Let Nicaragua’s Exotic Fruit Tantalize Your Taste Buds
Nicaragua’s temperate climate and fertile volcanic soil support the cultivation of a wide variety of delicious and nutritious produce. In addition to the more widely known fruits such as mangoes, papayas, pineapples, oranges, lemons and bananas, Nicaragua has a range of fruit that may be unfamiliar to visitors from other countries. These include sapodillas, sapotes, jocotes, breadfruits, pitayas, mammee apples and star apples.
Sapodillas and Sapotes are full of vitamins, minerals and saponin, a tannin-like substance which is known for its anti-oxidant properties. If the fruits are eaten before they are fully ripe, the astringent action of the saponin tends to leave the mouth feeling dry, but the ripe fruit has a sweet, malty flavor that is very pleasing to the palate. This long-lived, evergreen tree is native to southern Mexico and Central America (including Nicaragua), but has been introduced to other countries with the temperate climate it needs to thrive, such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Thailand and Malaysia. Related to sapodillas and sapotes, star apples have either a green rind with white pulp, or purple rind with lighter purple pulp. It’s eaten fresh or used in the production of marmalades and jams. Interestingly the rind contains high levels of latex and should not be eaten.
Consisting of a single large seed (which is not eaten) covered in tasty flesh, the jocote is also known as mombin and can be eaten when it is still unripe and green in color, or when the fruit has turned dark red, or yellow depending on the variety, indicating its ripeness. Jocotes can be eaten raw, with or without the skin, and feature as an ingredient in a number of savory and sweet dishes. During the harvesting season it is common to find street vendors in Nicaragua selling fresh jocotes in plastic bags, accompanied by a small packet of salt to dip them in before eating.
Pitayas are also known as prickly pears or dragon fruit and are the fruit of several species of cactus found throughout Nicaragua. The cactus first produces large flowers, which develop into large purple-colored fruits. High in vitamins and minerals, pitayas can be eaten plain, added to fruit salads or made into a thick nutritious juice.
Mammee apples are large round or oval-shaped fruit with a thick brown rind. The pulp of the fruit, which is claimed to be an aphrodisiac, is orange colored and soft, being eaten fresh or used to make marmalade. This long-lived, hardy tree is evergreen and can grow as tall as 25 meters. It is common to see a row of mammee apple trees grown as a wind-break to protect other, less robust crops in some regions of Nicaragua.
If you have the opportunity to explore the fascinating country of Nicaragua, be sure to tantalize your taste buds with some of the country’s delicious locally grown fruit.