Caribbean Fruits

October 31, 2007

2 Min Read
Caribbean Fruits

The Caribbean islands, with their warm, year-round tropical climate, plentiful rainfall and varied topography, produce a bountiful harvest of fruit throughout the year. Fruit is eaten freshly cut, juiced, made into preserves or desserts, or candied with spices. Many varieties also add exotic flavor, sweetness or tartness to sauces and condiments for grilled foods and flambeaus, or are pickled and seasoned with spices and chiles.

Bananas, which originated in Asia, show up in desserts, fritters and beverages. Green bananas are boiled or stewed. Plantains (or plátanos machos) are larger than bananas and are often sliced, fried and served as a side dish with rice and beans. Crunchy tostones are green plantains, cut thick and fried.

Many varieties of mango grow throughout the Caribbean; they are eaten fresh, added to fruit salads, or made into pies, ice cream and refreshing drinks. Trinidadians turn unripe mango into delectable pickles and chutneys. Guava is eaten freshly sliced or made into jellies or juices. Its green, yellow, red and pink varieties have different flavor profiles. A native to South America, passion fruit (also called cocktail fruit or forbidden fruit) has a flavorful, translucent flesh is used in fruit salads, ice cream and drinks. Pineapples are eaten fresh, added to fruit salads, or made into juice, cocktails and desserts.

Coconut is a versatile ingredient in Caribbean cooking. The green coconut has a soft, jellylike kernel, while the more-mature coconut has a dried, hard kernel to make snacks, pies or custards. Coconut milk and shredded coconut extracted from the kernel are used to prepare soups, sauces, curries and desserts.

Star fruit (carambola or Chinese tamarind) has a sweet, watery and slightly acid taste that is favored when eaten fresh or made into juice. Pomegranates, found in Barbados and the British Virgin Islands, are eaten fresh and made into grenadine liquor.

Many native Caribbean fruits are not well known in the United States. Ugli fruit, a Jamaican hybrid of tangerine and grapefruit (itself an orange and pomelo cross) has a thick, lumpy, irregular shape, and fewer seeds and a sweeter flavor than grapefruit. Custard (or Jamaican) apple is sweet, with a custard-like consistency. It is eaten fresh or made into drinks and desserts. Mamee (or mamey) apple, with its apricot-colored, fleshy interior, is eaten raw or stewed, or is made into preserves, desserts and liqueur. Naseberry (or sapodilla), an oval fruit with a reddish-brown skin, has a sweet-tasting pulp suitable for eating fresh or for custard and ice cream. Guinep (or mamoncillo), a small, grapelike fruit, is used for a refreshing drink with ginger.

Susheela Raghavan is president of Taste of Malacca, Inc., a New Rochelle, NYbased supplier of innovative spice blendsIndian, Southeast Asian, Malaysian and from other parts of the worldfor retail, wholesale and foodservice. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or by visiting

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