Of all the new fruits Costa Rican travelers encounter, mamones and granadillas often tend to be the most exotic and unfamiliar. Although Asian and Latin American countries now routinely export these fruits all over the world, they are still lesser known and, perhaps, more inscrutable than other fruits. Mamones and granadillas are similar to one another, in that they have a semi-hard outer shell that breaks open to reveal a pulpy and very tasty fruit. There are two varieties of mamones—mamón chino and the ordinary mamón.

In Asia, the mamón chino is known as a “rambutan.” It is similar to the Asian lychee. Mamones chinos grow in clusters and are about the size of large grapes. Each fruit has bright red skin that is covered in long spines. Although the fruit looks prickly, the spines are soft. To eat a mamón chino, you crack the side of the fruit with your thumbnail and peel away the outer spiny shell. The shell usually comes away in two pieces, revealing the soft, white fruit inside. Most people just slurp the fruit out from one half of the shell. The fruit is sweet, tender and very refreshing. In its center is a large inedible seed. June is the season for mamón chino, and, in season, the streets of San José are often littered with the shells of mamones chinos.

An ordinary mamón grows in much the same way that the mamón chino does, although it is slightly smaller in size. Its skin is light green and completely smooth. Some people call the fruit a “Spanish lime,” because of its lime-like appearance. The skin of a mamón  is also slightly hard and must be cracked open in the way a mamón chino is. The fruit of the mamón is an orangish pink and somewhat tangier than the fruit of the mamón chino. It, too, has an inedible seed. Its season begins in June and lasts longer than the mamón chino season.

Granadillas are about the size and shape of pears, and they are usually a mottled greenish orange. Their skin is very similar to that of mamones, in that it is slightly hard and shell-like. A granadilla should be cracked open near the stem end. This stem end can be removed, leaving a sort of cup filled with a mass of pulpy seeds. Costa Rican schoolchildren laugh about the mucus-like consistency of the seeds before slurping down the entire mass in one gulp. Others delicately pull small bits of seeds from within the “cup.” Some even scoop out the pulp with a spoon. The seeds of the fruit are edible and make a crunchy counterpart to the soft sweetness of the surrounding pulp. Granadilla is also called “passion fruit,” and it is available year-round.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.