Panela: I’ve been seeing this stuff EVERYWHERE since crossing the U.S. border. It’s sold wrapped up in neat plastic packages in the supermarket, in human head-sized chunks in the markets, and out of the trunks of people’s cars. It’s just unrefined sugar (how special could it be?) and I never really tried it by its lonesome until the other day when I was offered a marble-sized chunk on which to suckle. Hey, it’s not bad at all and doesn’t taste anything like refined sugar. Sort of a syrupy, caramely type taste. The Colombians make Agua de Canela out of it. Take a nice sized chunk, hack it into a few bite sized pieces and boil it with some water. Que rico! Add some fresh lime juice if you’re feeling like a FREAK!
Weird Fruits from Around the World!
Pithaya: Weird yellow fruit with spikes coming off of it; truly bizarre and cool looking. I hear that these sometimes go by the name of dragonfuit but they call them pithaya down here. This is the first I’ve ever seen of them but rumor has it they’re available in Mexico and Central America tambien, sometimes coming in different colors like pink or red. The fruit itself has an awesome texture and you scoop it out with a spoon. The taste is reminiscent of a kiwi mated with a banano.
Lulo: Weird little Colombian fruit billed as a naranjilla in other parts. The gente tell me not to eat ‘em raw but I’m not one to listen and they sort of taste like a sour apple jolly rancher. Cool. Reminiscent of the 1990′s. The juice sort of tastes similar to a banana. Weird.
Achotillo: One of weirdest fruits I have ever seen, I first ran into these in Costa Rica some time ago. A truly bizarre looking skin with soft spikes coming off of it, it is squeezed open to reveal a fleshy white fruit interior which is wrapped around a central nut. After popping it out of its exoskeleton and into your mouth, chew or suckle off the sweet tasting grape-like flesh and spit the nut out into the gutter.
Maracuya: This passion fruit looks unexciting enough, but crack it open and hundreds of little seeds surrounded by gooey soury weirdness are revealed. Delicious.
Zapote: One of my favorite fruits. Contains orange musky flesh which sort of tastes like a cooked sweet potato crossed with a papaya. Texture is similar to ice cream. The zapote family claims all sorts of delcious offshoots, such as the adorable Nispero.
Chamoya: The custard apple or Chamoya is something I had never ever seen or even heard of until I rolled up to a cart hawking these artichoke looking things on the side of the road. The inside is all white flesh surrounded shiny black seeds. Custardy apple is a good enough description of the taste.
Guabo: Ah, the guabo…my favorite fruit thus far. Completely and totally weird and foreign to me. I had no idea what these things were. They look like big green leather belts, maybe containing some sort of bug, or vegetably type tasting pea of some sort. You don’t know, it could be anything. They have some heft to them, but remain flexible, like a billy club. The urge to wind up and slap something with a guabo is strong and is the reason they are not sold in the United States. They are the most dangerous fruit. Similar in taste to the Chamoya but with more personality.
Noni: Ah, and we cannot forget the Noni! The noni is one of the gnarliest fruits known to mankind. They stink something fierce and taste like they stink, like cheese. Totally weird and pungent and yet…I was eating these things. How can a fruit smell like cheese? The texture is even weirder as they’re insides are all slimy. They seemingly start to ferment while they’re already on the tree and your mouth tingles with every cheesy bite. They sort of look like insect cocoons hanging up there in the trees, also. I left a few to ripen in a plastic bag in one of my sidebags with my clothes and forgot about them and had to wash my clothes afterwards. Stunk like cheeeeeeese they did.