and boils. When pressed in oil, the leaves are used for rheumatic pain.

Trees- Seaside Mahoe

Seaside Mahoe

The seaside Mahoe looks very much like the Manchineel. A good way to tell them apart is by the leaves. The seaside Mahoe has green, heart-shaped, 4- to 5-inch leaves with tapering tips. Solitary, 2-inch long, cup-shaped, hibiscus-like flowers begin yellow but turn red before falling. Flowers are produced year round. The fruit is a 1- to 2-inch wide, flat-topped, brown, leathery capsule and looks like a crab apple. Seaside Mahoe colonizes shoreline habitats and can form dense, impenetrable stands, crowding and shading out native vegetation. The fruit are buoyant in seawater, enabling seeds to be carried by ocean currents to distant shores. Introduced as a salt and drought tolerant flowering tree for coastal landscapes but seldom seen purposely propagated in Florida today.

Trees- Manchineel

Manchineel

Usually found near the beach, offering wonderful shade and golden apples, the Manchineel tree is very dangerous! Columbus recorded the first record of its poisonous nature, after his men had died after their encounter with it. One should not picnic under it or handle the broken vegetation. The sap can cause permanent blindness if gotten into the eyes, and severe burns on the skin elsewhere. It is noted that the Saladoid Indians used the poison from the tree on their arrows. The leaves are simple, alternate, and glossy, with pointed tips, rounded base, and smooth or slightly toothed edges. The veins have similar parts arranged on each side with a single conspicuous main vein, which “bleeds” a milky sap in young foliage, if broken. Each tree carries both a male and female flower, usually inconspicuous. The “apples”, which are very poisonous, however, are usually plentiful. They are about 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter and green, turning yellow before dropping, with the odor of apples. Inside is a large pithy pulp with a single large, bumpy, wood-like seed at the center. see below.

Trees- Powder Puff

Powder Puff Tree (Calliandra inaequilatera)

This majestic tree, native to the West Indies, can grow to more than 75 feet. Leaves are found in 3 to 10 pairs of shiny, stiff, glossy leaflets, each about 6 inches long, with a gently curved mid vein. It bears a hard wooden, green then brown, pear-shaped fruit, which splits into 5 segments containing winged seeds hanging from a central stalk, about the size and shape of maple keys. The trunk may have low buttresses at the base, is ridged and somewhat scaly. The dark red wood is excellent for furniture. Most mahogany lumber now comes from South America. This is a very popular shade tree.

Trees- Mahogany

Mahogany

This majestic tree, native to the West Indies, can grow to more than 75 feet. Leaves are found in 3 to 10 pairs of shiny, stiff, glossy leaflets, each about 6 inches long, with a gently curved mid vein. It bears a hard wooden, green then brown, pear-shaped fruit, which splits into 5 segments containing winged seeds hanging from a central stalk, about the size and shape of maple keys. The trunk may have low buttresses at the base, is ridged and somewhat scaly. The dark red wood is excellent for furniture. Most mahogany lumber now comes from South America. This is a very popular shade tree.

Trees- African Tulip Tree

African Tulip Tree

The major attraction of this Kenya native are its large softball-sized bell-shaped orange-red flowers with a yellow border on the petals…huge and spectacular. There are also referred to as Fire Tree, Flame of the Forrest or Fountain Tree. No matter what you call it, it is a showy site to see!

Fruit- Tamarind

Tamarind (Tamarindus indica)

The leaves of the Tamarind tree are alternate and plentiful, giving it a light green feathery look. They are each 1 inch long with parallel edges. Lumpy green, then brown round pods also fill the trees, an inch in diameter and varying in length. The bark is rough. Tamarind is native to Asia and Africa, and was brought to the Caribbean in the 1600′s. It is now widely dispersed as a shade tree and also grown for its fruit and tight grained, durable wood. The Tamarind, high in vitamins A and C, has been used in medicine since the 11th century BC, as a laxative and to combat scurvy, and also in treatment of liver disorders and intoxications. The leaves are used for treating diarrhea, dysentery, diabetes, and eye irritations. The acid pulp of the fruit can be eaten raw, but more commonly is made into a beverage, or used for chutneys, curries, candy and preserves. It can be stewed down and mixed with sugar, or rolled into a ball with sugar, cinnamon, and other spices, known as tamarind balls… a favorite treat to many local children.

