What happens when a Puerto Rican is surrounded by dozens of Salvadorans? Well, being as nice as they are, they make sure you taste some of the culinary offerings of the country. I am not even sure why I am using the term “culinary”. They will offer you some delicious typical dishes (that’s a given). But they will also make sure you taste some of the exotic fruits they enjoy on a daily basis (which are not exotic to them).
Last month, when I visited I was the only foreigner among a sea of locals. Believe me, they made sure I tried a lot of fruits. Here are some of the ones I have never tried before (even though I have visited Central America more than 10 times).
This is what Salvadorans know as mamey. Don’t get confused. For Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and other Latin Americans, mamey is a different fruit (Pouteria sapota which Salvadorans call sapote). This is an evergreen tree native to tropical South America. To my surprise, this fruit is closely related to the mangosteen (which I love).
My husband insisted that I had to try the mamey. The second day we were in the country; we went to the market and got three of the fruits. Ohhh, it was delicious. I can eat and eat this all day. Try it if you have the opportunity. A piece of advice: it is difficult to “peel” this fruit. You may need to ask for help.
Other names: mammee, mamey, mamey apple, Santo Domingo apricot or South American apricot.
Interesting fact: The Kolashampan, which many consider El Salvador’s national drink, has a mammee apple flavor.
This fruit is similar in many ways to carob, except that the carao tree only grows in Central America and Hawaii. Carao is similar to both carob fruit and sugar cane molasses in its taste and its anti-anemic properties. It is usually used to flavor milk, called leche con carao, and can be used in any number of recipes that call for milk.
We found carao at a local supermarket and my husband bought a pound. His mom prepared it with milk. I had to pass on this one. The smell was horrible. No wonder it is similar to carob.
Other names: Cañandonga, caña fístula cimarrona
Interesting fact: A carao concentrate is sold for its medicinal purposes (it is quite expensive).
This fruit is not popular or sold in the markets. It was introduced to us by one of the guides at El Impossible National Park. We saw tons of bushels while hiking around the park. My husband and one of his friends picked tons of berries to eat during the walks. It has a sweet and pleasant flavor. I can see myself eating it on a regular basis.
Interesting fact: Be careful if you use the word “chaparron”. The word is also used to describe a type of moonshine made in the country.
Cashews nuts are famous (and yummy). I am sure you don’t have a problem recognizing them. But, do you know the fruit is eaten and used in juices and sauces? When we visited El Salvador, it was cashew season. The fruit was available at every corner. A friend asked me if I have ever tasted the fruit. For some reason, I said no even though I have tried it before (memory loss?). The flavor is strong and acidic. I didn’t really like it. In Portuguese, the fruit is known as caju (super catchy word I cannot stop saying).
Interesting fact: When eating cashew fruit, don’t let the liquid get to your clothes. Locals affirm it produces stains that would ruin any textile (nothing removes the stain)
Another interesting fact: It is very difficult to release the cashew nut from its shell. In industrial settings, heavy machinery is used to open the shell. In El Salvador, people roast the nut in an open fire. After certain time (they know when is ready), it is easy to remove the shell. I had some prepared and they tasted delicious. Naturally roasted cashews. I can’t believe I had the amazing opportunity to try them.
This is one of the most popular fruits in El Salvador. The jocote is a species of flowering plant in the cashew family that is native to tropical regions of the Americas. The name derives from the Nahuatl word xocotl, meaning “fruit.” The flavor is acidic.
One typical dish in Salvadoran cuisine consists of a syrup made of unrefined whole cane sugar (panela or piloncillo), jocote and mango.
Other names: Red Mombin, Purple Mombin, Hog Plum, Sineguela, and Siriguela
In here, I am using the names Salvadorans give to the fruits. This one is known as Japanese Marañon. I have no idea how they came up with that name. In Puerto Rico, we know this fruit as pomarrosa. Its widely accepted name is Malay apple. I have actually tried it in Thailand. It has a pleasant and refreshing flavor. This is another one I like a lot.
This one is closely related to the pomarrosa. It is even known by that name on some countries. Its general name is rose apple. We were also introduced to this fruit at El Imposible National Park. To me, it has a lemony flavor and smell (which is weird).
Interesting fact: Salvadorans have a vulgar name for this fruit. They call it manzana pedorra or fart apple. I am not kidding. They call it like that.
Let me first say this is not a fruit. It is a pod holding a row of “beans” which are coated by a fluffy, light and sweet substance that resembles a marshmallow pocket. When you have the fresh pod, you only consume the white covering. Kids love to munch on this. You cannot eat the remaining green beans because they are hard as a rock. They must be boiled until they are soft, and can then be consumed with salt and lime. Nothing is wasted in this country.
Well, what do you think of all these variety? Fascinating, right?
Even though I felt like a guinea pig sometimes, I was glad I had the opportunity to try all these (except the carao, yuck).
How many of these have you tried? Let me know in the comments section below.