October 17th, 2008

Fruit You Crack Open

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.

del.icio.us

Email This Post Email This Post | Print This Post Print This Post

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...
2,530 views
October 3rd, 2008

Green Mangoes are Great

When most people think of tropical fruit, they imagine ripeness—bright orange papayas, yellow pineapples, and deeply colored mangoes. Visitors to the tropics usually want their fruit sweet and juicy, not rock-hard and green. However, there is one Costa Rican fruit—mango—that is delicious long before it ripens.

Costa Ricans young and old love unripened mango. Schoolchildren climb mango trees and toss the green fruit down to their friends. Businesspeople eat green mango as a snack between meals.

Unlike a fully ripened mango, a green mango is very hard and has a thick skin. Its flesh is pale green and only slightly juicy. That juice, though, is wonderfully tart—the kind of tartness that pleasantly puckers lips. The seed of a green mango is white and waxy and resembles a very large bean.

Costa Ricans usually eat green mango the way Americans eat apples, biting at the firm flesh and eating all the skin. They avoid the seed, which is bitter. Some people sprinkle the mango with salt as they eat, because the salt plays nicely off the sourness of the fruit. Mango eaters with a little more time cut up the flesh of the fruit, squeeze it with lemon juice and sprinkle it with salt.

Green mango is delicious in all ways and is definitely something all Costa Rican visitors should try.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

del.icio.us

Email This Post Email This Post | Print This Post Print This Post

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...
1,052 views
September 11th, 2008

The Case for Cás

Some of the best items on Costa Rican restaurant menus are not actually food at all. They’re drinks–the frescos naturales, or natural fruit drinks, that most restaurants serve. Frescos are different from pure juice, or jugo, because they contain sugar. When you order a fresco at a restaurant, you will need to specify whether you want the fruit blended with water–en agua–or with milk–en leche. Both contain sugar.

Frescos are appealing, because restaurants rarely make them from pre-packaged concentrates or mixes of any kind. Instead, these drinks usually contain huge amounts of the freshest tropical fruit. Although almost any flavor of fresco is delicious–and a wonderful opportunity to try delicious fruits–one of the most unusual and tasty fresco flavors is cás.

A small, yellowish tropical fruit that grows on a tree, cás is very sour. Costa Ricans never eat it off the tree. Instead, they extract the pulp for a terrific juice.

Fresco de cás en agua is like a tropical lemonade. Cás drinks are cool and pleasantly tart with enough pulp to make them slightly frothy. They are the ideal accompaniment to a plate of rice and beans or a nice ceviche. Cás is refreshing on a hot day and is definitely the best of Costa Rica’s wide array of tropical drinks.

The Magnolia Restaurant in the Casino Club Colonial serves a delicious selection of frescos naturales.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

del.icio.us

Email This Post Email This Post | Print This Post Print This Post

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...
1,582 views
September 5th, 2008

Black and White and Served All Over

Guests at the Sleep Inn San José Downtown receive a free continental breakfast in the hotel’s downstairs eating area. One of the best parts of this breakfast is gallo pinto, arguably Costa Rica’s most traditional dish. This tasty mixture of rice, beans, onions, cilantro and red peppers takes its name from its appearance. A gallo pinto is a colored rooster, whose speckled feathers look like the color-flecked rice and beans.

Although various Central American countries make their own similar rice-and-bean dishes, none contains the one ingredient that makes Costa Rican gallo pinto so special—Salsa Lizano. This liquid seasoning, produced and bottled in Costa Rica, contains vegetables and spices, cumin in particular. Restaurants all across the country provide bottles of Salsa Lizano at tableside, and Costa Rican cooks always add a healthy dash of Salsa Lizano to their gallo pinto. The Salsa Lizano provides a depth of flavor that no other spice can.

Costa Ricans eat gallo pinto at any meal, but it is most popular at breakfast time. Restaurants all across the country serve it in the morning. Gallo pinto is delicious with a side of tortillas and fried plantains—and sometimes with one additional drop of Salsa Lizano.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

del.icio.us

Email This Post Email This Post | Print This Post Print This Post

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...
914 views