Fruit- Soursop

Soursop (Annona muricata)

By the looks of this fruit, you may not want anything to do with it, but it is actually quite tasty! The inner white flesh is a sweet pulp that is used to make juice as well as candies, sorbets, and ice cream flavorings. It is believed that the leaves of the soursop can break a high fever. Also, boiling the leaves and drinking may help induce sleep.

The tea, fruit, and juice are used medicinally to treat illness ranging from stomach ailments to worms.

Fruit- Sea Grape

Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera)

Found by the sea and safe to use for shade, the sea grape can also be eaten when ripe. The leaves look like fans and can be used as such. Flowers are closely spaced and radiating at right angles from a stem that starts out erect but later hangs as fruit develops. The flowers are small, fragrant, and 5-pointed with flaring white petals. The grapes remain green and hard for a long time. Eventually, one at a time they change to their final color, a deep purple. They hang in bunches, each one has a single seed, and are about the size of regular grapes. When fully mature, they become soft and have a sweet-sour taste making them great for use in jams and jellies. It is possible to make an alcoholic beverage made from the grapes, similar to wine. It is not commonly found anymore but when it is, it is sweet and served chilled . The sap that seeps from the bark has been used in the treatment of digestive maladies and asthma.

Fruit- Papaya

Papaya

A papaya tree can be spotted by its soft, greenish and hollow trunk topped with many spiraled, umbrella-like clusters of large leaves bearing pear shaped fruit. In the wild, papaya trees are either male or female. Occasionally, the male plant will bear flowers setting into fruit but usually the female bears the fruit. Plants sometimes begin flowering within 3 to 4 months from seed and will fruit for 2 to 3 years. The trees are rapid growers and survive shipping well, unlike many tropical fruits, which make them great for exporting. They are now commonly in northern markets. The fruit’s ripe flesh is sweet and can be used in desserts, salads, juices, or even as a wonderful breakfast melon. The flesh contains an enzyme used as medicine and as a meat tenderizer. It is said that it is a safe non-surgical treatment for a slipped disc.

Fruit- Mango

Mango (Mangifera indica)

Though there are several types of mangoes, each one is sweet, juicy, and refreshing. The leaves are simple, alternate, and clustered at branch tips. They are narrow, pointed, glossy, short-stalked and about 12 by 3 inches. Mangoes are oval, often lop-sided and hanging green and then ripen to red, orange, purple-brown or yellowish, depending on variety. The wood and bark are resinous. Individual trees may flower one part of the tree at a time. The ripe fruit is thin-skinned and contains one large seed. The flesh is orange and sweet. It can be eaten raw or used for juices, jellies, preserves, chutney, it makes a great sorbet, too. Even the fruit while green yields an edible pulp. Plants usually bear 3 to 5 years after planting. Mangoes are of great importance as a fruit in the tropics, second only to bananas. They grow wild on the roadside and throughout the rainforest. However, unknown to most, the Mango tree is a relative to poison ivy. A person highly sensitive to poison ivy seems to have a reaction mostly with the green fruit.

