Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and definitely don’t judge these fruits by their shape, smell or color.
The Costa Rican feria, like many farmer’s markets, is a crossroads for opposites. There in one location, visitors will experience an age-old tradition among the freshest of tropical fruits. There once a week, shoppers will browse locally-grown fruits and veggies with origins from all over the world.
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that a trip to the feria will expose you to a variety of foods you may not even recognize—but not all that is unknown is bad. Push yourself outside the box, and try one of these bizarre fruits next time you shop.
“Noni, otherwise known by many different names around the world, including the great moringa, Indian mulberry, dog dumpling and pace, is related to the coffee bean plant and is native throughout Southeast Asia and Australasia, but is cultivated throughout the tropics. The tree carries fruit throughout the year and the fruit tend to have a very pungent odour when ripening (also known as the cheese fruit or vomit fruit). Despite the smell, the fruit is high in fibre, vitamin A, protein, Iron and calcium, and is the staple diet on many Pacific Islands. The fruit can either be cooked into a stew or eaten raw with salt.”
2. Mamon Chino
“A mainstay at Farmer’s Markets countrywide, roadside fruit stands are another great place to find the freshest Mamon Chino. Traditionally eaten by easily peeling the fruit with your fingers (it practically peels itself into two pieces) or you can often see locals open them with a quick flick of their teeth, popping the fruit directly into their mouth. The sweet creamy pulp of the fruit is easily enjoyed by putting the whole fruit inside the mouth and sucking on the pulp, remembering not to swallow the large seed.” (Costa Rican Insights)
DID YOU KNOW?
In Spanish, the funky purple fruit is named for its flavorful center; “mamon chino” afterall means “Chinese Sucker.” It’s Malaysian name, however, “rambutan” means “hairy” addressing the soft tendrils that spine out from the fruit’s peel.
Lanzón is a potatoe-looking fruit of many names: langsat, lanzone, duku, lansek, lanson… The list goes on.
“These small, translucent, orb-shaped fruits are most often found in Southeast Asia, India and Bhutan, and have recently even been introduced in Hawaii. They can be quite sour when unripe, but are perfectly sweet when ripe with a taste similar to a bittersweet grapefruit. Since they are found in bunches along the trunk and branches, langsat are often cultivated by shaking the tree. The riper the fruit, the more likely they are to be shaken free.” (MNN)
Word of the wise, however, don’t eat the bitter seed inside!
“Mark Twain once referred to the cherimoya as ‘the most delicious fruit known to men.’ Although its flavor is often likened to that of a cross between a banana and a pineapple, the flesh of this exotic fruit has also been described as similar to commercial bubblegum. Although they are native to the Andes, cherimoyas also thrive in Mediterranean climates, and have been introduced in Spain, Italy and California, among other places.” (MNN)
“The velvety flesh of a Cherimoya is a delicious, custardy blend of banana, pineapple and strawberry notes.” To be best enjoyed, pay attention to the following tips:
- Choose one with a green and golden hue.
- The fruit ripens very quickly at room temperature, and it’s best to eat when they are slightly soft. A ripe cherimoya is like a ripe avocado—the skin may be a bit brown.
- Once ripe, you can store in the refrigerator for a couple of days, but they will start to lose their flavor.
- You should slice the fruit in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon—do not eat the skin or the seeds.
- Some suggest sprinkling lime juice on the fruit before eating, or using it for the base of a smoothie, but you should just eat it raw and without any other additions. At least for the first time.
“This incredible superfruit is commonly referred to as the “Queen of Fruits” …Traditionally, Mangosteen fruits have been used for thousands of years in folk and traditional medicine to help support healthy inflammatory processes and digestive health converting this rare fruit to the new darling of the super fruit world.
“For those not familiar with it, Mangosteen fruits have a deep purple rind and soft white flesh seed pods inside. The fruit tastes deliciously sweet like a cross between a mild peach and a sweet strawberry and it is easily one of the most delicious super fruits in the World. Add the fact that Mangosteen is packed with nutrients that provide plenty of healthy benefits and you have the best of all fruit worlds!” (Costa Rican Insights)
When there’s a queen, there’s a king. Durian, known to many as the “king of the fruits,” is another Malaysian oddity that has made its way into Costa Rica. It’s hard and spiny skin makes it look more fit as a weapon than as something edible. Nevertheless, durian fruits have a strong and loyal following.
“Within that hard, spiny husk is a custard as smooth as a whipped pudding, sweet as vanilla ice cream, and savory as any garlic bread. It is, in our opinion, one of the best tasting foods on this planet. Beyond satisfying our sensory needs, the durian embodies the often absurd and unexplained dualities of the world. Superficially disagreeable but lovely on the inside, the fruit is an easy fit into didactic metaphors. There are many overused sayings about durian like ‘Smells like hell but tastes like heaven,’ and ‘Never judge a durian by it’s smell.’
“Durian is more than just a fruit. It’s a life lesson rolled into a gustatory experience.” (Year of the Durian)
“Jackfruit, or Artocarpus heterophyllus, is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, growing to the hefty weight of 80 pounds. It is also the national fruit of Bangladesh and may have been cultivated in India as early as 6,000 years ago. Related to the breadfruit and marang, its buttery flesh is thick with fiber and often described as starchy in flavor. One popular way to prepare this fruit is to deep fry it into crunchy, delicious jackfruit chips.” (MNN)
“Jackfruit fondness grows with familiarity. The smell of a fully ripe fruit in an enclosed space may at first be unpleasant to some although the experience cannot be compared to the durian. The fruit is covered with numerous hard points, is pale green in colour and changes to a yellowish-brown during ripening. Fruit is mature for harvest when the single small leaf above the stem withers and the first colour change occurs. Ripening continues post-harvest and with experience is ascertained by tapping the fruit. When ripe, fruit softens a little and will “give” when pushed. Ripe fruit exudes a musty, sweet aroma for a day or two before fruit is ideal for most purposes.”
While granada is the Spanish word for pomegranate—the beautiful, healthy, juicy, red fruit that has become the antioxidant-rich friend of many in the states—Granadilla is the name for pomegranate’s Costa Rican cousin. Related to passionfruit, the tico plant is not quite as colorful on the inside, but it is just as flavorful. Granadilla can take some time to get used to though. The slurpable texture inside has led some locals to call it “monkey food.”
Source: The Costa Rica News