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Before I tell you about Cunucu di Jimmy, or even what a cunucu is, let me take you back to a time before tourism, even before the Lago Oil Refinery.
Arubans were living in poverty, with very little to get by. To alleviate the pressure on the country and community, the government gave away land to families, to be cultivated and used as a source of income. Jimmy’s family was one of the lucky recipients of free land. While some families in Aruba never did what the government envisioned, Jimmy’s family held a piece of land to do just this when the time was right: create their "cunucu": a plantation of local vegetation.
As a young boy, James, better known as Jimmy, enjoyed gardening and planting with his family. His love for the activity only became stronger as he grew older. Back in Aruba, after attending college in Oklahoma, self-proclaimed college dropout Jimmy knew in his heart what his next step would be—going back to his (literal) roots! He recognized that the agricultural sector is still an essential foundation for any country, including his island. Between 1991 and 1992, Jimmy and his wife Maria Elena, a biologist, started planting “jambo”, also known as okra, and "comcomber chikito", a small cucumber-like vegetable, on the island. Back then, these plants were only available for purchase from our neighboring island Curaçao.
Cunucu di Jimmy officially opened in 1996, with a brief drive-thru feature in 2010. For Jimmy and his wife Maria, maintaining Aruban culture was important, so they chose to plant more locally thriving plants. These include bonchi cunucu (local long beans), peanuts, cilantro, lemon-habanero peppers (aka Madam Jeanette), squash, snap beans, fresh figs, lemon, watermelon, papaya, melon, and dragon fruit. This makes Cunucu di Jimmy unique, as no other farm on the island has the same variety of produce.
Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, is a cactus fruit that grows in tropical and subtropical climates in a variety of shapes. It is remarkably healthy and rich in antioxidants. The fruit’s strange appearance gives off a “psychedelic artichoke” vibe, no? You can call him the (local) expert since he grows over 40 varieties and 24 flavors of dragon fruit in his cunucu. That’s certainly very unique!
Cunucu di Jimmy uses bird nets to protect the produce. The farm uses natural fertilizer, dam water, and a drip irrigation system to distribute the necessary minerals to the plants. People always tell them, “What you’re doing is good. Keeping the culture, food, and the locals happy”.
Cunucu di Jimmy regulars are locals and timeshare owners. They can’t get enough of the fresh-grown fruits and veggies. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to enjoy Jimmy’s dragon fruit Internationally, too, as they got a green light from the government to start exporting! Aruba will soon be known as the island of sun, sand, pastechi, and dragon fruit. What’s not to love? Jimmy and his family are truly exemplary Arubans.