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Category: Fruits

Super-Fruit from a Cactus – Garambullo

Think you are seeing blueberries?

Think you are seeing blueberries? Nope, these are garambullo,  one of many cactus fruits enjoyed by locals in the central parts of Mexico. Like other  red-purple-blue fruits such as cranberry, pomegranate and blueberries, the pigment indicates high levels of anthocyenins which is among those flavonoids highly recommended for good health.

Wait…what are flavonoids again?

Just think about eating a broad spectrum of color – each colour group plays a role in protecting your body’s cells against disease and boosting function of organs. This particular red-blue family is understood overall to be anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial; for guarding the  liver against damage, reducing blood pressure, improving eyesight. And if you have heard before of “free radicals” these anthocyanins scavenge for them. Feel better? You should– free radicals are troublemakers; un-paired molecules that float around damaging  healthy cells which, in the worst case scenarios, leads to cancer and heart disease.

Now that you know ‘why’, let’s talk about ‘how’ to enjoy garambullo fruits.

When you are in parts of Central Mexico (from Queretaro, north to San Luis Potosí, generally) where cactus dominate the landscape, you’ll find garambullo in season in May. It’s a short season, but the harvest is frozen, so thereafter you can find it … well, until it runs out. As a paleta (popsicle) or nieve (fruit sorbet) it’s absolutely delicious. Slightly blueberry, a bit of grape or raspberry to the flavor, and a color of technicolor magenta. . While there will be added sugar, there is not much–the fresh fruit flavor is allowed to shine through and the little seeds just slip down your throat easily. You could easily justify it as a ‘not-so-guilty- pleasure’.
Right now, I am experimenting with using it to make a  naturally fermented fruit vinegar. You can follow any standard recipe you like.
Try this link for some ideas
http://www.instructables.com/id/Fruit-Vinegars/
Any thoughts on other ways to use these special fruits?  I’d love to hear your ideas!
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Aliens in Chiapas?

It looked a lot like an alien invasion –’Day of the Triffids’ comes to mind. Enormous mounds of  golfball-sized hairy red fruits, like peculiar creatures– swarmed the area around the market of San Cristóbal de las Casas in chariots wheeled around by local vendors. Rambutan is a fruit I was familiar with from Asian markets  but for a moment,  I was confused: Was it native to Mexico and I’d thought it was Asian?
In fact, no; The climate of the Soconusco region of Chiapas is well-suited to growing these and other exotic fruits of Southeast Asia. In the mid-1980s, Alfonso Pérez Romero, a Mexican specialist in botany, brought seeds,  collected in Asia, of rambutan and other exotic fruits, recognizing  the great demand by about 10 million Asians living in the United States (and Canada), not to mention the Asian population in Mexico itself.
It’s turned out to be a worthwhile commercial effort–  thousands of tons of fruits are exported to the US each year, and its flavor is reported to be superior to the rambutan imported from SE Asia.
What was interesting to me was the flood of these into the streets of San Cristóbal. The trees must certainly be thriving, considering it’s only 30 years since the start of the efforts to establish them, and given the  interruption by Hurricane Stan in 2005. After that storm, some of the exotic fruits that were part of the original project perished, but the rambutan thrived. It must be hardy, indeed, and my first question, then, is – is it invasive? And – what plants might be threatened by it?
More recently, however, another question came to my mind when I came across an article about  a mysterious illness in India causing children to die suddenly  – about 100  each year reported for 20 years (how many unreported deaths and over previous years?) . New research, published in the medical journal The Lancet suggests they were poisoned by a toxin contained in lychee fruits:
“Most of the victims were poor children in India’s main lychee-producing region who ate (lychee) fruit that had fallen on to the ground in orchards”
rambutan fleshLychee contains hypoglycin, a toxin that prevents the body from making glucose. Ackee fruit contains the same toxin and similar illnesses, though rarely fatal,  have been reported in the Caribbean. Rambutan contains the very same toxin as both these fruits.  In India, once health officials had a grasp of what was happening, and were able to deliver advice to parents  that they should ensure young children got an evening meal and not eat too many of the lychees, the number of reported deaths dropped dramatically.
What about the children of Chiapas, Mexico? This new fruit is a novelty: sweet, refreshing and fun to eat. In this state where there is poverty and illiteracy, where this fruit  has not been tested by centuries of traditional wisdom,  it’s not a stretch to think that there may be not a few children who come upon these fruits and fill their little tummies.  Has this information of the potential harm it can do reached those families who grow, harvest and sell this fruit? It’s fortunate that the native subsistence foods of corn and beans are ubiquitous and abundant where this alien fruit is grown.
Perhaps rambutan has been good for the economy of this region of Chiapas, but there’s always  more to consider when it comes to agriculture and food supply.
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READ MORE:
Following articles are in Spanish:
http://www.radioformula.com.mx/notas.asp?Idn=351169
https://www.elheraldodechiapas.com.mx/republica/temen-productores-que-trump-rechace-exportacion-de-rambutan-de-chiapas/
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In Season- Membrillo (Quince)

