Suitcase and World: Fruit.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


One thing I'm really looking forward to on this trip is the fruit. For me it will be such a nice change of pace to eat sun ripened tropical fruit instead of apples that have been warehoused since last fall's harvest.

I figured that in Mexico there would be a good of variety fruit and maybe a few I had never seen or heard of before. But as I did my research on the fruits of Mexico, I was stunned by just how many different fruits there are!  I decided to document a few of them just so I would even know what their names are and what they look like.  I don't know what fruits will be in season in July but no matter what is available, I know my brother, aka the "Fruit Obsessed One" is going to have a field day in this country. He was in his element at the central market in Antigua, Guatemala, stocking up on all sorts of different fruits, pretty much on a daily basis. I think I will bring along a couple of my recyclable shopping bags so we can haul  his purchases back to the hotel. I can already see that every day's breakfast will begin with fresh fruit that he's bought from the market. :-)

Common name: Avocado
Botanical name: Persea americana
No need for words!  Okay, when in Mexico, one word - Guacamole!

Common name: Atemoya
Botanical name: Annona squamosa x Annona cherimola
Atemoya is a man made hybrid of the lowland sugar apple and the highland cherimoya. The fruit is fragrant, firm, and it has a snowy-white flesh of a fine texture. They are generally conical to heart shaped, and may weigh up to 5 pounds. The pulp has fewer seeds than the sugar apple and the flesh is not divided into segments.

Common name: Eggfruit
Botanical name: Pouteria campechiana
Canistel grow on an evergreen tree that has dark green leaves up to twelve inches long clustered at the tips of the branches. The fruit has an orange to yellow thin skin, and the pulp is dry like a hard boiled egg yolk. They are commonly eaten fresh, used in cooking, pies, and they are excellent in ice cream. In milk shakes they taste like eggnog.


Common name:Caimito, Star Apple
Botanical name:Chrysophyllum cainito
I had my first taste of caimito in Guatemala and it was different.  Sweet and a bit sticky.  In Mexico, the pulp is used in ices and ice cream.


Common name: Carambola,Starfruit, Five-finger
Botanical name:Averrhoa carambola

Carambola get their common name, starfruit, when the fruit is sliced horizontally.  The shape of the slices is that of a five-pointed star. The flesh is sweet, crisp and golden yellow.

Common name: Cherimoya, Anona
Botanical name: Annona cherimola
In Malaysia, I grew up eating custard apple, one of my favorite fruits.  The chirimoya reminds me of that fruit and though they are expensive to buy in the DC area, I will splurge every now and again.  The best part about a chirimoya is that it will ripen on the counter - you just have to be patient. Underneath a leathery skin, the flesh of the chirimoya is white with a soft custard-like texture and large seeds that look like beans.

Common name: Chiku, Sapodilla
Botanical name: Manilkara sapota
Another fruit that I grew up with in Malaysia where it's known as chiku.  Native to the Yucatan and southern Mexico, the chicozapote is one of the favorite tropical fruits in Mexico. The small (2"-4") round-to-oval fruit is has a rough brown skin and dark, sweet pulpy fruit. It is commonly mixed with a bit of orange juice and honey and used as a spread on toast, and is also a favorite ingredient in mousse.

Common name: Coconut
Botanical nameCocos nucifera
Available year round, coconuts are grown in Mexico's warm coastal region and used all over the country, both fresh and dried. The "milk" of fresh coconuts is actually more like water, and is said to be the best remedy for dehydration due to extreme heat.  I love, love, love coconut!!

Common name: Pomegranate
Botanical name: Punica granatum
Introduced by the Spaniards, pomegranate became an essential part of Mexico's patriotically red-white-and green dish, chiles en nogada, with the red color provided by pomegranate seeds. Pomegranate juice is used in savory sauces and salad dressings as well as sorbets and drinks.

Granada china
Common name: Golden Passion Fruit, Granadilla
Botanical name: Passiflora ligularis
We ate this fruit when we were in Guatemala but I've now learned that we, like many people, mistook it for "passion fruit" because it is related. The exterior of the granada china is egg-shaped fruit with a hard yellow-orange "shell".  When you cut the fruit open, inside is a soft, grayish pulp, which is eaten right out of the shell with a spoon. Despite the hard outer skin, the granada china is more perishable than most other tropical fruit, and is generally not used in ice cream and other confections. Granada china can be tested for ripeness by shaking it for the sound of the ripe flesh moving inside.

