Belize has some truly unique tropic fruits that are hard to find around Latin America. Sunny and rainy weather means something is always in season.
A few exotic fruits in Belize include: craboo, cacao, cashew, golden plum, kenep, mangosteen, noni, starfruit, and soursop. Find out when they are in season and how the locals eat them.
All the images in this post are taken by locals from Belize. No fancy stock photos here.
With that said, let's kick off with craboo.
Craboo, known as nance in Spanish is a small round and yellow fruit with a pungent smell. It has a thin shiny skin with white oily flesh and small black pit. The texture is that of an old apple and the taste is distinct with an umami and mildly sweet experience. It's a favorite pastime for locals who can sit for hours devouring an entire bag. We try to look for the juiciest, ripest, shiniest specimen in the bunch.
When in season, you can find them at most farmer's market country wide. Street vendors will have them in little transparent plastic bags. While traveling the highways of Belize, you'll spot vendors selling the product by the street bumps.
Craboo is commonly eaten fresh and ripe. Other ways include:
- Stewed in a jar with sugar and water
- Fermented in vinegar
- Crushed in evaporated milk
- As craboo wine
- As craboo ice cream.
Craboo is known as changunga, muruci, murici, nanche, nance, nancite, chacunga, craboo, kraabu, savanna serrette (or savanna serret) and golden spoon.
|Craboo Quick Facts|
|Species Name||Byrsonima crassifolia|
|Taste||Combination of pear, lychee, banana|
|Nutrition||High in Vitamin C, Fiber, Potassium|
|Season||June to August|
The cacao tree produces a fruit called a cacao pod which has seeds called the cacao beans. After the cacao bean is roasted, peeled, and made into a paste, it becomes what is called 100% chocolate. The cacao bean is precious and is considered the food of the gods by the Mayans. Besides the edible cacao bean, the sweet white flesh that surrounds it can be eaten upon opening the cacao pod.
Remember, what we know as every-day chocolate is, in fact, a processed form of cacao with additional compounds added such as milk and sugar.
Cacao is predominantly grown in Southern Belize because of the rainy weather. It's easier to find in the district of Toledo. In fact, you can search cacao or chocolate on your map, you'll find a few along the highway to Punta Gorda Town. Cacao can also be found in San Ignacio, Belize at the local market or at chocolate tour offices where it's sold as roasted beans, nibs, and, even packaged as chocolate.
Even though cacao is produced in high quantities, it is exported to European countries. Sadly, many locals haven't discovered the magical taste in pure chocolate and the super food qualities it brings with it. In fact, I was one of those locals. I discovered and appreciated the magic of cacao after shifting to a plant-based diet while backpacking South America. Now I even enjoy making tea from the cacao shells.
Cacao is commonly referred to as: kakaw in Maya, cocoa bean, cocoa or chocolate.
|Cacao Quick Facts|
|Species Name||Theobroma cacao|
|Taste||Dark, bitter, like unsweetened chocolate|
|Nutrition||High in Antioxidants, Iron, Magnesium|
|Season||All year round, harvested between November and June|
The cashew tree bears a cashew seed + cashew fruit which can both be eaten and used in various recipes. We are familiar with the cashew nut, but that has to undergo a long process before it's edible. Traditionally, the cashew seed is ripped apart from the fruit, sun dried and roasted to remove an external acidic white layer. It's then peeled, roasted once more and then cracked open to reveal the cashew nut. And that ladies and gentlemen explains why it's expensive but worth every penny.
Besides finding cashew at farmer's markets and supermarkets countrywide, I recommend getting it straight from the source: Crooked Tree Village located in northern Belize. In fact, the best way to get cashew nuts and cashew wine is by driving along the northern highway, and looking for vendors at the highway bump signs. They normally have a tiny tent and table with bottles of wine on them.
Locals eat the cashew nuts raw. The cashew fruit is then used to make cashew wine, cashew jam, and cashew stew. Outside Belize, it's normally used as a cheese replacement due to its creamy texture and flavor.
The cashew word actually derives from the Portuguese name: caju which comes from a Tupian word acajú which literally means nut that produces itself.
|Cashew Quick Facts|
|Species Name||Anacardium occidentale|
|Taste||Nutty, cheesy, buttery|
|Nutrition||High in Healthy unsaturated fats, Copper, Antioxidants|
|Season||April to June|
Golden plum or Amabarella is green fruit with a thick leathery skin and fibrous seeds. It's super fibrous. In fact, you'll need dental floss after eating this. When eaten unripe, the flesh is crisp and firm and has a sour taste. After ripening, it becomes yellow, soft and has a sweeter taste. It's a fruit worth the flossing effort.
When the fruit is in season, you can find it anywhere. They are normally sold peeled and seasoned with salt and pepper. Lots of fruit stalls and street vendors will have them prepared in a small transparent bag. It's common to see them sold at bus stops.
This strange little fruit is normally eaten with salt and chili pepper. It can be eaten ripe or unripened. Sometimes, locals put them in a brine of salt water and pepper to preserve for later.
