On our Kingston-to-Ocho Rios road trip last week, Thursday Food pulled off along the way to buy otaheite apples, jackfruit and mangoes, from the fruit-laden stalls of vendors Lorna, Sherika and Kerry-Ann. We share their roadside tales.
Fruits For All Seasons
Further up, heading into Ewarton, we sight a plethora of wooden stalls on the left hand side. We pull over and immediately we're greeted by the friendly Kerry-Ann Lewis, who invites us to enjoy ice-cold jelly coconuts. Lewis's fruit stall has been in operation for two years and offers a variety of items, including sugarcane, oranges, star apples, otaheite apples, ripe bananas and jelly coconuts. With a beaming smile, Lewis tells Thursday Food: "To maximise on profits, I'm usually out here by 7am to catch the early travellers and at 10pm I am packing to go home." She explains that most of her fruits are purchased at Coronation market in downtown, Kingston, while others are bought from local farmers. In between chopping cold jelly coconuts to refresh a parched carload of men on their way to Moneague, Lewis tells us that business is "pretty good". "There are off days when things are slow, but it's mostly good." It seemed a good day for the 30-year-old vendor. During our stop, a steady stream of customers pulled over to purchase various items from her fruit stall. "I enjoy the service I provide and meeting new people every day. It makes the job fulfilling," she told us.
Sherika & Star apples
Crossing Flat Bridge, en route to Bog Walk, we pull over after spotting Sherika Robinson's stall. Star apples dangle on strings and the oblong-shaped jackfruit, some split open to show off its yellow centre, adorn the wooden stall she sits next to. The 30-year-old Robinson, who looks a decade younger thanks to her unblemished creamy dark chocolate skin, says she's relatively new to the roadside fruit-vending scene. "My boyfriend Alex used to sell here but he is doing construction now so I'm filling in," she explains. It's been two months of plying fruits for Robinson and she's taking it in good stride. She considers business for the most part to be middling, noting that the fruits she sells come from Linstead. As we chat and she slices and bags half of a jackfruit for us, Robinson says she's perfectly content to remain in the fruit game as long as necessary. "It's not 100 per cent but I'm managing," she confides.
It's the season of the mango and we have a yen for the fruit. As our car turns the corner approaching Flat Bridge, we eye a roadside stall on the left embankment with a prominent display of ripened East Indian and Julie mangoes, and hit the brakes.
A cheerful Lorna Hamilton, clad in a baby pink shirt lettered 'Happy Dance', is the mango vendor more than happy to make our acquaintance and sell us a bag of fruit.
Robinson notes that her fruit stock varies and is dependent on what is in season. "I have mangoes now, but I sell sweetsops, naseberries and guineps too, when it's their time," says the 39-year old vendor. She reveals that the mangoes we select and press lightly with our fingers to determine their ripeness, originate from St Thomas. We buy four Julie mangoes at $100 each and two East Indians at $200 a pop before requesting a photo of the initially hesitant Hamilton. "My hair not looking too great right now," she complains of her partially plaited hair before acquiescing. Flashing a smile that reveals a gold-crowned tooth, Hamilton says her average workday runs from 10 to 6 and at given times, "there are some slow periods." Being in the business for 20 years, it's a natural cycle she has grown accustomed to; laying out the season's choice fruits in the hopes the next passing vehicle will stop and buy.
Do support our local vendors as you make your way out of town this weekend.