When in another country you always expect to be surrounded by new local cuisines and dishes, but in Brazil when it came to simply fruits I discovered a whole new array of tropical tastes that blew my British socks off; I figured I was pretty familiar with most of the fruits the world had to offer, but to find such a new variety was naively unexpected…
1 | Pinha (Peen-yah)
My first experience and realisation that there was more to the fruit world than that Sainsbury’s could offer was with a Pinha; a tennis ball sized fruit with a crusty, thick scale-like skin. Each scale has one tiny piece of edible fruit with a big fleshy seed in the centre. The meat is white, super sweet and smooth – think grape-like but with more fibre and chew. If you get one ripe enough, the meat will melt in your mouth and the skin and flesh will crumble in your hungry hands.The juice is also delightfully refreshing on a hot (standard) day in the North-East coast of Brazil.
2 | Jaca (Zsch-ah-kah) “Jackfruit”
Think a really really big Pinha, but slightly kidney shaped and really spiky on the outside. This fruit shares a similar type of fruity flesh as a Pinha but can weigh up to a whopping 35kg and can be seen growing on trees, usually hanging around the trunks, all around Brazil. They are chopped to get the long bean shaped, light yellow fleshed seeds and are often sold on rickety carts on busy streets as a standard snack. It’s also becoming popularly thought that when grilled the meat of the jackfruit is a pretty uncanny substitute for meat, but I have yet to see this on the streets of Brazil myself.
3 | Guava (Gwah-vah)
You may have already heard of a Guava, but did you know they put it in pretty much anything in Brazil? (I exaggerate) I’ve always heard of Guavas, and somehow ridiculously interchanged it with Papaya in my mind. But when I smelled (yes, smelled) my first Guava I knew how wrong I was. This beautifully sweet fragranced fruit has a rich pink flesh and an edible pale yellow/green skin. It’s not too sweet and is filled with pretty hard tiny ball-like seeds – watch out if you have weak molars. The smell and the taste of a fresh guava to me was slightly asynchronous, and like coffee had a more appetising scent than taste. Nevertheless, the potential when guava meets sugar is a glorious discovery that clearly Brazilians know all too well; guava juice, guava jam, guava jam on biscuits/cakes/breads/ice-cream. And famously “Romeu e Julieta”, guava jam and cheese, which can also be found on/in a variety of different things, including sushi.
4 | Pitomba (Pee-tom-bah)
Imagine a bunch of grapes, but instead of soft skins hard, but easily breakable light brown shells. Once cracked, you have another white fleshed seed. The seed is pretty big and is commonly sucked or chewed on until the thin, yet sweet and flavourful, fleshy outer has gone and you’re left with the dry inner stone. This fruit doesn’t spoil your hunger and is often bought as a snack home from school or work, not being a messy one to eat either.