Jamaica's newest attraction is spicy, smoky, cultural and hundreds of years old.

The island is the birthplace of a cooking style known as jerk, whose origins are somewhat obscure. Some say that jerk originated with the Maroons, descendants of African slaves who were freed from their Spanish masters in the 1600s and lived in Jamaica's most remote mountain areas.

Other theories hold that the cooking style came to the island with the Carib and Arawak Indians in the 1500s.

Although jerk is found everywhere around Jamaica, until now visitors in search of juicy jerk have had to fend for themselves or rely on the recommendations of cab drivers and locals.

However, that's changed. Jerk has come of age as a recognized tourist attraction with the launch in May of the Jerk Trail, which features 10 of the hottest places to sample jerk on the island.

Visitors can follow the trail and eat their way through Jamaica, from Negril on the west coast to Port Antonio on the east coast to Kingston in the south, sampling and comparing jerk styles and the secret recipes that cooks hold near and dear.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, along with other tourism officials, cut the ribbon to open the Jerk Trail at Scotchies in Montego Bay, an open-air restaurant where the aromas of grilled, herbed meats, chicken and fish are smelled long before the place comes into view.

"Jerk cuisine has made its way onto menus worldwide, but we invite travelers to come to Jamaica and sample this dish the way it was meant to be experienced: in our laid-back, tropical environment," Bartlett said.

Visit www.visitjamaica.com/jerk.


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