I grew up on fruit. I never had Tang or Jell-O after school, I missed out on countless flavors of Doritos, and I have almost never had anything out of a real vending machine. What were the results? Hershey’s tastes like dirt, and last time I went sailing I button-pressed a Reese’s just for the novel experience but wound up giving it to someone from New York and hitting my place for a pear instead. I don’t even drink Coke. Mosquitoes will bite through two layers of shirtsleeve to get to my Pina Colada blood. And you know what?
I don’t care. Because fruits are paint daubs of flavor, tangy and cloying at once, hanging around the party to make sure no one gets too glum; they swing from tropical trees in brochures and sport drink labels because of how they set off the word ‘paradise’. Fruits’ colors alone breathe life into your personal elixir, whether it’s Pisco Punch or a Starbucks berry-syrup latte. You can keep your lemon-lime Gatorade, your Absolut Mandarin; I’ll take my sweet stuff straight off the tree and spit the seeds into the garden. And if you’re skeptical of this practice due to experiences of the same old snowboard-waxed red delicious that feels like someone dared you to eat a half kilo of wet sand, look for these lesser-known lovelies.
About the size of a large walnut and pale yellow, it adds a light, refreshing tanginess to smoothies and preserves. However, its many hard, beady seeds make it inconvenient to eat as fruits are meant to be eaten. You have to strain it for the juice, or suck very intently where no one can see how ridiculous you look.
This one kicks tropical ass. The fruit is heart-shaped and somewhat heavy; its dark green peel is spiky like the skin of a dragon. Inside it is creamy white and aromatic, with a similar taste to that of guava, but much deeper and sweeter. The shiny black seeds are pretty but you can also dent mailboxes by spitting them out the car window on the way home. Like a tomato, you can tell whether it’s ripe by the intensity of its tangy perfume.
You heard of this one, right? You crack the long pea-like pods to get to the sour, sticky, syrupy fruit that can also be boiled with cinnamon sticks, guava, and sugar cane to make a drink called ponche. Manually, you have to suck the goo off the seeds, which should be brown and smooth when you’re done with them.
Is a long, gourd-shaped American football with tough green or yellow skin. The skin is peeled to reveal bright orange flesh of a cloying sweetness. Slice it in half when it’s really ripe, and hundreds of black seeds spill out, sometimes already sprouting (plant those; the tree is pretty). The flesh has to be sliced in bite-size pieces with lime drizzled over, but chopped nuts and granola are my little extra when I have it with yogurt.
These are a lot like Monday; they seem to be only slightly fatter than regular bananas but leave a bitter taste in your mouth unless cooked properly.
GT’s Sweet Baked Plantain
1 ripe, but yellow, plantain
Few slices of butter
2 tsp cinnamon
½ juicy lime
3 tsp honey
Preheat oven to 325°
It is easy to overcook; once the plantain opens, get it out of there lickety-split. Here the plantains are huge, sometimes even Siamese-twin style, but if you can only find skimpy dark ones trim down the cooking time. An overcooked plantain reverts to its starchy, hard-to-swallow origins.
This one is not little-known, but do you ever actually eat it? I would have a recipe for it, except the damn thing puts up a guerrilla standoff; I should have made a home video of the last time we tried to break into one. Bon Appetit’s technique is as follows; crack ‘eye’ with ice pick, drain out liquid, then break coconut with heavy knife. Well, the closest I’ve ever been to an ice pick is looking at National Geographic photos without buying the magazine, and with my brother’s machete and a claw hammer alternately we had a bitch of a time cracking the nut open.
The ‘meat’ is also too hard on its own. I recommend grating, honey-toasting, and sprinkling over oatmeal or yogurt, because I know plenty of y’all are still into random crap chucked on a plate for breakfast. Such as curled dress shoe tongues (bacon) and a rough square cut out of the living room carpet (toast)—even though you say you won independence from the British ages ago and have a holiday for it.