Fruit Field Guide
It always happens. I go on a trip looking forward to extravagant meals, and the most memorable culinary takeaway is something as simple as fruit.
The case was no different for this Costa Rica trip. On the first day, a few of us toured the Mercado Borbón and tasted lots of different fruits native to Costa Rica. These fruits are very important, serving as snacktime staples or the bases of flavored juices.
Fruit salesmen handed us salt shakers with many of the fruits we tasted. This is because many fruits in Costa Rica are not as sweet as fruits in the United States tend to be (perhaps because Costa Rica gets less sunlight), and the salt brings out the fruit’s sweetness, just as in salted caramel or a peanut butter cup.
This round, green sour local guava is used to make a popular citrusy beverage, or it’s used to add flavor to other beverages, like one of Costa Rica Craft Brewing Company’s beers.
The cashew apple is the fruit of the cashew. Far less popular than the nut, the pear-shaped, brightly colored fruit is watery and soft, and it has a bitter, murky, almost rotten taste. It was the group’s least favorite fruit.
This was the most peculiar fruit I ate during my time in Costa Rica. This relative of the passion fruit looks sort of like an orange pomegranate but is lightweight and almost feels hollow. Once cracked open, the fruit gives way to lots of pith, like that of a citrus fruit, which encases what looks like soft, gray pomegranate arils. The fruit looks almost rotten, but tastes sweet and a little citrusy. Showing this fruit to my travel mates was my party trick of the trip.
This is not the pink fruit Americans think of as guava. This is Costa Rican guava, which is shaped like a long, thin banana. Inside the guava casing is a row of white fruits that are moist but airy and sweet like cotton candy. These fruits incase a large seed, which Costa Rican children can clip to their ears like earrings.
This fruit, a relative of the lychee, looks intimidating but is really the opposite. Behind a pink, spiky outer layer is what is essentially a less flavorful green grape, but the rambutan’s packaging makes it way more fun to eat.
Sure, papaya exists in the United States, but Costa Rican papaya is to be lauded. Although it is not my favorite fruit because of an aftertaste I can’t put my finger on, you can’t deny the freshness of the sweet melon, whose flesh almost melts in your mouth.
People have said that soursop (guanabana in Spanish) can help fight cancer. Whether or not that’s true, the white-fleshed fruit, which is similar in texture to a pineapple and tastes sort of like melon, makes for a refreshing afternoon snack or beverage.
The fruit of the purple-skinned, orb-shaped star apple is gummy and super-sweet, and the juices that drip from it look like milk. If you cut the orb in half, just like the common American apple, there is a star pattern at the fruit’s core.
Although shoppers can find this aptly named astringent, yellow, star-shaped fruit in many American supermarkets, it was fun to eat the star fruit right off the tree. Farmer Minor Muvillo said that the fruit tasted like a sour patch kid and that when blended with water and ice, it makes a drink that tastes like blue gatorade.
I can’t say much for this fruit, simply because it doesn’t give much. The texture is much like a mealy apple, and the flavor is that of watered-down juice. A little salt does bring out some sweetness in the fruit.