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Posted by on May 15, 2012 | 13 comments

Exotic Fruits Discovered in El Salvador

Exotic Fruits Discovered in El Salvador

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).

 

Mammee Apple

Mammee Apple or Salvadoran Mamey

 

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.

 

Carao

Carao

 

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).

 

Chaparron

Chaparron

 

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.

 

Marañón

Maranon (Cashew Fruit)

 

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.

Roasted Cashew Seeds

 

Jocote

Jocotes

 

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

 

Marañon Japonés

Pomarrosa or Maranon Japones

 

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.

 

Manzana Rosa

Manzana Rosa or Rose Apple

 

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.

 

Paterna

Paterna

 

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.

Paterna – white cover and green “beans”

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.

13 Comments

    • Jan,
      This is only a subset of all the fruits you can find in El Salvador and Central America. I focused in the ones I tried for the first time. If you think about, the variety is mindblowing.
      Ruth recently posted..A Tale of Two Aquariums in San FranciscoMy Profile

  1. Found it Ruth! They all look fantastic, I’ve eaten some of these, but the berries and the mammee, I’ve never seen before. Cashew fruit is definitely strange and bizarre, but there’s something so weird about the flavor that I do enjoy eating it! Great round-up, looks like El Salvador is another fruit paradise!
    Mark Wiens recently posted..Juicy and Sweet – A Day Trip to Thailand’s Everlasting Fruit Buffet!My Profile

    • The mammee aplee is native to South America and I am not sure if it is cultivated in Asia. Because a lot of fruits from Asia can be found in the Central America and the Caribbean (like the rambutan). El Salvador, yes, another fruit paradise.
      Ruth recently posted..Is it worth it to travel to that country?My Profile

  2. Hi. I’m from El Salvador, I’m glad you liked our fruits, and yes, you can bet we always try to make everyone eat our food, Lol. I live in Mexico now and everything you described and the pictures! I miss them all, mamey it’s my favorite food in this world and I hate carao, it smell like dirty socks.

  3. WOW! I am from Guatemala, another “fruit paradise” and what wonderful childhood memories these pictures brought me. I was actually looking for rose apple when I found it. I have eaten and enjoyed all of these except chaparron.
    Thanks.

  4. You forgot to mention my favorite fruit Anonas one of the best and tastier fruits I ever had.

    • LOL. I have seen anonas in El Salvador but not on thi sparticular trip. This is why I didn’t include them. I have friends who would kill to taste some anonas.
      Ruth recently posted..Discovery of the Week: Albarracin, SpainMy Profile

  5. Do you know if paternas are sold in any way in the US? Thnx.

    • Nery,

      I don’t think you can find them anywhere in the US. I wanted to bring some for my friends last year, but airport security took my paternas and almost got in trouble. :(.

  6. After reading and looking at the pics I’ve tried 5. For the past few years I have been traveling to El Salvador with my mom and have the opportunity to eat all these fabulous fruits and others. The anonas which are in the chiramoya family has pink flesh versus white chiramoya flesh and is extremely delicious and fragrant. The granadas which is a passion fruit are also amazing. My next trip is next week….after looking at the pictures I cant wait. Yummy.

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