The Dally News, Friday, July 18, 1997 2S
Students learn about history;
May of this year, my niece
Shenelle Donovan invited me to be
the guest speaker at her sixth grade
graduation at Leonard Dober Ele-
mentary School on St. Thomas.
This was like a home coming for
me since I started school there in
the first grade in the 1960s. The
school's physical structure has
changed with a second floor. The
school yard also changed.
The once beautiful hibiscus
plants that grew along the school
fence are no longer there. So is the
big flamboyant tree that once stood
near the lunch room. What remains
is the old Danish well in the school
yard. You see, life goes on. And so
are the changes in our school envi-
ronment and the community at large.
Interestingly, my speech to the
sixth grade class was how organism
such as plants and animals function
within a changing environment;
how our islands towns landscapes
changed,; and how man impacted
changes in the wider environment
of the Virgin Islands. We also
addressed as a class bow we would
solve some of the environmental
problems we face in the Virgin
The sixth grade class also had
the opportunity to visit the island of
St. Croix. Mrs. Janis Jeppesen,
teacher of the class wrote me a let-
ter and said, "We would like to take
this time to give you a great big
thanks from the students, adminis-
tration, parents and myself for the
wonderful time we had in St. Croix
on June 5, 1997. This trip was not
only educational and exciting, but it
was a trip for many students in the
On St. Croix, the students visited
and learned the history of historical
sites and got a chance to drive
through part of the rain forest and
visited the forest wood factory.
Here they saw first hand how dif-
ferent products are made from local
wood. But when the students saw
the taman tree branches hanging
with cluster of taman as we drove
along the roads, they "went off," by
saying, "stop we want tamans."
I said to them, "do you all have
taman trees on St. Thomas growing
all over the island?" They said, Mr.
Olasee Davis, "no." Growing up as
a child on St. Thomas, I remember
taman trees growing all over the
place. In class, we have discussed
how man impacted the environ-
mcet. The declining of taman trees
on St. Thomas are a good example
of the changes human beings have
on the island environment.
Tamarind or taman trees, locally
called, are native to tropical Africa.
The trees spread to India and other
Asian countries. From there, the
tree was introduced and adopted to
the Arabs who called it "tamear
hindi." The fruit was also well
known to the ancient Egyptians and
the Greeks in the Fourth Century
Throughout the tropical world,
the tamarind trees spread to islands
and continents. During or before
still trademark in V.I.
slavery in the Virgin Islands, the
trees were introduced to the islands.
The Museum at Estate Whim on St.
Croix has a big tamarind tree stand-
ing next to the great house is over
300 years old. St. Croix particular-
ly, tamarind trees were planted in
estates. One reason for this is
because of its abundance of fruits.
Another tree was used as a gath-
ering or meeting place, storytelling.
used as a shade fom the sun, and a
playing area for children. Thus, the
tamarind trees became part of the
Virgin Islands history because it
.shaped our culture. Today, tamarind
trees ae naturalized throughout the
West Indies, southern Florida to
south and central America.
Besides the handsome tree, the
tamean tree has many food uses. In
India, the immature sour pods are
cooked as seasoning with fish, rice,
and meats. The tamarind pulp is
also an ingredient in sauces like
barbecue, chutneys and curries.
In Zimbabwe, the leaves are
added in soup and the flowers are
used as ingredients in salads.,
Tamarind shesbert and ice cream are
also popular in some countries.
Tamarind is also recommended as a ,
stabilizer in ice cream, mayonnaise, i
and cheese as an ingredient in a num-
ber of pharmaceutical products. Pre-
serves and candy as well as the bever-
age are prepared from the fruit pods.
On St. Croix, one can still get
the taman "balls" in the Sunny Isle
Shopping Center. In the old days of
the Virgin Islands, fruit pulp of the
taman was used as a home
medicine, especially as a laxative.
Taman contains sugar as well as
tautaric, acetic, and citric acids and
is a anti-scorbutic. The young
leaves and bark of the tree have
been used also medicinally.
For the honey industry in the
Virgin Islands, flowers attract bees
an important source of honey.
Believe me, it is a shame we have
so much taman trees on St. Croix
and so much fruits go to waste. No
wonder the students from St.
Thomas said. "stop the bus, taman."
Olasee DavLs who ,ls a master
of science degree in range manage-
ment and forestry ecology, is a St.
Croix ecologist, activist and writer.