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The longer we live on this rock, the more we are exposed to some rather bizarre foods. After a decade in the Caribbean, it seems like I should not be surprised quite so often by the fruits that the locals share with us, but about once a week I have to ask, "What is THIS?" But even detailed explanations have not prepared me for some of these experiences.
Victor is Puerto Rican. His English is better than Dave's Spanish, but that's not really saying a whole lot. So when Dave came home with a large green mystery fruit and said that Victor said it tastes like chocolate pudding, I had my doubts.
It is called "chocolate fruit" or "chocolate pudding fruit," but still, I was skeptical. Victor warned us that we had to wait until it was very soft. After all, we wanted the meat to be pudding consistency. Is anyone else raising their eyebrows at a fruit you eat when it's nearly slurpable through a straw? So we waited. And waited. After nearly two weeks we could wait no more. I was actually getting excited to eat our chocolate pudding that we had been ripening on top of the fridge. One evening after dinner, Dave picked it up to check its ripeness and nearly put his thumb through the skin. It must be ready.
With great anticipation he cut the large fruit in half. It was indeed the color of chocolate pudding, a most unappealing quality for a fruit to have. Still, I was trusting Victor. But not too far. I took a tiny bit on the tip of a spoon. And nearly threw up. Dave swears it's not that it tastes BAD, it's just that it doesn't taste at all. The only quality it has is texture. Which is, well, like chocolate pudding. Color and texture does not chocolate pudding make, however, so Dave was left to eat as much of it as he could. I think we composted about half of it.
A few weeks later, someone we had just met walked over to one of his trees, picked a fruit, handed it to us and declared it to be a "golden apple." According to him it was related to a plum, and it did look a bit like a large hog plum. As we waited for it to ripen we googled it and discovered it is related to mango, so after it softened Dave peeled it for me before I ate any. Unlike the misnamed chocolate pudding fruit, the golden apple isn't much of a misnomer. The meat is a bit crunchy, sweet, and juicy like an apple. But it's more like eating an apple core. There are large fibrous veins that run through the entire fruit. Though it doesn't completely ruin the experience for me, we won't be seeking them out at the market.
The next fruit we discovered on our own, though it's not technically a fruit. In fact, I'm not sure what it is. Dave opened a coconut to discover what's called a "coconut apple" inside. There was no coconut water, but in its place was a soft, spongy, "fruit" of sorts. It tastes like coconut, only sweeter. We've asked the locals and few of them have ever opened a coconut with one in it, but they usually only open the ones that have liquid in them. Since then we've been shaking coconuts to try to find one with no liquid that may have a coconut apple in it. So far we've not found another one. But if you do, they are perfectly safe to eat and rather tasty.
In one of our earlier fruit posts I wrote about one of my favorites, the soursop. A crucian man handed us one the other day and I smiled as I thanked him.
"Oh, I love soursops!"
"This isn't a soursop."
"You're kidding. It looks exactly like a soursop."
"This is a sweetsop."
"How can you tell the difference?"
"This one will be sweet."
Ah, yes, the logic of an islander.
As instructed, we waited for it to soften (just like a soursop) before we cut into the tough skin with small pokies on it (like a soursop). Inside we found large black seeds that looked suspiciously like soursop seeds. As I pulled off the first bite (the meat breaks apart like blue crab meat, just like a soursop) and ate it, I had to fight to not spit it back out.
"It's not sour!"
"That's because it's not a soursop. He told you."
"Yes, but it's exactly like a soursop."
"Except it's sweet."
Last weekend when we went to the Agriculture and Food Fair I saw an older local woman selling soursops. (I guess. They could have been sweetsops for all I know.) I told her about our recent sweetsop experience. She nodded in agreement, so I asked, "How can you tell the difference?"
"If the fruit you got the seed from was sweet, you will get sweetsop off the tree."
Sigh. I really do love West Indians, but sometimes their logic escapes me.
I'd like to say this is the last post on exotic fruit, but I'm realizing that the islands are like learning a foreign language. There is always so much to discover and experience. And sometimes you have no idea what people are talking about.
MONDAY we'll share our latest work-off-the-grid accessory.PREVIOUS
Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?
It's here! My latest book, Years of Ideas from a Simple Sailor is now available on Amazon.
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