One of the most amazing parts of being in such a lush and fertile environment is the crazy abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, new and interesting plants foods to try, and learning the secrets of nourishing the body locally and harnessing mother nature’s gifts. These are some edibles that provide the body with a plethora of nutrients and antioxidants, and local and inexpensive!
These round yellow, orange or red gems are the fruit of a species of palm tree, belonging to the drupe family like peaches and stone fruits, but with a texture and flavour similar to that of a squash. Delicious when boiled with a little bit of salt and then peeled and eaten, the rich orange meat of the Pejibaye is rich in vitamin C, calcium and phosphorous. At about 2 dollars a pound they are an amazing food to keep as healthy snacks, and sold at many farmers markets and larger grocery stores.
Yes ok, kind of a given, but you can’t go wrong with a fresh coconut, especially in the heat or when losing a lot of fluids. Find them on the beach or pick one up on the side of the road for instant happiness. The coconut water is high in potassium and other minerals such as zinc and selenium. Super hydrating! The meat can be scooped out of the young ones, or bust open an older, smaller coconut to get to the sweet and dense pulp. Although high in fat, the meat is full of nutrients and contains lauric acid found in the oil, which is said to be antifungal and antimicrobial, among other amazing benefits. Balance out all that healthy goodness with a shot of rum in a fresh coconut and you’ve got yourself one of the best cocktails of life.
It’s mango season right now and if you check the ground after a rainfall or get a long stick to fish up the tree, juicy mangoes a plenty will be yours. High in Vitamin C with that same rich orange colour, the sweet flesh of the fruit is like hitting a goldmine. If you get a green one the more firm flesh can be cut up and dipped in salt for a savory and tart snack.
Also available in most grocery stores in North America, these resemble bananas but are actually part of the potato family. Addictive as patacones, where the green plantain is chopped into chunks, fried on the outsides, taken out and smashed into discs, then put back into the pan to crisp up. A great addition to vegetable dishes when you’re feeling like something a little bit more heavy. Also great when ripe and fries, these come on most ‘casados’, a traditional food plate of rice and beans, salad and some kind of meat.
These strange fruits produce one of those elixirs people like to call ‘superfoods’. To make your own elixir at home you can put a noni in a glass jar and sit it in the sun to ferment for a couple of weeks. Ensure that the jar is really clean to prevent contamination, and then wait as the vinegary and slightly sweet juice oozed from the noni. Yes, it smells like it shouldn’t be drank, but is considered miraculous stuff and has been used for a very long time. You can also buy it bottled at most grocery stores.
Amazing everywhere as a source of fibre and protein, beans are readily available almost anywhere and a vegetarians saving grace in terms of protein. Buy dried ones for cheap and soak them yourself, or get in on refried beans in a bag. At sodas and roadside restaurants, beans and rice is one of the cheapest dishes you can order, and also quite filling. Combine beans with corn tortillas, fresh veg and avocado and you’ve got yourself a locally sourced and delicious lunch or dinner!
Though there is tons more that could be added to this list, these are just some I have found to be staples or just particularly amazing and needed to be mentioned! Enjoy!
What other amazing foods do you enjoy in Central America? Any recipes you use these in?