Fruit- Kenip

Kenip

The Kenip tree is large with a usually straight trunk with many branches bearing many oval shaped leaves. It’s fragrant flowers grow in clusters at branch ends. The male and female flowers usually appear on separate trees. Also found in clusters is its round fruit covered with a green leathery skin and edible pinkish acidic, but sweet inner pulp. Don’t bite into it! The pulp holds a large white seed with a starchy kernel. The Kenip tree, a favorite to many, is native to northern South America and was introduced and naturalized elsewhere, including tropical Asia and Africa. It is possible that it reached this region by American Indians who migrated to these islands. Traditionally in the Virgin Islands, the leaves and stems were used internally as a treatment for coughs and fever, while the fruit was used to treat diarrhea. Locally, the fruit has also been used to make jelly and wine, and fruit kernels are occasionally roasted and eaten like nuts. Its wood has been used for construction and charcoal.

Fruit- Carambola

Carambola (Averrhoa carambola)

More commonly reffered to as a Star Fruit (yes, really!) these juicy golden drops of sunshine can be found growing on trees several months out of the year. The entire fruit can be eaten, except the seeds. They have a sweet taste to them, but can be bitter if over ripe. The luxurious resort on St. Croix west end bears this fruit’s name.

Fruit- Breadfruit

Breadfruit (Artocarpus communis)

The beautifully lobed leaves and impressive green fruits of the breadfruit are easily recognizable in the Caribbean, and their quiet cultivation belies the tumultuous history of its origin in these parts. Originally from Tahiti, the breadfruit is often claimed as one of the reasons behind the mutiny on the Bounty, which figures large in nautical and folk history. A young Captain Bligh, upon hearing that breadfruit could be a reliable and inexpensive starch for sugar plantation slaves, forged his boat, the Bounty, through treacherous seas around the Cape of Good Hope to Tahiti to harvest and transport young breadfruit trees for the Caribbean. Unsuccessful for a variety of reasons (challenging weather, disgruntled sailors, delays, and subsequent mutiny that left him stranded on a small boat with only scant provisions and no weapons), Captain Bligh was only able to reach his goal with these trees on his second attempt (now that’s commitment) several years later. Though it is not commonly found in Crucian restaurants (though it doesn’t hurt to ask your server), it still remains a local staple and source of pride for many islanders. Eaten boiled with salt and spices or roasted, breadfruit has a unique flavor that is both potato-starchy and tender-fruity.

Fruit- Banana

Banana (Musa spp)

Originally from Southeast Asia, now grown in over 107 countries throughout the tropics. Though most people are familiar with the popular store variety, the Cavendish, few realize the variety that bananas come in, until traveling to the tropics. Eaten ripened (yellow) or cooked when green, bananas can be sweet or savory and starchy. Common uses in St. Croix include side ‘provisions’ of boiled green banana or plantain, its starchy brother, as well as the popular Bananas Foster, a flambe of ripe bananas, brown sugar, butter and rum. The wide, waterproof leaves have been used as umbrellas, for wrapping and preserving foods and the beautiful, large flowers can be eaten raw or cooked. The female flowers ripen to become a bunch of bananas. Down from the bunch are the male flowers, which are not functional and abort early. Since the male does not pollinate the flowers, and fruit develop without pollination, no seeds are developed. Each banana plant flowers only once at 1½ years when the growing point stops making leaves, though new plants, or slips, grow up from the root. Bananas have a variety of health benefits including being high in potassium, rich in antioxidants and a great source of fiber. The banana plant has also been used as a source of fibers for high grade textiles and have been compared to silk once refined. Farmers markets in St. Croix sell a variety of bananas and it is worth trying local varietals to see just how rich a flavor home-grown bananas can have.

