Costa Rica, renowned for its pristine beaches and luxuriant rain forests, boasts yet another tempting feature for lovers of paradise: its lush ecosystems provide an abundant variety of tropical fruit year round. Whether visiting the farmer’s market on the weekend, sampling a fruit smoothie at a local restaurant or simply stopping to scoop up a ripe mango that fell from its tree onto the ground below, you won’t ever find yourself lacking an assortment of these colorful, seed-bearing gifts of nature. Local writer Kelly Knaub introduces us to a few of her favorites.
The bright, juicy, peach-colored flesh of this heavenly fruit is tender and succulent, although the taste, shape and color can vary according to the type of mango. The large, round orange-red variety is known in Costa Rica as “manga tomi” and offers a sweet, but slightly tangy taste with a bit of a stringy texture. The smaller, kidney-shaped variety, known locally as “mango pata” is softer and sweeter. Craving something tart? Try a green, unripe “mango sele,” which is often sold at roadside stands, sliced and served with lime and chile.
Does lying on the beach, sipping coconut water while the waves crash under a bright sun sound like bliss? In Costa Rica, this is easy to do. Young, large coconuts that are still green (known as “coco pipa”) and are filled with a clear, semi-sweet liquid are often sold at beach towns along the coast. The meat inside this unripe fruit is soft and delicate. The smaller, brown, ripened coconuts (known as “coco playero”) reveal a harder and thicker pulp beneath their woody shell. This meat is often used in Costa Rica’s Caribbean rice and bean recipes.
3. Granadilla (pronounced grah-nah-dee-ya)
The orange-hued shell on this passion fruit can easily be broken into two pieces with one’s fingers. Inside are small, grayish, edible seeds enmeshed in a jellylike substance. The filling looks uninviting but is sweet and delicious.
4. Maracuyá (pronounced mah-rah-ku-já)
This slightly larger variety of passion fruit has a more durable, yellow skin and is mainly used for making juice. When sliced in two, its interior reveals a bright orange, pulpy nectar filled with edible seeds. If eaten with a spoon, it’s best to sprinkle some sugar on top, as it is very tart and acidic.
5. Guayaba (pronounced gwy-ah-bah)
Known as “guava” in English, the texture of this round, fragrant fruit is similar to that of a pear. Its thin rind – which may be slightly bitter – and tiny, edible seeds can be eaten along with its soft flesh. The inside of the fruit is sweet, but not too sugary, and is either off-white or deep pink.
6. Mamones (pronounced ma-mó-nais)
These small, green circular fruits can be cracked open with one’s teeth. The most common way to eat them is to suck the peach-colored pulp that coats the large seed inside. They taste a bit like limes, and have many names throughout the Caribbean: quenapa, genip, guaya, lemoncillo and Spanish lime.
7. Guanábana (pronounced gwa-na-ba-na)
This large, green fruit, similar in size and shape to a football, is most often used to make a creamy juice. When sliced open, pouches of white, soft flesh can be pulled from the fruit like string cheese, leaving the large, black seeds behind. Its taste is unique and seems to hint at a combination of flavors: think pineapple – banana – coconut.
8. Tamarindo (pronounced tam-ar-een-do)
Don’t confuse this Tamarindo with the beach town in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region. These long, curved shells – which resemble brown pods – are primarily used in Costa Rica for making juice. The brownish-reddish flesh found inside is both sweet and sour. It is also sometimes used to make paste, syrup or jam.