National Library of Jamaica



The first Jamaicans, the Tainos, began arriving in the Island around A.D. 650.

A peaceful people, they enjoyed the undisturbed tranquility of the West Indies for approximately 2000 years. They feasted on over forty varieties of fish. Anthropologists have found the bones and shells of the grouper, parrotfish, sturgeon, shark, lobster, oyster, conch, whelk and crab in their 'middens' or garbage heaps.



Blue Crabs


Besides seafood, the Tainos also ate small birds such as Parrots and water birds, iguanas, yellowsnakes and Conies. They also cultivated chili pepper, cassava, sweet potato, pumpkin, yampi, corn, arrowroot, coco, guava, star apple, pineapple and cashew.        




Star Apples

Bammy or cassava bread was the staple of the Tainos. First, the cassava was dug from the ground, scraped and cut into small pieces. The poisonous juice was then extracted by pressing the pieces. The 'trash' was moulded into cakes and baked on a griddle. The bammies later became an important part of the diet of the Spaniards and the British soldiers, as they would remain fresh for months.


One of their methods of food preparation was with the 'barbacoa'. This is a wooden grate standing on four forked sticks placed over a slow fire. On this they spit-roasted fish and meat. This was the forerunner to the present barbecue grill.

Meats prepared on a barbacoa

Main Menu                                                                                                                                                          The Spaniards