Suitcase and World: Las frutas.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Las frutas.

To say that there's a lot of different kinds of fruits in Mexico is truly an understatement. I've never been in place that has this much variety and the Fruit Obsessed One aka my brother was in absolute heaven. Part of the reason for going on this trip during rainy season is because that is the height of fruit season and we hit the bounty!

It's not that Mexico is the only country with the climate to grow temperate, tropical and desert fruits.  After all the US also has the same climatological zones. It's that the Mexicans eat those fruits.  On our trip, we focused on the fruits that are not commonly found in the supermarkets in the US.  So, it was out with the melons and in with the guavas!

Tuna!  Our fruit discovery started with our first breakfast in Mexico City.  It was buffet breakfast and there was a tray with fruit that looked like peeled kiwi fruit. That's what I thought it was until I bit into it - super sweet and super juicy but peppered throughout with seeds that were hard as rocks.....literally, I couldn't bite into any of them to break them up....had to spit them out.  We had no idea what we were eating until about three days later when we walked inside a fruit store and saw the peeled fruit sitting next to unpeeled ones. Turns out it was tuna, as it's known in Mexico or as we know it, prickly pear....fruit of the cactus plant.

Mango! Our fruit odyssey continued in Puebla.  Not that we can't buy mangoes here but the ones in Mexico are so much better.  I think it's because when fruit is brought to the market for sale, it's already ripe so it's already at the height of sweetness.  In the case of mangoes, sometimes they can be very fibrous and I don't ordinarily like to eat them because I hate getting the fibers caught between my teeth.  I don't know what the variety was of the mangoes my brother bought in Puebla but the flesh was silky smooth and so delicious. Traveling with my brother, there's no need to take fruit home to eat.  Just find a place to sit, whip the knife and have at it!

Rambutan!  We first came across rambutans in the zócalo in Puebla.  A guy as carrying a bucket full of them and after a sample bite, my brother bought a bag.  We didn't see them for sale anywhere else and I was certain that that was the end of it but we happened upon another vendor in of all places, the Sumidero Canyon.  That was another 2 or 3 bag purchase....a couple of kilos at least.  We hit the rambutan jackpot on our way back into San Cristóbal de las Casas from Zinacantán. By now, both Juan Jose and Francisco were aware of my brother's love for fruits so they stopped the moment they saw the truck by the roadside. Another 2 or 3 bags later and we were on our way!

Nance! There were fruits that were familiar to us, though it had been ages since we had a taste of them but there were ones that were entirely new.  Like the yellow grape sized fruit called "nance" ("nahn-chey") which we first tried in Oaxaca.  Some kids approached Ayşe to buy a bag and so she did.  At first, we had no idea what it was and then I remembered posting up something that looked like it on this blog and so I looked it up.  Francisco later confirmed our find.  We all took a bite into the small fruit.  The texture of the fruit was very dry and it was not a very pleasant taste a bit bitter.  None of us liked it so we offered it up to a passerby who gladly took the bag off our hands.  We did see is served up in ice cream form in Veracruz.

Guanabana! Though we didn't commonly see it in whole form soursop or guanabana, as they call it in Mexico, was another fruit that we rarely see. In the US, I can find it in juice form in the Latin mercados, as a flavoring for bubble tea and ice cream in the Asian markets.  I've never actually eaten the fruit and we didn't get to try it in Mexico either. Next time.

Pitahaya! Recently, dragon fruit or pithaya as it's known in Mexico, is just beginning to make its appearance in the Asian markets here.  In Mexico, we saw a truckload full!  At 25 pesos for a kilo of the *big* fruit, it was hard to resist so bro bought a few.  Both inside and outside, this is visually one of the most beautiful fruits I know of.

Granada China! Another unusual fruit that we got to try was granada china ("cheena") which I think is a relative of passion fruit.  Francisco bought a small bag of the fruit in San Juan Chamula.  The exterior is a bit of a hard shell that you simple bite into.  Inside is a collection of slimy looking seeds.  You just suck everything down.  The seeds are surrounded by sweet flesh.

Saramuyo!  Custard apple or saramuyo is a fruit I've not had since I can't remember when.  Growing up in Malaysia, it was something that we had all the time and was and will always be one of my favorite fruits.   We didn't see the fruit anywhere in Mexico until we got to Tulum.  There, we found a roadside produce stand and tucked into the back corner was a small box of the fruits.  We didn't know how to pick a *good* one so we picked the soft ones.  At 20 pesos a kilo, we could afford to try several :-)   Eating that first batch (yes, there were more), we realized that soft fruit means over ripe fruit.

Two days later, we went back to the same produce stand and this time we asked the owner to help us pick out some fruit. We picked out fruits that were firm but not too firm.  This time, we hit the jackpot!  The fruit was sweet, juicy and has that wonderful perfume that I just love.  As usual, bro bought more fruit than anyone can possibly eat in one day so we had our final bites at the airport in Cancun :-)

A fruit salad like no other. I didn't take pictures of every different kind of fruit we ate but we had a lot including papaya, avocado (yes, it's a fruit), watermelon, cantaloupe, guava, pomegranate (which they have both the red and green varieties), banana, coconut, grape, and the ubiquitous Mexican lemon.  And there so many others we did not get to eat because they weren't in season.  Not that I need an excuse to go back but..... :-)