Bittas, a Welcome Cool Spell & our Gecko Hunter

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I’m either acclimatizing to the heat and humidity here, or it got a lot cooler this last week. Looking at my weather app, nothing seems to have changed in terms of humidity – it’s still between 78% and 83%, so I’m going to assume I’m getting used to it, thank goodness. Having said that, it has been cooler here the past couple of days due to rain and storms, and it’s been a nice break. My fan has been grateful for the rest. There’s been a lovely breeze on my morning walks. I’ve been waking up at sunrise lately (what’s up with that?) and have experienced some stunning sunrises over the sea. I took a different route yesterday and saw some beautiful stuff

Lucy is living her best life, while Maggie soaks up the warmth. Maggie was always cold in Canada and spent a lot of her time curled up by the fire, so this heat suits her just fine.

Lucy’s graduated from Master Fly Catcher to amateur gecko hunter. I love geckos as they eat all the bugs – especially the mosquitoes. The first weeks\ we were here, we would find them clinging to the walls of our veranda looking for bugs. And then they spotted the cats and disappeared! Still, Lucy has brought the same one into the house twice (clearly not a very smart gecko) and dropped it at my feet. She then reclines nearby giving it a swat every time it moves! I’ve rescued it twice in the hopes it’ll get the idea.

gecko 1

I had heard someone mention “bittas” (bitters – although I doubt anyone would understand what you’re after if you actually pronounced the “r “at the end) some weeks ago, and to be quite honest, I thought it had something to do with the type of bitters that turns my gin and tonic pink (angostura bitters), so I didn’t give it a second thought until today when I went across the road to buy cranberry juice. Outside the store was a man selling bittas to the strains of Bob Marley. It looked nothing like angostura bitters, so I decided to find out what it’s all about.

Bittas is more than just a few ingredients thrown together and mixed with rum, it’s a remedy for all kinds of ailments. The three “active” ingredients in bittas are contribo bark which helps with colds, flu and indigestion. You’ll know this plant in the rainforest by it’s huge, pitcher-like flower that smells like rotting meat (sounds lovely, right?).

Billy Webb bark to clean the internal organs and give energy. This usually finds its way into teas.

And Jackass bittas, used to flush out intestinal parasites (horrors!). This plant resembles overgrown ragweed (it can grow up to 6 feet tall) and is also said to treat cancer, diabetes, dysentery, and malaria through antibacterial properties.

jackass bittas

So you take those three ingredients, clean them, generally mash them, add a couple of additional, miscellaneous herbs, soak it all in a bucket of overproof rum for about a week, strain everything, and finally, mix in anise to sweeten up what starts out as a very bitter brew. When I tasted the sample, it reminded me vaguely of Ouzo.


“Brown or Red,” he asks me. I don’t know, you decide. He takes a red one out of his cooler and hands it to me. I hand him $5.00 Bz (US$2.50)

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If I ever get a cold again, I’ll let you know how bittas helped me with that but, in the meantime, here’s an article on how it helped someone else.

 I like being part of a community where the knowledge of the elders is respected and used even by the younger generation. To keep culture and tradition alive, it must be kept in practice and steeped into everyday life – kind of like the way those bitters herbs are steeped in strong rum, to heal and strengthen.

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