Fruit- Avocado

Avocado (Persea americana)

Also called “Pears” in the Caribbean, the mild-flavored avocado has a saucy nomenclature. Derived from the Nahuatl people (traditionally referred to as “Aztecan”) of Central Mexico, their word for avocado, ahuacatl, translates literally to “testicle” a reference to the shape and texture of the fruit. Eaten for fertility, or avoided in efforts to preserve chastity, the avocado is native to the Caribbean and Central and South America. Frost-sensitive and brittle trees make it a delicate plant prized for the versatility of culinary uses. Used in savory and sweet dishes (many make sweet smoothies with the meat), the avocado has 60% more potassium than bananas and a rich stock of monounsaturated fat and has been shown to positively affect blood serum cholesterol levels. The fruit also has the highest level of fiber of any fruit and is loaded with vitamins E and K. Popular and sought after in the Caribbean, you can find avocados sliced on the side of many dishes, or as the main ingredient in guacamole, in season throughout the islands. Caribbean avocados differ from the common Hass avocadoes (smaller, darker skinned) greatly and are typically much larger with more creamy meat and a bright green and golden yellow flesh.

Plants- Tan-Tan

Tan-Tan

This prolific plant can be found almost everywhere on the island… on roadsides, open fields, woodlands, even inside houses growing like a weed beside your favorite house plant. It grows fast and thick, starting as a small twig and eventually, if left alone, can grow to a great size. It’s branches are covered with little green oval leaves and sporadically filled with clusters of flat green, then brown, pods, each about six inches long. Inside the pods are numerous shiny seeds, changing color with the pod, in a ladder-like linear series. The stems have no thorns, which makes the pods easy to get to. The seeds can be strung into quite interesting and unique necklaces. Although this bush can be considered a nuisance, it is a nitrogen fixer, which helps to build the soil. However, it also contains an alkaloid, which over a period of time, can cause loss of long hair in livestock.

Plants- Century Plant

Century Plant (Agave americana)

The century plant resembles an Aloe plant, except it is much larger and possesses sharper spines on the leaves’ edges and its pointed tip is sharp and strong. Until flowering, each plant has a single stem bud which produces leaves in clusters near the ground. When the plant has stored enough food, usually after a decade or so, the stem bud starts to grow. This is called “flowering”. At “flowering”, the main stem elongates rapidly to 20 feet. Flowers grow in lateral groups of tubular, 6-parted yellow clusters that look like upturned candelabras. When it is done, it dies and the whole plant dies with it, although a new plant usually sprouts from the roots. The Century Plant is commonly found as an ornamental plant.

Plants- Casha Bush

Casha Bush

This very intimidating thorn-covered bush is seen almost everywhere on the island. Its leaves are numerous, each about ¼ inch long and blunt tipped. Casha also holds cylindrical tiny yellow flowers and a nearly cylindrical legume pod, 4 to 5 inches long. The stem is thin and woody, usually contorted and covered with whitish thorns an inch or more long on mature stems. Be careful when hiking, as the casha thorns can do some damage to exposed knees, legs, and feet.

Plants- Cactus

Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Many different types of cacti are present throughout St.Croix, mostly on the dry terrain of the East End. The “prickly pear” (a) can be found throughout the island. Many use it for it’s decorative properties. This particular cactus possesses jointed stems formed of flattened segments covered with hairs. The flowers are yellow or orange, sometimes blushed red near the base. The fruits are purple. During harvesting, gloves can be worn to avoid being wounded by the spines and hairs. The sweet fruit is usually eaten raw, alone or placed in fruit salads. The Turks Cap (b) is completely covered with spines, has a short, stubby, barrel-like bottom with a taller, cylindrical top usually red and bristly. It can grow as large as 30 cm in height by 8 cm in diameter. Pink flowers develop among the bristles and spines so it makes for a great ornamental cactus. It thrives in arid, rocky areas along the coasts. Night-Blooming Cactus (c) is flaccid with a diameter of 1 to 3 cm, and usually requires the stability of another plant, so it is often found wrapped and hanging from other plants. It grows as a vining shrub with fleshy stems that are covered with silky spines up to 1.5 cm long and with deciduous white or yellow hairs. At night the white flowers bloom. Native to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Cuba, it inhabits the scrub woods near the coast. It has been sold throughout the states for its ornamental purpose, and is also subject to large-scale cultivation since it yields a medicinal substance that stimulates the cardiovascular system. The Pipe Organ cactus (d) also commonly seen throughout the east end of the island stands tall and thin and is covered with woody, needle-like spines, varying in lengths to 2 inches long. Fluting is an adaptation to provide the plant with a greater green surface.