quince-membrillo-bowl2

 

mem-BREE-yo

The quince is not native to Mexico, nor is it widely cultivated here. Its native origin is in Central to Southwest Asia: Turkey, Iran and into Morocco where it is a popular ingredient in tajines. From there, it would have entered Spain, which is likely how its seed was transported to Mexico.  It grows on woody hillsides and orchards, so wherever you might find an apple tree there might also be a quince growing wild. The fruit comes into season in mid-late August into October, and here in Mexico it’s more likely you will find it through the local vendors who bring in produce from small orchards or the countryside, rather than from the larger vendors who bring in cultivated fruits and vegetables.

Generally, the fresh fruit is not eaten. The pulp is hard, somewhat woody. Its tartness mellows with cooking and floral aroma is released. Canning in syrup is a popular way to prepare and preserve it as well as jams, jellies, candies and liqueurs. It’s a nice addition to apple or pear compotes with its rosy-pink colour and firm texture. Having a high pectin content helps in gelling.

In Mexico, as well as other parts of South and Central America the membrillo is cooked, using plenty of sugar, into a pin block of firm jelly, called ate (AH-tay), or a darkish pink paste known as dulce de membrillo. The pectin level in the fruit along with the sugar, ensure that it holds up firmly. It’s delicious served with cheese, especially nutty Manchego, or soft curds spread on toasted bread or crackers and is classic Spanish tapas… A handful of almonds along with this, and a glass of sherry, or Jeréz, of course in Mexico, is exactly how I want to spend the rest of my evening…

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Plátano Manzano

PLA-tan-o mahn-ZAHN-o
(I have heard/ seen this both as ‘manzana’ and ‘manzano’)
Platano manzano is the sweet, creamy ‘apple banana’ . These were harvested in Jalisco Mexico. These chubby, short
bananas are a fruit for eating uncooked; their flavour has a light apple perfume and the texture is more smooth and custardy than the standard Cavendish banana that you buy in supermarkets. Choose them as shown here – dark spots mean they are ripe and ready to eat.
Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and potassium. They are low in fat and sodium, are cholesterol-free and a source of soluble fiber.
If you want a fruit to calm your nerves, this is the one– bananas contain  tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin – known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.
Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking, as the high levels of Vitamin C, A1, B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.
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Yaca, the Aphrodisiac

images-2Yaca (also spelled Yaka), or Jackfruit, is bizarre-looking, a pain in the arse to cut up and eat, and comes in a rather peculiar bumpy prehistoric-looking package that can weigh up to 15-40 Kilos! 

 

Yaca-whole-sm

While the one I handled was at the smaller end of that scale, it was still the weight of a two-year old child. And only about 40% of it is edible (unlike 2-year old children)– the remaining 60% accounts for its large seeds and a sticky latex network of membrane that holds all the bits together.

It’s native to Southeast Asia, not Mexico, but grows well in tropical lowlands,and has been naturalized in Mexico. The one I had was brought to me from Puerto Vallarta. It’s also known as Breadfruit, but for entertainment value, inspire and excite your guests by announcing its extra special ingredient, Sildenafil – the active ingredient in Viagra.

 

The flavor is tropical… tutti-frutti, you might say. Pineapple, banana, mango, and Yaca-cutlightly lemony.

The texture is starchy and fibrous. When cutting it, after my own experience, I highly recommend you oil everything that comes in contact with its insides, including yourself, as the latex gums everything up. I was not so wise and wound up with my fingers stuck together most impossibly.  Already you’re wondering if this is going to be worth the trouble…

Once it’s cut open you find, lined up along that central sticky core, pale golden yellow fleshy capsules each containing a large seed. To eat it, you must carefully pull each of these away from the core, once again to avoid the oozing latex. It is, as mentioned, an effort

images-3And while it’s not a juicy treat– the texture is more reminiscent of something that might bounce– it does have a pleasant flavor and it’s interesting to eat, especially if you are into process. And,well, if you get your fella to eat enough of it (I have not been able to find any information about exactly how much that might have to be) you might discover those secondary benefits…

Please– do let us know.

http://www.amazon.com/Aroy-D-Young-Green-Jackfruit-Brine/dp/B005QBCT4S

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