If you have not had cocoplum jelly, you have missed one of the most exotic fruit jellies in the Island and perhaps in the tropics. But you can have it this month after I give you the simple recipe because the month of June and July is cocoplum season in San Pedro. But first I want to tell you about cocoplums 25 years ago.
"Jicaco" they were called. The cocoplum is a delicious fruit and nut. The fruit is about an inch and a half long and the nut inside is about an inch long. There is only a thin layer of flesh with a thin skin covering the nut. There are two varieties, the pink cocoplum and the black cocoplum, the former being a little larger and juicier.
Now cocoplums are never planted nor harvested on Ambergris Caye. They grow wild along the entire coast of the island, and will grow close to the beach and farther inland. In fact, they will even grow on swampy land. Now that is the problem. Cocoplums are not planted nor harvested. To get them you have to hit the beaches and the bush. Twenty five years ago, you could stop at any location along the beach and fill a large bag in a matter of a few minutes. And yes, you did have to hurry for there were mosquitoes like crazy and the next problem was that wherever you saw cocoplums, you also saw those dreaded poison wood trees- the infamous "chechem". If you happen to see cocoplums in someone's property, you simply had to tell him that you were going to pick some plums and he would have consented with a smile. Today there are some mean landowners who behave as if they will sell the cocoplums and would let the dogs loose at you. Well, perhaps they are saving the plums for some delicious cocoplum jelly.
Now, here's the recipe. Fill a large pot with plums. Add water until all plums are covered. Add two or three pounds of brown sugar and then start to boil. Once it is boiling, lower flame to simmer for several hours. Add some cinnamon sticks. Soon the flesh of the cocoplum and the sugar will make a clear brown jelly with a unique taste that is typical only of Ambergris Caye and a few other places in the tropics. Now here is a little secret very few people know, and I want you to keep it a secret for long. Crack the nuts that are now well cooked and break them into small pieces, and scatter it in the jelly. Now you have delicious cocoplum jelly with nuts. Ummmm, that is super delicious.
Twenty five years ago everyone ate cocoplums especially in May and June when it was cocoplum season. Children would get into their little canoes and paddle up along to coast to collect cocoplums. On Sundays, entire families took to the beach to collect them. It was a custom, almost a ritual. Daddy usually took some coconut husks and lit them up for some smoke to drive away the mosquitoes. On the way back, we would eat cocoplums until the belly hurt and next day, it was cocoplum jelly time with hot Johnnycakes or flour tortillas or better yet with pancakes. Hey, if you can get some cocoplums, try this recipe. But do remember to ask for permission from the owner of the property for trespassing is also wrong, you know. I am sure that if you are respectful, someone will let you have some for they are bountiful during the summer in Ambergris Caye. Hey, someone should name one of our streets, Cocoplum Street in honor of the fruit and a favorite pastime of 25 years ago.