Plants- Aloe

Aloe (Aloe vera)

Originating on the Mediterranean coast of Africa, Aloe thrives in climates such as the Caribbean as well as Central and South America. It has large, fleshy, strap-like leaves close to the ground edged with spines and a pointed tip. In the Virgin Islands, the external uses are numerous. It is used as an emollient, a bath, hair conditioner, sunscreen, and treatments of burns, cuts, and sores. Internally, it has been used for the treatments of colds and fevers, coughs, intestinal worms, and even food. When stewed, Aloe has immense benefits to the hair, nails, and especially skin. However, it doesn’t do much for your teeth but add a yellowish tint. In South America, it is often worn as a mosquito repellent, and whole plants hung upside down to repel insects.

Fauna- Iguanas

Iguanas

Look in trees, mangroves and scurrying across the road for this pre-historic looking reptile. Iguanas are native to the Caribbean where they like the sun and warm waters just as much as you do! Babies are brightly colored and FAST! Adult males can be dark green or blue and can grow up to six feet long. Females tend to be less colorful in grays and browns. On St. Croix, you most likely find iguanas at Tamarind Beach and Salt River. Please do not feed them; just observe them from afar!

Flora- Plumbago

Plumbago ( Plumbago capensis )

Also called Leadwort because of its lead colored roots. Plumbago can be found growing wildly along the roadside or in planters around the island as decoration.In clusters among simple, elliptical leaves, the flowers are a light blue or lavender color. Each flower is 5 parted, long and tubular, with a distinctive mid-vein. The tube of each flower is covered with sticky hairs, making it easy for the flowers to rest in one’s hair or clothes for a little island color.These hairs aid in seed dispersal. This plant, grown as a very colorful hedge, should be pruned vigorously to reduce its sprawl. Because it is native to South Africa, Plumbago accepts our full sun and tropical heat.

Flora- Hibiscus

Hibiscus ( Hibiscus spp )

Because of its great beauty and hardiness, the Hibiscus has become a well-known and well-loved plant. It may be the official flower of Hawaii, but the Hibiscus can be seen in the Virgin Islands growing wildly along the roadside, or elegantly covering a window by someone’s home. Its presence is also seen in the states, unfortunately, during winter month’s, it can only thrive indoors. There are many different species of this beauty, one being from Asia, the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, and one from East Africa, the Hibiscus schizopetalus. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis has leaves that are simple and broadly oval. They narrow into a point and are about 3 to 6 inches long. Blooms are solitary, enormous, 5-parted and come in colors of red, orange, pink, yellow, lavender, or white. Less common are combinations of these colors. Schizopetalus, has coarsely toothed leaves, narrowing outward into a point, and a shorter stalk with a somewhat wavy surface. Flowers are a pale red. The 5 petals are bent back, deeply and repeatedly cut and curved into a striking display. They are very similar to one another, except the schizopetalus has leaves that are more distantly spaced, and the branches are more delicate. The flower from any Hibiscus, whether on or off the plant, will remain fresh all day, and then wilt in the evening. A dye obtained from the red petals, though useful, will stain clothes. The petals of the Hibiscus can also be boiled, sweetened and made into a tea. A cutting from this hardy plant, when placed in water for a few weeks, will readily root. Locally, these plants are attacked and harmed by tiny white insects. Green Tea, steeped and sprayed on the infected leaves, helps to rid these pests without the use of chemicals.

