What happens when a high school principal from New York meets a Rastafari farmer from Jamaica? An unconventional recipe for love and delicious cuisine unfolds.
Two months after meeting in Portland, Jamaica, Lisa and Chris Binns were newlyweds who eventually settled into a studio apartment overlooking the luscious hills of St. Ann.
Today, the couple — who fittingly make up the Stush (city chic) and Bush (farmer) behind the culinary business Stush in the Bush — invite guests onto their 17-acre property for a memorable farm-to-table dining experience.
“We are self professed locavores. We like to use all things local in so much as we possibly can,” says Lisa, pointing out the components that make up the elaborate appetizer spread that’s being put out on a large wooden table alongside helpings of refreshing passionfruit sangria. “This spread here is our Jamaican mezze. Mezze is a Middle Eastern term that means a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and so this is a lot of little things for you to try.”
What started as a small venture from their off-the-grid home has since morphed into a successful enterprise gaining a reputation among locals and international visitors alike for their unique and flavourful culinary vision.
“For those of you who don’t know, we are all plant based,” she says. “When you think about veganism, it really finds its centre in Rastafari and Ital… People are much more focused, ever since COVID-19, about plant-based food and what’s going into their bodies.”
In the rustic farmyard chic setting with open window shutters that give way to views of the surrounding lush mountainous landscape, the stylish Barbados-born entrepreneur guides everyone through the “sexy vegetarianism” feast of yam and pineapple croquettes, Bajan fish cakes made from eggplant, roasted breadfruit with jerk seasoning, a foray into plant-based cheeses and spreads like an almond-based hummus and ricotta, and a selection of house made hot sauces.
Before moving onto the multi-course dinner (yes, it’s hard to believe but that was only just the beginning of the feast) a barefoot Chris in grey Carhartt overalls leads our group on a tour through the organic fruit and vegetables they grow onsite, showing off local specialities like ackee and scotch bonnet peppers.
Lisa, who stopped eating meat after meeting Chris, had a desire to create vegan food full of flavour inspired by her roots and the variety found in New York. By taking the concept of plant based food in Jamaica to the next level, the demand for Stush in the Bush was so strong that the pair expanded and transformed their apartment into the main base for the business, and relocated into a new build loft to accommodate more guests.
For any foodie travellers seeking an authentic and delicious off-the-resort dining experience, a meal at Stush in the Bush is a treat. Just warn clients to come hungry and that the experience is well worth the windy roads to get there. Stush in the Bush also sell a variety of preserves and hot sauces that can be purchased to take back home.
Another farm-to-table experience for visitors to immerse themselves into is Sun Valley Plantation. The working coconut plantation in the town of Oracabessa sells some 2,000 coconuts every week.
Upon arrival visitors will be treated to a welcome drink made from fresh seasonal fruit and coconut water poured straight from the source. The property is owned and operated by Lorna and Nolly Binns, who offer a behind the scenes look at the onsite botanical garden, local flora and fauna and its medicinal properties, and insights into the lifespan of tropical fruits and plants.
The tour culminates with a sampling of fresh produce like june plum and coconut, deep-fried plantain chips and Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish. Along with the treats, a highlight of the visit is the number of hummingbirds that live on the plantation.
For a more adventure packed day, there’s Mystic Mountain or Chukka Eco-Adventure Outpost at Good Hope. Located amidst the rainforest, Mystic Mountain’s adventures take place 700 ft. above sea level. After taking a chairlift up to the top of the mountain, the fun begins with multiple rides and activities to choose from like its signature bobsled track in sleds that evoke the glory of the 1988 and 1992 Jamaican Olympic Bobsled teams — immortalized in the classic movie Cool Runnings. There’s also rock climbing, a multilevelled obstacle course and the newest addition, Raggamuffin, an inverted roller coaster with soaring views 1,000 feet above Ocho Rios, which is part of the US$6m Reggae Ridge attraction.
Meanwhile, Chukka Eco-Adventure Outpost at Good Hope has added bamboo rafting on the Martha Brae River to its repertoire. The journey takes place on hand-crafted 30-foot bamboo rafts and includes a foot massage and tasty rum punch. Although the river isn’t as wide here as the traditional Martha Brae rafting experience, it’s an option to consider for families who also want to partake in Chukka’s many other offerings like river tubing and zip-lining.