Exotic Fruit in Costa Rica: What You Need to Know Before Visiting
There are many reasons to visit Costa Rica – the waterfalls, the volcanoes and hot springs, the rainforest and the coffee, to name a few. For such a small country, Costa Rica is incredibly biodiverse – it’s in the top 20, in terms of biodiversity, in the world. It’s not a surprise then that Costa Rica has some of the world’s most amazing fruit.
There are literally thousands of different varieties and fruit families in Costa Rica. Evidently, there is a lot to learn. As a fruit lover, I visited the local markets and picked up as much exotic fruit as I could carry. However, not having done any research, I made a lot of mistakes (more on that below).
To really enjoy the exotic fruit in Costa Rica and get the most of your experience, just do a little digging. You can either ask the local growers at the fruit stands (but outside of the service industry, most Ticos speak little English) or use Google. To get you started, I’ve gathered some basics about exotic fruit in Costa Rica. Let’s jump in!
(Photo by Martin Westlake)
What do you need to know about exotic fruit in Costa Rica?
Cashew fruit is poisonous
Although cashew nuts are well known and consumed almost all over the planet, did you know that cashews come from a fruit (called marañón)? The fruit itself is not poisonous but the nut portion (which grows on the fruit, sort of like a stem) must be roasted prior to consumption, otherwise it is poisonous.
Maracuyá fruit is best served with a sprinkle of sugar
In Costa Rica, nature is in charge and you’ll want to eat everything in it’s natural state. Maracuyá fruit is very tart. I bought about half a dozen of these round, yellow fruit. As I excitedly dug in, I thought they must have gone bad – they were very sour, almost inedible. Ticos know that maracuyá is best served with a sprinkle of sugar or as a juice. Thinking back, I can imagine how refreshing maracuyá would be in a juice (perhaps mixed in with another fruit, too).
Photo of pejibaye fruit by Insight Guides
Don’t eat pejibaye fruit raw
Pejibaye fruit cannot be eaten raw – it must be cooked and the peel must be removed. I didn’t understand why the “orange fruit” (pejibaye) I was eating tasted so bad. Now I know pejibaye (once cooked) goes well with mayonnaise and is closer to a vegetable. Pejibaye fruit is also traditionally used to make a cream soup. Lesson learned: just because something looks like a fruit or is placed alongside fruit in a produce cart does not mean it is or can be eaten like a fruit.
Noni fruit: make it into juice
Noni is a fun looking fruit but like a maracuyà, is very bitter. If you want to try noni, follow this recipe to blend a highly nutritious juice.
Zapote and mamón chino are tasty and easy to eat
Zapote looks like an old, wrinkly sweet potato from the outside. Once you cut it open, its beautiful, bright orange meat is revealed. Zapote is sweet and is often made into sorbet or ice-cream. Mamón chino, (pictured) which I mistook for litchi, are also low-maintence: using a sharp knife, remove its hard shell and enjoy the sweet, translucent fruit.
Your turn! Have you tried any of these exotic fruit in Costa Rica? Would you? What is your favourite exotic fruit?