Chris Binns finds me on the side of the road in Free Hill, at the foot of the winding road leading up to Zionites Farm. I hop in his car and, after a short drive, we amble up a footpath bordered on each side by passion fruit trees. At the top, I'm greeted by a breeze wafting in from the valley, along with a pair of Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies roughhousing. "They're still figuring out who's the alpha," Binns explains.
Shortly after, I catch my first glimpse of the solitary table of Stush in the Bush, a farm-to-table restaurant tucked away in the hills of St. Ann, Jamaica, overlooking the lush, green valley. The name is a playful reference, in the local patois, to the couple who run the place: Chris grew up here in the Jamaican mountains, thus, he represents "the bush"; his wife, chef Lisa Binns, hails from New York, making her "stush" (a polite translation of which would be "uptight").
I'm here in Jamaica to attend the first annual Nyamjam festival, a celebration of the island's food and music scenes; when I tell people I'll also be visiting Stush in the Bush while I'm here, I'm met with either a joyful embrace or an unmistakable look of envy. Word has spread quickly about the place since the Binns started hosting farm-to-table dining experiences and tours in the spring of 2014. The 15 acres of Zionites Farm provide all of the ingredients for their Ital cuisine (Rastafarian vegetarian food inspired by Indian and African cooking), and if you need proof of the food's freshness, simply look around for the refrigerator—you won't find one. Streamlining is the name of the game at Stush in the Bush, and everything on offer is fresh. The kitchen itself also serves as the couple's bedroom, and as a storage space for their signature line of sauces.
When we return to the hilltop table, we find a spread of fried green plantain chips, smashed guacamole, chimichurri, and their very own house hot sauce: Blow Fyah, the key to which are the green scotch bonnet peppers found a stone's throw away from where we're sitting. After appetizers, Chris takes me out on a tour of the grounds while Lisa retreats to the kitchen to prepare our main course. As we stroll, Chris points out mulberries to pick right off the tree; he even convinces me to eat a begonia blossom off the vine. Lizards scamper around us as Christopher tells me of the various healing powers the greens on site possess. Pointing out the scallions, Christopher explains how shopkeepers tend to throw in thyme whenever you buy scallions, since according to local custom, "they're married."
We then make our way back to the table where Lisa is easing one of her signature "Fiyah-Grilled Pizzas" off the grill. She has taken a number of familiar dishes and infused them with local flair, empowered by the unique array of materials available here on the farm. One taste that thankfully permeates the meal: the scotch bonnet peppers so beloved here in the Caribbean. I catch Chris putting some on his pizza and can't help but do the same. Lisa warns me to be careful with it, but it's just too good to use sparingly. I'm not worried about overheating: I know I can rely on this cool, island wind to keep on floating across Zionites Farm.
For more, visit stushinthebush.com.