Flora- Ginger Thomas

Ginger Thomas (The USVI Official Flower)

Native to tropical and subtropical America, Texas, New Mexico and Florida, this beautiful yellow flower can be found thriving year round on St. Croix from hillsides and thickets alike. Ginger Thomas is so abundant that it is considered our territory’s flower. Not only is it a pleasure to look at, but historically, it has proved to have great medicinal value. The leaves of the Ginger Thomas are used to reduce fever and to strengthen a woman’s body after childbirth. The leaves have also been known to ease symptoms of the common cold, diabetes, headaches, and high blood pressure, while the roots have been used to ease symptoms of syphilis. Take a moment to smell the flowers! The scent is fragrant, like that of champagne.

Flora- Frangipani

Frangipani ( Plumeria rubra, Plumeria acutfolia )

These beautiful flowers are most commonly seen as white with a diffused yellow center, or bright pink with a yellow to orange center. The flowers grow singly or clustered among narrow to broadly elliptical leaves. The basic branching pattern of a frangipani look like ‘Y’s. Today, the Frangipani is mostly used for ornamental purposes, though traditionally the milky sap was applied to fresh wounds as a disinfectant. However, it is usually noted that plants containing a milky sap are dangerous and should not be touched, and definitely not eaten.

Flora- Cup of Gold

Cup of Gold (Solandra nitida)

Cup Of Gold is a beautiful bright yellow flowing plant that can grow up to 40 feet tall! This vine can be extremely invasive if not kept in check. The blooms are amazingly large at 5-7 inches wide and 9 inches deep. Also reffered to as a trumpet flower.

Flora- Crown of Thorns

Crown-of-Thorns (Euphorbia splendens)

This tropical plant came all the way from Madascar. Its blooms are mostly red and its thick stems are covered in thorns. Cuttings from this plant can be stuck directly in the soil and grow with out an existing root system. Mosty, you’ll see this bushy plant in pots as ornamentals.

Flora- Bouganvillea

Bougainvillea ( Bougainvillea spp )

With many varieties and colors, it is no wonder that this bush is seen so often. Colors range from a dark red to a subtle white. Leaves are small, elliptical, and become narrow to a point. Flowers grow in clusters of bright color, excluding the white for obvious reasons, and the purple that tends to fade with age. Enclosed inside each “paper” case is a single, tiny, tubular, white flower. This plant is named after Louis de Bougainville, whom was a French navigator. While in Brazil, he found these beauties and brought them back to his home in Europe for cultivation. They readily root from cuttings, prefer full sun, and can withstand drought as well as heavy pruning. When admiring these beauties, be careful not to grab a hold of their stem. They do have large, widely spaced thorns.

Flora- Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise Flower( Strelitzia )

Do you see the resemblence? This flower is actually native to South Africa, where it is also known as the crane flower. The species was brought here because of its beauty and its ability to do well in our warm, humid climate.

Eco-Tourism on St. Croix

St. Croix is unique in the fact that we are still considered “undiscovered.” We are not over-run with tourists and you can still find quiet, out of the way places, just like the Caribbean should be! We get a “different” type of guest who does their research, wants to stay and explore our hidden treasures, dives into the local culture and environment and becomes part of the experience.

St. Croix has some of the best eco-tourism opportunities in the Caribbean, where you are free to explore an island environment from mountain peak to coral reef.

Not only are there many eco-tourism activities to participate in while visiting St. Croix, there are also eco-friendly events though-out the year to attend that are in sync with preserving our fragile ecology and focus on the natural world and its resources. Some of these events include Mango Melee, the Agricultural Fair, turtle nesting watches, beach clean-ups, coastal and organic walks, Buck Island, Scuba Diving and snorkeling charters. These events and more take place through out the year- check our calendar to see what is happening this month!

Recycling on St. Croix

Great, great news Crucians, can recycling is back on island! I know that I always feel a twinge of mental anguish everytime I throw a can in the garbage, but we haven’t had any on island options for recycling until now. The Boys & Girls Club, in addition to all the great work they do for our community, is now bringing can recycling to st. Croix. Planning to open the last week of March, the Boys & Girls Club Recycle Center will re-open in Anna’s Hope, between The Department of Public Works and Gateway Gas. The recycle center will operate as a drop off site, where you can go to drop off aluminum and steel cans for recycling, every Thursday through Saturday.