Golden plum is also known as ambarella, june plum, caja manga, casharana, jocote de mico, jobo indio, mangotin and many other names outside the American continents.
|Golden Plum Quick Facts|
|Species Name||Spondias dulcis|
|Taste||Sour, acidic, mildly sweet|
|Nutrition||High in Vitamin C, Phosphorous, Calcium|
|Season||July to September|
Kenep, Kinep or huaya in Belize is one of my favorite fruits. I always enjoyed cracking open the soft green shell and sucking the juicy, gelatinous orange pulp that's inside. It has a seed that surrounds the flesh which you have to spit out, but the flesh to seed ratio is perfect! When ripe, it's bittersweet and juicy in taste.
The fruit isn't in season for long but when it is, you'll find them everywhere. Look out for street vendors, fruit shops and small mom & pop shops. As Belizeans, we're accustomed to seeing a street vendor on a bike with an umbrella selling seasonal fruits by our primary and secondary schools.
Locals love eating kenep just as much as we enjoy eating craboo. It's a pastime for us to grab a bag of these natural treats and eat the entire bag. Finding the ripest and juiciest fruit by observing the quality of the green shell is a fun game to play.
Kenep is also known as genip, guinep, genipe, ginepa, kenèp, quenepa, quenepe, quenette, chenet, talpa jocote, mamón, limoncillo, canepa, skinip, kinnip, huaya, or mamoncillo. They all look like misspellings to me haha.
|Kenep Quick Facts|
|Species Name||Melicoccus bijugatus|
|Nutrition||High in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Fiber|
|Season||May to June|
Mangosteen, not to be confused with a mango, is a tropical fruit originating from South East Asia. It's the size of a Jamaican lime, has thick skin, normally dark red purplish in color and brown when ripe. The fruit pulp is white and soft inside with unevenly divided segments. To open the fruit, use a sharp knife to cut around the middle and twist the two halves apart.
Unfortunately, due to it's long cultivation time, it's not seen much at our local markets. Your best bet is going to an organic garden or a specialized farmer's market. Locals tend to have trees in their yard sometimes.
Since it's rare, the common way to eat it is raw after it has ripened. The flavors are exquisite.
Mangosteen is also known as purple mangosteen.
|Mangosteen Quick Facts|
|Species Name||Garcinia mangostana|
|Taste||Sweet and sour|
|Nutrition||High in Antioxidants, Vitamin C, Folate|
Noni is a stinky smelling fruit that claims to have a plethora of health benefits including being used as cancer treatment. It's likely called noni because it resembles an "anona" which is Spanish custard apple.
Honestly, as a local, I hadn't heard of the fruit till now. Your best bet would be to check a farmer's market. I've also seen it growing in the wild.
Locally, noni is used as plant medicine. It is normally mashed up and taken in spoonfuls as medicine in the morning and evening. Locals combine it with other flavors to make it more pleasant. Alternatively, it is used as wine.
Noni and its juice is claimed to be used to treat cancer, diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol problems, high blood pressure, HIV, zheumatism, psoriasis, allergies, infection, and inflammation. It's believed that the fruit can relieve sinus infections, menstrual cramps, arthritis, ulcers, sprains, injuries, depression, senility, poor digestion, atherosclerosis, addiction, colds, flu, and headaches. It is further claimed that the juice can heal scratches on the cornea of the eye. This mouthful of information comes from an old local blog post.
Noni is commonly known as these other English names: great morinda, Indian mulberry, beach mulberry, and cheese fruit.
|Noni Quick Facts|
|Species Name||Morinda citrifolia|
|Taste||Stinky cheese, bitter|
|Nutrition||Rich in Antioxidants, Vitamin C, Biotin, Folate|
|Season||All year round|
Starfruit is a unique fruit that resembles a star when cut in cross-section. The entire fruit is edible. The outside has a somewhat waxy skin and the flesh is crunchy, firm, but super juicy. When ripe, they turn yellow and brown from the unripened green color.
Farmer's markets are a common place to find starfruits. Even supermarkets have them available while they're in season.
When in season, starfruit is normally eaten raw since the whole fruit is edible. We don't do it much, but juicing starfruit would be a good idea along with using it as garnish for drinks and salads.
Starfruit or carambola is known by many names across its regions of cultivation, including balimbing in Southeast Asia, ma fen in China, kamaranga in India, and carambolo in Spanish-speaking countries.
|Starfruit Quick Facts|
|Species Name||Averrhoa carambola|
|Taste||Combination of apple, pear, grape and citrus|
|Nutrition||High in Vitamin C|
|Season||November to January & May to August|
Soursop is a fruit that resembles a green egg with spikes from the outside. The inside has a white pulp or flesh that is both sweet and sour with a core of indigestible black seeds. The leaves, when boiled as tea, are also claimed to help treat certain type of cancers.
When in season, soursop can be found at farmer's markets. It's much easier to find it as ice cream sold by local vendors.
Soursop is delicious when eaten raw but locals prefer preparing it as a juice and even better, as ice cream. It's common to find homemade soursop ice cream at small stores or sometimes sold by vendors on small pickup trucks selling on the streets.
Other names for soursop are guyabano, guanábana, anona, graviola, and corossol.
|Soursop Quick Facts|
|Species Name||Annona muricata|
|Taste||Sweet, sour, like natural ice cream|
|Nutrition||High in Vitamin C, Antioxidants|
|Season||March to April|
Hope you enjoyed reading about the juicy fruits as much I enjoyed writing about them.