Mango, Guava, Papaya… we still love you, but we have to tell you: you’re old news. Before you start getting smug Pomegranate, Acai, and Lychee… you’ve about had your 15 minutes, too, as the next crop of exotic fruits ripens in readiness to receive the buzzy attention of foodies and nutritionists everywhere.
Talking to tropical fruits may sound silly, but is it any more ridiculous than our culture’s obsession with the next big thing? We move from one pop sensation to the next, look forward to the new iPhone every year, and discard the gnawed pits of this week’s superfruit celebrity hungry for a novel source of antioxidants.
Panama’s a fabulous place to stay ahead of the curve, I recently discovered. During a July visit to this lush Central American country I observed jungle branches swooning under the weight of exotic fruits scarcely heard of elsewhere in the world, boasting a range of flavors from mild sweetness to puckering acidity, with enough nutritional benefits to justify an unrestrained fruit binge (if only during your Panama travels).
The diverse ecosystems of Panama, from tropical jungles to misty cloud forests and coastal mangrove labyrinths, support countless bird and butterfly species that aid in seed dispersal and pollination, respectively… It’s not surprising that Panama positively spills over in its ample yield of strange and tempting fruits.
Before you start sampling straight from the tree, be sure to consult my slideshow of exotic fruit photos — you’ll learn about a few tropical fruits that grow well in Panama, though not all of them are native to the region (such as rambutan, guaraná, and a few related fruit varieties brought in from Malaysia and the Philippines). If you’re scouting out fresh talent for the next superfruit star, I’d put my money on borojo — and I think you’ll agree once you read the caption.
I certainly don’t want anybody dropping dead in the middle of the jungle from an unfortunate mystery berry tasting episode, or for cracking one of the numerous green-tennis-ball-looking things, some of which yield delectable flesh, others… not so much. So enjoy this juicy collection and reap the rewards of fruit snobbery — it just means more deliciousness for you while the others miss out because they never got the scoop on which ones are good to eat!
If you don’t recognize a fruit or have someone handy to verify its edibility, tuck it into your bag until you can consult a field guide or ask a local expert. Some tropical fruits look appealing but are a disappointment to the taste buds and could even be toxic!
Coming up on The Ambler
The Resort at Isla Palenque, a new eco-friendly Panama resort in the Gulf of Chiriqui, grows many of these strange fruits in their island orchard and organic farm. As the island team collects down-home recipes from their local neighbors, they’ll be sharing the fruits of their discoveries on The Ambler in a celebration of Central American cuisine, featuring recipes from Panamanian chefs and sensational local specialties! Stay tuned for luscious ways to bring Panama home to your kitchen table.