A 74-year-old Jamaican chef who goes by the name “Momma Blossom” has inspired her self-proclaimed “tasteologist” son and daughter-in-law, a critical-care nurse, to produce Old-World West Indian recipes with health-conscious ingredients. Seasoned Delicious, Saugerties couple Martin and Tamika Dunkley’s line of Caribbean foods, started out as a local catering company, maintaining a stand at the Saugerties Farmers’ Market. It has now expanded, selling its products in 15 local grocery stores.
“I tasted one of her products, cucumber juice, and went bananas,” said Nigel Redman, the pair’s business consultant. “I literally said, ‘Let’s bottle this stuff.’”
Among their wares are seven hot sauces, including “Krazy Cranberry” sauce, “Orchard Delight,” which contains locally-grown apples, and “Garlicious”, which contains a mixture of garlic and avocado. The pair also sells a slew of spice mixes, relishes and cooking oils.
“My mother was born in Kingston, Jamaica,” explained Martin. “She came to this country in the early ’70s [and] touched down in the Bronx, where we were since we left high school. She is the hard-cut copy of what the traditional West Indian mother could be. She was adamant that all of her boys cook. She felt that a man should be able to do everything a woman could do.”
Martin gives his mother full credit for what he knows. “From when I was as young as I can remember, I was her taster,” he said. “The biggest challenge was to put [her] recipes in her mind on paper. One of the most impressive things about how we cooked [was] she never used a measurement. We needed to figure all of that out.”
Tamika Dunkley spent five years as a nurse working primarily in a cardiac unit. Often providing dietary guidance to patients and their families, she began researching good substitutes for common unhealthy seasonings and condiments, like salt and ketchup.
“We want to put our spin of health and wellness [on Momma Blossom’s food],” said Tamika. “We wanted to make something that is good and also healthy. For example, if mom’s recipe called for iodized salt, we would use Himalayan. There isn’t an ingredient in any of our products that doesn’t do something for your body.”
For example, each of the 15 ingredients in the couple’s Hot Hawaii sauce adds a health element. The fresh pineapple contains vitamins C and B12, which can improve circulation and help with hypertension and blood pressure. The habanero and scorpion peppers in the mix are good for the circulatory system and the immune system. Onions and garlic increase white blood-cell count and the health of red blood cells. Ginger is thought to be an antiseptic probiotic and coconut oil, a recognized superfood, is good for the mucous membrane and stomach lining, say the Dunkleys.
“For us, it’s about inspiration,” said Martin Dunkley. “Somewhere in Kingston or out there, there’s some young kid or adult who doesn’t think they can do it. We want to inspire others – if we can do it, there’s no reason they can’t.”
Currently, the couple’s products can be found at Adams and Mother Earth in Kingston, My Market in Rosendale, Sunflower in Woodstock and Rhinebeck, the Boiceville Market, the High Falls food co-op. Emmanuel’s Market in Stone Ridge and a handful of restaurants in Manhattan and the Bronx. Products can be purchased and researched at the website, seasonedelicious.com.
“You’ve got to trust your ideas are good and stay with it,” said Redman. “I tell all the people I work with here [that].”