One of the things I most looked forward to before arriving in (or should I say, moving back to) Mexico was all of the exotic and tropical fruits; many of which I’d only seen pictures of, and others I had not tasted since my childhood visits to Mexico. These past eight months have been wonderful for my tastebuds, needless to say. Today I’d like to share with you a few of the succulent fruits I’ve had the pleasure of eating in hopes that you too may have an opportunity to taste them.
In the pictures above and below are a pineapple, a mature coconut, rambutan, a saramuyo, a black sapote, a membrillo, dragon fruit, yellow mangoes, and a few prickly pear fruits.
I can’t tell you how excited it made me feel to look at this exotic and tropical fruit collection on my kitchen counter. Eating them all makes me that much more excited.
Let’s start off with this firm yellow fruit that has an intense and pleasant fruity smell. In Spanish this fruit is knows as membrillo, and in English as quince fruit. Quince (or membrillo) is something that I only knew of because of a sweet made from it that in Mexico we calldulce de membrillo. Quince is in the same fruit family as apples and pears but unlike those two it is usually cooked first before being eaten. This fruit is native to South-West Asia but is now also grown in many parts of the world.
Due to the membrillo’s high pectin it is usually made into jams, jelly and or marmalade. Additionally liqueur, wine and cognac may be made from quince. Some people like to simmer the fruit with spices and liquid to serve the soft fruit just like one would poached pears. The fruit must be a yellow colour before it can be eaten. It is very firm and unlike other fruit it doesn’t soften as it ripens. Raw, the taste is described as sour and astringent but some varieties are known to be sweet. The one I purchased was very hard and had a slight sourness to it, the texture was like that of a grainy pear. I will be poaching this beauty and will report back with the results.
Every one all ready knows this is a coconut. But I just learned the brown ones like this are referred to as mature coconuts, the green ones you drink when on a tropical getaway are young coconuts. I love them both and also have access to the two. Sorry, I know many of you only see the brown ones at your local shops.
I’ve been experimenting with the best ways to crack one open all while making sure to not waste any of that precious coconut water. As soon as I’ve got my technique down I’ll be sharing it with you.
The pineapples grown locally are out of this world delicious! I swear even if you’re not a fan, munching on one of these golden, juicy beauties will quickly turn you into one — a fan not a pineapple. This one was being prepped for this smoothie and a main dish I will be sharing next week.
These are called rambutan and why I found them in a grocery store in Playa del Carmen I’m not sure. You see these softly spiny fruits are native to Indonesia and Malaysia, I always thought of them as an Asian fruit. After a little research I found that rambutan is grown in Chiapas (a state in south-east Mexico) and they are becoming popular in the region.
Rambutan taste quite similar to lychee: juicy, sweet with a slight floral taste to them. To eat you crack the spiny shell open and remove the squishy fruit, put it in your mouth and eat until you get to the hard seed — which you discard.
This alien like fruit made me super excited to purchase and taste. I had no idea what is was but I knew it had to come home with me! At the check out it sparked a conversation with the cashier and people in line behind us about what it was, was it ripe and when and how it should be eaten. I was thankful that they offered the information.
In Spanish this is called a saramuyo and in English it is known as a sugar apple or sweetsop or custard apple. (The Annona family of fruit has several different fruits that are similar to each other.) My saramuyo had to ripen a bit more before eating — even thought the outer skin is thick and rough, it should feel soft when squeezed a bit.
The taste is sweet and quite unique so difficult to compare it to other fruits; there are hints of pear but all it’s own. The texture is soft but with a smidge of the graininess of pear but it does definitely have a custard-like feel to it, hence it being referred to as a custard apple; the seeds are black, hard and should be discarded. Online many suggest that the fruit should be chilled before serving. I unfortunately slice mine in half then after reading put it in the fridge, which of course cause it to oxidise a bit. Thankfully it didn’t affect the taste at all. The fruit is so delicious that you’ll want to make sure you have several to indulge in!
This is a sapote negro or a black sapote, it is native to Mexico and Central America and it is also in the same family as persimmon. Other names for this exotic fruit are chocolate persimmon and/or chocolate pudding fruit. The taste is supposed to be just like chocolate pudding — awesome! Mine is still quite firm and so I have to wait until it ripens to taste it.
It’s so pretty!
These babies are tunas or prickly pear fruit! I have been waiting to eat them again for way too many years. We never found them in Europe and since they are only in season for a short time I was thrilled when I finally found them here in Playa.
This fruit grows on (paddle) cactus and has to gently be picked off so that none of the thorns pierce the skin. When you find them in markets the thorns have already been removed so it’s just a matter of peeling off the skin and enjoying the fruit inside. I’ve always just eaten the fresh fruit but it can also be blended into drinks or used in making jelly and candies.
The taste is very unique and you simply must give it a taste yourself. The fruit is not too sweet but it is juicy and hydrating. The seeds are very hard but they can be chewed (if you have teeth of steel) or swallowed or spit out. I either swallow them or secretly remove from my mouth.
The only other fruit you that was included in the top photos but not below were the mangos. I love them I ate them too quickly before photographing them, more about mangos on a coming article. In the meantime I hope you enjoyed this mix of exotic and tropical fruits. I have a couple of recipes coming where I used the fruits, so make sure to check back!
Nancy Lopez is a food blogger and author of the cookbook Mexican Tamales Made Meatless. Born in Mexico, raised in the US, and currently living in Southern Mexico, she has followed a meatless diet for almost 10 years. It is her passion and mission to share all she has learned about vegan Mexican cooking and vegetarian Mexican recipes. Mexican Made Meatless is a blog dedicated to preserving the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine just without the meat. It’s a place to celebrate Mexican culture and all it’s delightfully delicious traditional foods. Read more…