Common name: Soursop, Guanabana, Graviola
Botanical name: Annona muricata
Another of my favorite tropical fruits, the guanábana, a native of Mexico and Central America, has a leathery green skin covered with soft spines. Its fragrant, sweet, custard like pulp is commonly used in aguas frescas and sorbets.

Common name: Guava
Botanical name:Psidium guajava
Guava is an oval shaped fruit that varies in size from a small egg to a medium apple. The thin skin may be yellow, red, purple or nearly black and the flesh ranges from a pale yellow to a bright red. Guava is sweet with a slight tart aftertaste. Its texture is firm, similar to an apple.  Fresh guava is a little dry tasting.  I prefer as a flavor of ice cream :-)

Common name: Lime
Botanical name: Citrus aurantifolia
My favorite citrus fruit.  The ones I get at home are small and hard.  I want to taste a fully ripe one!

Common name: Lychee
Botanical name: Litchi chinensis
Another one of my favorite fruits!  I can't remember exactly what time of year I can find them the in Asian grocery stores here but when they are available, I gorge on them!

The lychee is a member of the soapberry family. About the size of a large strawberry, the lychee has a rough, "bumpy" dark red skin with sweet white flesh that is used to make agua fresca.

Common name: Mamey
Botanical name: Pouteria sapota
I tried the mamey in Guatemala and I have to say, I wasn't a fan of it.  The flavor and texture of the fruit has been compared to a sweet potato pudding.  Hmmm....not quite my cup of tea but I'm willing to give it another try.

The mamey looks like a small football, with rough brown skin that is cut open to reveal soft, sweet orange flesh surrounding a large black pit. Mamey is a favorite for licuados and ice cream, and the pit is used, along with cacao flowers, to make the Oaxacan drink tejate.

Common name: Mango
Botanical name: Mangifera indica
Perhaps Mexico's most beloved fruit, which arrived from South Asia, mango is used in salsas, savory sauces for fish and poultry, and an endless variety of drinks and desserts.
My brother loves mangoes. He bought a ton of them in Guatemala and I expect he'll do the same in Mexico!

Common name: Passion Fruit
Botanical name: Passiflora edulis
The maracuya has a hard, yellow shell that contains soft pulp, prized in Oaxaca as a flavoring for ices and drinks. If they're in season while we're there, I'm definitely going to get a fresh juice drink with passion fruit!

Common name: Cantaloupe
Botanical name: Cucumis melo
My favorite melon and who knew it was in the same family of plants as the cucumber!  The cantaloupe are an important commercial fruit crop in Mexico, where it is used in fruit salads, aguas and licuados.

Common name: Nanche
Botanical name: Byrsonima crassifolia
This is a new fruit to me- never heard of it, let alone seen it.  Nanche is  yellow, olive-size Latin American native with a sweet taste when ripe.  In Mexico, it's used in ice cream and and a brandy-based conserve that is a regional specialty of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Its distribution is usually limited to local markets.  Sounds like a rare find in fresh form. I would be surprised if we saw these on our trip.


Common name: Loquat, Japanese Plum
Botanical name: Eriobotrya japonica
I had my first taste of loquat in Guatemala.  It reminded me of an apricot, maybe a little more fragrant.

Loquat is particularly popular in Oaxaca, where it is made into jams, jellies and marmalade.

Common name: Papaya
Botanical name: Carica Papaya
When I was growing up, the only time I could get to eat papaya was when we went back to Malaysia on vacation.  Nowadays, papayas can be commonly found in pretty much all the supermarkets in my neighborhood.  I have to admit that I'm not much of a papaya fan though I do like the Vietnamese green papaya salad.  But, every now and again, I do enjoy it.  It's suppose a very healthy fruit to eat.

Papaya is the most popular breakfast fruit in Mexico, papaya is also a favorite licuado ingredient. I've never eaten the seeds before but apparently they do in Mexico.  Supposedly, they have a peppery-flavored seeds.

Common name: Pineapple
Botanical name: Ananas comosus

I don't know of anyone who doesn't know what a pineapple is - even if it's just the kind that comes in can.  Of course, it's much better eaten fresh and recently, I've learned to appreciate it grilled.  So tasty served with mascarpone with honey drizzled over it.

