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Roucou, the pride of Langustan

 Langustan is a community on the northeastern section of T&T. It is a short distance from Balandra Bay, on the road to Matelot. Beaming with pride at his prized trees, Jeremiah boasted thattourists stopped and took photos.“You know how many people does stop and take pictures of these trees. They are like a landmark in Langustan.”Jeremiah made good on nature’s gift and extracted roucou for commercial purposes. In an era gone by, Amerindians and Caribs used roucou to decorate and beautify their bodies.“People come from all over to buy the roucou. I call the redness “blood.” It is good for cooking and curing sickness,” he said. Jeremiah remembered the days when, as a small boy, roucou was king. “It was the ketchup for the ole-time people in the ole-time days. People could not cook without roucou. My grandmother had a little white cloth and she would squeeze a little through.”Jeremiah’s kitchen morphs into his work station.

He explained while the process was simple it was quite labour-intensive. A bottle of roucou fetches $40.“We pick it. We dig out the pods. It’s a lot of work. You pour warm water to bring out the redness or the ‘blood.’ Everything must come out. “You put salt in it to preserve it. It takes about a day or two, depending upon the amount you are making.”Again, Jeremiah attested to its culinary and medicinal benefits.“Roucou is much better than golden ray butter. It’s good for heart, kidneys and bladder. Roucou is good for soups, stews, broths and pelau. It gives it a great taste,” he said. Even market vendors swear roucou is a cook’s delight.San Juan market vendor, Gloria said with Christmas around the bend, customers had been purchasing it “to put a little” in their pastelles and pork dishes.“It will give it a rich colour. All you need is a spoonful.”

SHARK OIL IN THE COIL

Apart from roucou, resourceful Jeremiah makes another much-sought-after folk product—shark oil. A bottle fetches $200. “I go fishing for the shark. Then I cut out the liver and put it to boil on slow fire. When the oil begins to drain out, I collect it in a huge bucket.”Brilliant sunshine is a prerequisite on the day he’s making shark oil. “Rain can’t be falling on that day. As they say “oil and water doesn’t mix. I must have hot sun to cure it. The oil comes out in clots... like coconut oil. It’s clear like coconut oil but not strong like the shark.”Apart from the pleasure of meeting foreigners, he’s delighted when “people pop by to tell him the shark oil cured their mother or helped them get better. “I am the medicine man of Langustan.”He opines shark oil does keep you “happy and lively.”If Jeremiah had to edit calypsonian Scrunter’s gem to Sando’s women, he might have said: “Is de shark oil in the coil.” People come from all over to buy the roucou. I call the redness ‘blood.’ It is good for cooking and curing sickness.It was the ketchup for the ole time people in the ole time days.People could not cook without roucou.”As a small boy, Bernard Jeremiah remembered thedays when roucou was king.

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