Jamaican Nickel Tree
Young Nickel Tree Nestled Among Other Plants
Have you ever heard of the Jamaican nickel? I am not talking about a coin, I am talking about a tree in Jamaica that bears seeds called nickels, hence nickel tree. Nickels are grown in pods that are attached to the vines of the nickel tree. The pods possess some sharp-edged prickles. So due care must be taken when breaking the pods, which are very hard, to get to the seeds.
They can be found growing on trees deep in the bushes of our community, as well as by the seaside. I wanted to take my own picture but it is so deep in the bushes that it is not possible for me to go there and that area is not very far from where I live. Someday after the trees are hewn, I might be able to take my very own pictures and to get a pod or two to get those nickels.
It is still very clear in my mind, when as children, we never had any running water. We did not have the luxury of such things. Therefore, we depended on the rain as well as, we carried water from stand pipes that were placed at strategic sections along the streets in our community. This was one of our daily chores, outside of school hours of course. Our grandparents made sure of that. As a matter of fact, we had no other way of getting water for household use.
I still admired them for such natural and herbal approach to everything. Medicinal herbs were also an integral part of them. I inherited that side of them.
The containers we used to store water were water storage drums, and they were placed under gutters that would transfer rain water to them. We covered the drums to prevent noxious substances from contaminating the water.
Everyone of those drums had three or four nickels that were seen floating on top of the water. It is believed that if the nickels sank to the bottom of the drums, then it was a sign that the water was poisoned.
Another reason for the nickels in the water was that they keep the water very cool. I am a witness to this and of a fact, the water was always very cool indeed, no matter how hot the sun was. It was so cold that my cousins and I were afraid of using the water to bathe.
I was told the nickels can be parched, beat into powdered form and used as coffee. Although my recollection of the seeds are dark gray, there are other colours, such as olive green, white as well as yellow-orange.
Nickels can also be mixed with various beads to make jewelry. I think these trees are forgotten by most persons in Jamaica but to some of us, including the craft vendors, the nickel trees still lives on.