Piña anona, cerimán de México
Common name: Ceriman, Mexican Breadfruit
Botanical name: Monstera deliciosa
The fruit of an ornamental shrub native to Mexico and Guatemala, piña anona looks like a narrow, foot-long cucumber. I'm sorry, this thing does not look like a fruit but maybe it's tastier than it look.  Its thick green skin is covered with scales that individually fall off as the fruit ripens. The white, custard like flesh, described as tasting like a mixture of pineapple, mango and banana, is eaten fresh or made into jam or jelly, but should never be eaten until completely ripe.

Common name: Dragon Fruit, Pitaya, Pitahaya
Botanical name: Hylocereus undatus
Just in the last year or so, dragon fruit have started to show up in my local Asian market.  I had walked by them countless of times before I decided to plunk down, I think it was, $5 for one.  Pricey!  I had no idea how to eat the fruit so I just cut it in half.  Before I scooped out the flesh to devour it,  I looked at the sliced piece of dragon fruit.  I was struck by its beauty - a vibrant neon pink skin with chartreuse green spikey leaves contrasting with stark white flesh dotted all over with black seeds.

The flesh itself was sweet and the teeny weeny black seeds added a nice crunch. Dragon fruit is actually the spiny fruit of the organ cactus which is found in abundance in the Tehuacan area of southern Puebla state, home to many types of cacti.

Common name:  Banana
Botanical name: Musa sapientum
No need to explain the banana.  I just hope they have the small fruit variety that I prefer. They have a much finer texture to the flesh but best of all, a wonderful, *perfumey* fragrance that their North American counterparts just don't have.

Plátano macho
Common name: Plantain
Botanical name: Musa paradisiaca
Plantain is the banana that you can't eat raw and it's so, so tasty cooked.  Tostones.  You can't go wrong with frying them.  In Mexico as in Latin America and the Caribbean, plantains are often fried and served with rice.  In Mexico, they are also made into a croquette filled with black beans.

Common name: Rambutan
Botanical name: Nephelium lappaceum
Another fruit that is so familiar to me as it's a very popular fruit in Malaysia.  It's probably decade since I've had a rambutan and I would love to be able to bite into a perfectly ripened, sweet one.  Rambutan has a leathery skin.  Peel it and inside you'll find   sweet, translucent fruit that can be eaten fresh or as in Mexico used to make agua fresca.

Common name: Watermelon
Botanical name: Citrulius vulgaris
What can I say?  When you're hot and sweaty, there's nothing to quench the thirst than a cold piece of watermelon and it will be hot in July in Mexico.

Common name: Custard apple, Sugar apple, Sweetsop
Botanical name: Annona squamosa
One of my absolute favorite fruits!  In Mexico, this fruit can be found in markets in the Yucatan and if I spot them, I am buying as many as I can carry! Its soft, sweet white pulp is used in ices, ice cream and agua fresca.

Common name:  Sweet Prickly Pear
Botanical name: Opuntia ficus indica
I used to travel to Arizona quite a bit when I was married because one of my ex sister in-laws was (and still is) living there. In the supermarkets there, you can get prickly pear jelly.  I think I've tasted the jam of this fruit but I definitely have never eaten it fresh.  Somehow I think it will remind me of dragon fruit which I am learning to appreciate more and more each time I eat it.

The prickly pear is the fruit of the nopal cactus, eaten raw or made into agua fresca.

I'm also looking forward to a meal with nopales which is a popular food in Mexico but I've never had it.  Curious foodie!

Zapote blanco
Common name: White Sapote
Botanical name: Casimiroa edulus
Looks like an apple but I wonder what it tastes like. Native to central Mexico, the white sapote is more elongated than the other sapotes, shaped more like a pear, with green skin and white to yellowish white, sweet creamy pulp. It is eaten fresh or used in licuados.

Zapote negro
Common name: Black Sapote, Black Persimmon, Chocolate Pudding Fruit
Botanical name: Diospyros digyna
I am absolutely intrigued by this fruit. I can't remember ever seeing a black fruit! Native along both coasts of Mexico, from Jalisco to Chiapas and from Veracruz to the Yucatan, this green-skinned sapote has soft, black, pudding- like flesh. It should be allowed to ripen until very soft and eaten like custard.  I have a feeling I will absolutely love this fruit, if I get a chance to taste it!