One of the trends of the islands throughout the Caribbean archipelago is the abundance of street vendors. It's been a part of the local culture for centuries, and remains in full swing today. During the weekends, local markets become alive with activity and hawkers sell almost everything imaginable for a fraction of the cost compared to larger supermarkets.
However, during the weekdays, the street vendors fill in the gap and offer an alternative route to buy local produce without customers having to drive to the nearest food mart. In Antigua, these vendors set up their goods on small makeshift wooden stalls or tables near the roadside. They can be found islandwide, but most are located in rural areas where competition from supermarkets isn't as fierce.
Most of the goods being sold are vegetables and fruits from small backyard gardens or tiny farms single-handedly manned by village men. The assortment of produce being sold at any given time is significantly dependent on the time of year and the type of crop currently in season.
For an example, during the month of July, everywhere I looked I saw mangoes being sold. The crop must have been in an overabundance, because the prices being offered were almost borderline ridiculous. I've been quoted prices of $2 USD for 10 brightly coloured mangoes! The mangoes were perfectly ripe, firm to the touch and their scent was simply mouthwatering.
Mango season seems to go hand in hand with the corn harvest as well. In villages such as Parham, it's not uncommon to see villages especially those of Rastafarian heritage to be fanning a flame beneath an authentic coal pot. These coal pots were once the 'ovens' used by Antiguans and other Caribbean nationals in the old days. Atop the red hot coals would be an iron rack with rows of corn being roasted.
Roasted corn is an Antiguan favourite, and costs are determined by the size of the corn selected and by the level of scarcity/surplus of the crop. I managed to secure a pretty large corn for $1.50, but there were several being roasted which were almost 50% larger than mine.
Household basics such as potatoes, leafy green vegetables, carrots, squash, eggplant and pumpkin are among some of the vegetables which can be bought for decent prices from these roadside vendors. Fruits for sale include small bunches of genips, different types of mangoes, sugar apple, cherries and star fruit.
It's quite a usual sight apparently, for buses from the cruise ships to pull over at several of these vendors for tourists to sample some of these fruits. Fruits such as genips are usually unfamiliar to them, and the vendors happily demonstrate the way they're eaten.
Street vendors are a conventional part of Caribbean life, and they offer a cheap way of buying fruits and vegetables. The best part in my opinion, is that the atmosphere is usually conducive for lots of friendly conversations and local stories. If you're in a Caribbean island today, be sure to stop by the next street stall you see. It just may surprise you!