Papaya, image by Scott Bauer, courtesy of USDA Agricultural Research Service


We also call them papaya in English and they come from a small, soft-wooded, more or less umbrella-shaped tree, Carica papaya, of the papaya family. The fruit can be the size of a watermelon, is mostly yellowish, and its flesh is very subtle in taste. Papayas at the best stage for eating often look bruised and discolored. Have the vendor pick a good one for you, and then cut out the bruised-looking parts. Discard the black seeds. Papayas are famed for aiding digestion.

Arbol de pan (Breadfruit)

arbol de pan, breadfruitThis is the fruit of a large tree, Artocarpus altilis, native to Polynesia, and introduced to the West Indies in 1792 by the infamous Captain Bligh. Many horticultural varieties are known, most of them seedless. The extremely sticky, whitish pulp is usually boiled as a vegetable, or roasted. When roasted, the flesh vaguely resembles bread. It's too bitter and sticky to eat raw.

Anona or Cherimoya

Cherimoya is a fruit of a small tree, Annona cherimola, native to the Andes, and closely related to the guanábana shown below, but considerably smaller, and the skin is only slightly scaly. The flesh is sweet. Its pulp contains many bean-size seeds.

Guanábana (Soursop)

Guanábana, or Soursop -- Annona muricataThis is the fruit of a small tree, Annona muricata of the custard apple family, native to tropical America. Its flesh is white, very slightly acid, with a pleasant taste, and containing numerous bean-size seeds. It's closely related to the cherimoya, which also is eaten raw. As you see in the photo at the right, guanábana skin is normally armored with numerous soft, short, blunt spines.

Cocos (Coconut

Coconuts, as we call them in English, are fruits of the palm tree Cocos nucifera, which is at home along beaches throughout the entire tropical world. Its original homeland is unknown. When you buy a coconut, remember that the quantity of "milk" in it is inversely proportional to the amount of "meat." A coconut with a lot of sweet milk may have almost no meat, but a good, meaty one may be almost dry. If you buy a coconut for drinking, the vendor will cut off the nut's top with a machete, and you can drink the milk through a straw.

Piña (Pineapple)

We Northerners know all about pineapples, Ananas comosus, of course, but they deserve special mention if only because they're so interesting botanically. The edible part of a pineapple is actually greatly thickened, pulpy stem material. The actual fruits, which are berries, are imbedded in this tissue. Moreover, pineapple plants are actually bromeliads... And bromeliads are those agavelike plants you see festooning tree limbs in tropical Mexico. The plant is native to the American tropics and, unlike most other bromeliads, grows on the ground. The best way to judge whether a pineapple is ready to eat is by smelling for its mellow, sweet odor.