It’s important to note that the Boys & Girls Club Recycle Center is in Phase One right now, which means they are only accepting cans to recycle. Any kind of aluminum beverage cans or steel cans from soup, canned vegetables and fruit, juice, etc. are okay to drop off. Please make sure everything is rinsed well to minimize pests.  Hopefully the Recycle Center will be so successful with cans that they will be able to move on to Phase Two, which is plastic bottles and then Phase Three– glass. They cannot accommodate plastic, glass or motor oil as of right now, so please don’t drop off these things until they have moved on to the new phase.

As important as the service the Recycle Center provides us islanders, it’s even more important that we show them our consistent support. They need to process at least 5 million cans to break even– it sounds like a lot but that’s only 20% of the 27 million cans that are imported into our island each year. We need to do our part to keep those cans out of the landfill and into the recycling system. Our island is too small to sustain that kind of waste and damage to our ecosystem will affect us all immediately.  If we want to keep recycling on St. Croix, we need to be sure to support the facilities that provide such fantastic resources for us.

Also, restaurant, hotel, bar and condo owners and managers– it’s really important that you make the effort to collect cans and drop them off at the center. Because such a high volume of cans move through restaurants, bars, and hotels, contributions from those places will make a huge difference in supporting the center and making sure they reach their 5 million and more mark. Making lasting environmental change is all about the small contributions and lifestyle habits we as a collective group must adopt to sustain the world around us. Just a small effort by a large group can make an enormous difference.

I’m very excited about the ability to recycle on St. Croix! I’ll raise a can to their efforts, and then promptly drop it off at the new center!

The Coconut Diet

My husband, away for two weeks, has left me with 7 coconuts waiting to be cut open with our newly sharpened Machete.  It is a sight that fills me with pride and helps me sleep better at night knowing that if all else fails in the world, I have a tree full of coconuts to keep us going.  I know I’m not the first to feel this way about the humble fruit, or drupe, as it is officially classified.

Coconuts have saved lives throughout the millennium.  Attributed for rehabilitating and saving soldiers in World War II because of its similarity to blood plasma, the coconut, given as a sterile IV drip is not just the luxury oil of the tropics.  Documentation of it extends to 1500 BC as an Ayurvedic treatment for various ailments.   The antiviral and antibacterial properties come from its MCT’s, or medium chain fatty acids/triglycerides and more recent articles, such as Tsunami survivors who sustained themselves on coconuts, continue to populate the news.

When my daughter, or anyone in the family, starts to come down with a cold, they drink copious amounts of coconut water.  We use the oil from the dried nut for cooking food, for massaging into the skin, and  we add it to smoothies for a little rich, coco love.  The tender flesh from the green coconut, or ‘jelly nut’, goes to the whole family, including the dog, and the water, rich in electrolytes, cools us in the summer heat.  Superior to sports drinks, and even infant formula, coconut water transcends the health benefits of any store bought product and is cheaper, more widely available and more effective than most drinks in St. Croix (except maybe rum!)

Coconut changes from the liquid, carbohydrate form, to the solid, oil-rich form and the possibilities for use in cooking are astonishing.  Last night I had it in homemade Key Lime ice cream, another favorite is my own green papaya curry with ground coconut milk.  Next time you are sitting under the shade-giving tree on your day off or vacation, give thanks to this plant which has endured ocean travel, wars, natural disaster and time and continues to purify our bodies with its powerful goodness.

To find fresh coconut water on St. Croix, just keep your eyes open, you might find an old, but still good nut on the beach, or see someone chopping at the market or along the side of the road, or maybe you know of a tree that no one picks from.  Eat and drink your fill while you are here and let us know how it has benefited you!

- AK