Strange Tropical Fruit Makes Me Happy

Click on any photo for a larger size

Update, Dec. 2013: This post is a few years old. Since then I’ve found a lot more fruit, and published an article about it here: http://www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/travel/articles/mexico-fruits-exotic-fresh.shtml

In my blogs I refer to fruit I “discover” as I travel. There is no end to exotic fruit in tropical areas. I’ve eaten fruit in the jungle that never even makes it to the markets. The best place to buy fruit is in markets, and markets are always favorite places for me visit, no matter where I am.

Regular eating for me are mangoes, papayas, pineapples, oranges, grapefruit, blackberries, and strawberries, among many others, all of which can be bought down here for a fraction of what they cost in the US and Canada. The quality is much better too. When fruit is picked for export, it is picked green. It then ripens on the journey, rather than on the branch, so you lose all that extra sweetness.

These papayas are huge! Where I live in central Mexico they are half this size at most. She’s also got some really nice pineapples on the right.

PITALLA / PITAYA (DRAGON FRUIT)

In Guatemala they are purple/pink inside. These grow atop a tall, treacherous cactus that rarely produces the fruit. Consequently they are really hard to find and a little expensive.

In Mexico they are white inside! And only slightly less delicious.

CUSHIN and RAMBUTAN and SANGUSTAN/MANGOSTEEN

In the photo above, cushin is the green seed-pod-like fruit in the middle and rambutan are on the right, with the fuzzy red peel. Here’s what they look like inside (accompanied by a lone Sangustan/Mangosteen in the middle):

Cushin tops out my list for unusual-ness. You split it in half and eat the fuzzy white skin that surrounds each black seed. It’s almost like cotton candy stuck to the skin of an orange, but with its own subtle, sweet flavor.

Rambutans are common in Southeast Asia. They are similar to lychee, also delicious. You rip off the red peel and inside is a soft, chewy, very sweet fruit surrounding a little almond-like seed. You might want to eat the seed, like me, but it isn’t good.

Mangosteen (Sangustan in the Mayan language of the market where I finally found it) is the little purple fruit. It has tough skin and a little bunch of leaves on top. It is super rare. In all my time traveling I only found one lady in one faraway market who had it. I finished them all except one before I thought to take a picture. Inside are four gooey white seeds drenched in purple juice. Eat them and you are transported to a beautiful space.

TUNA (PRICKLY PEAR)

These grow atop the nopal cactus. You can eat the “leaves” of the cactus too – they must be cooked, either fried or grilled. The fruit is sweet, but like the guayaba it has hard seeds that can’t be chewed.

Tunas Growing on the Nopal Cactus

GUAYABA (GUAVA)

Maybe guayabas aren’t exotic in that they grow on a cactus or have a crazy looking peel, but I’ve never seen them north of the border. Here in Mexico they are solid inside with an off-white, yellowish flesh. Outside they are yellow-green, sometimes with red spots. They have a light, very subtle, almost pungent flavor. The consistency is quite soft except for hard, unchewable seeds that you are tempted to spit out, but there are far too many of them. So, you have to gum it. Where I live and in most other parts of Mexico they are this size:

But sometimes you can find big ones. Recently I also found pink guayabas, which I rarely see. Eating these variations might have made guayabas my favorite fruit in Mexico.

Not only are these fruits accessible, fresh, and probably organic, but often they are ridiculously cheap. Take limones (key limes) – in the US and Canada they can cost as much as a dollar each! In Mexico a huge bag is a dollar. Mexicans put lime on everything. Also pictured below are toronja (grapefruits), one of my favorites for making juice, pitaya again, and granada (pomegranate).

Speaking of juice, I want to give a shout out to my friend Angelica from San Pedro, Guatemala, who ran a little juice bar and introduced me to the wonders of beet juice. You can see its brilliant red color in the photo below. Amazing. I never had it straight, but always mixed with something like pineapple or apple. Thanks Angelica.

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About Ted Campbell

U.S.-Canadian writer, translator and university teacher in Mexico. Travel stories and practical tips on my blog No Hay Bronca: nohaybronca.wordpress.com Twitter: @NoHayBroncaBlog // Contact: nohaybroncablog (at) gmail.com

Posted on August 10, 2011, in Food, Travel, Travel in Guatemala, Travel in Mexico and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. wow! lovely blog! I am Mexican!

    I always love seeing the beauty of my country captured in photos to be shown to the world! All the small and colorful details that make Mexico a wonderful place to live SIN BRONCA 🙂 I could spend hours and hours learning from my own country through your blog! All those things that for Mexicans seem normal 🙂

    ¿En qué universidad das clases?

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