By Priscilla Broadwater
As a native of Costa Rica I can say that there is a myriad of fruits in my country. If you have the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica, it won’t take you too long to notice that there are fruits everywhere. Some of them you probably didn’t know existed.
Back in 2006 I was working as a tourist guide. My job required me to take groups of foreign students on a tour around Heredia city (located in the Central Valley) with the purpose of allowing them to become familiar with the area and the culture. We took public transportation because we wanted them to become familiar with the Costa Rican currency. My other duties were to show them the location of certain bus stops, supermarkets, and drugstores in case they ever needed anything. My favorite place to take them was the Central Market, which is located in the middle of the city. At this market, many sellers and farmers gather up every day to sell their products.
At the Central Market you can buy just about anything, for example: fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, plants, smoothies, sandwiches, traditional Costa Rican food, shoes, clothes, umbrellas, wooden toys, etc. I loved seeing the students’ faces as we walked into this market. As one student said to me, “you brought us to fruit land.” I had an acquaintance at the market who always allowed us to try the fruits he was selling; the students just loved it! The best part was seeing their faces and their reactions as they tried those exotic fruits they had never seen before. They always took plenty of pictures. Often I would hear them say, “We need to show our parents some of the cool fruits we tried.”
The following list provides just a few names of some of the most common fruits found at the Central Market in Costa Rica:
Manzana de agua (water apple): This fruit is called water apple because it’s red like an apple, but when you bite into it, it’s really juicy. The dark red ones are very sweet. This is a very refreshing fruit.
Guanábana (soursop): This fruit is sweet and juicy; commonly used to make juice, milk shakes, and ice cream. Its skin is green and inside contains a white flesh that’s chewy but tasty.
Guaba: The shape of this fruit is quite different from others. It’s thin and about 18 inches long; however, they can be shorter or longer. Inside there are seeds covered by a lightly fibrous and sweet white flesh. Kids love this fruit because after they eat the pulp, they wear the seeds as earrings.
Guayaba (guava): Americans know this fruit by the name of guava. It can be eaten when still green, or you can let it ripen. This is one of the most common fruits in Central America. People make guava jelly; which they often put on bread, crackers, and some pastries.
Mamey: The mamey looks a lot like a sweet potato, but slightly bigger. The pulp has a grainy texture and it is rich and sweet.
Granadilla: A granadilla is the size of a medium orange. Usually they are orange on the outside, but the color can vary. Inside there is a sweet and juicy group of seeds, wrapped in a thin clear layer. As a kid, this was my favorite fruit.
Mamón Chino (Rambutan): This fruit is colorful; its thick and hairy looking skin can be red, yellow, or orange. Inside there is a seed covered by a translucent fleshy layer. Its taste is sweet, but can be slightly acidic.
Jocote: When green they are tart and very tasty; most people sprinkle on some salt before every bite. Once Jacote ripen, they are very juicy and sweet.
Marañon: This fruit looks a little bit like a water apple, and it’s also called cashew apple. On top of the fruit there is a hard shell that sticks out. Inside that part there is the nut known as cashew. The actual cashew nut contains a toxin; therefore they need to be properly roasted before you eat them. This fruit is sweet and notorious for a strong smell and taste.
Carambola (star fruit): The entire fruit is edible; as you cut it you can see the shape of a star, which is why it’s called star fruit. Usually people make carambola juice, which is very refreshing.
Cas: Cas belongs to the guava family, which is why they look so similar. Cas is a little bit sour and the size of a plum. This fruit is used to make juice which is delicious.
Cacao: Like many people already know, the seeds inside the cocoa fruit are used to make chocolate. The silky sour/sweet and creamy pulp that surrounds the cocoa seeds tastes very good; however, don’t expect it to taste like a chocolate bar.
Papaya: This fruit is very popular in Costa Rica. When not ripe it’s used to make what Costa Ricans call, “Papaya Salad,” a popular and unique dish. When the fruit is ripened it is dark orange inside and very sweet. As a kid, I loved to pop the little black seeds that come inside.