Cherimoya Pit Stop

“We had an abundance of fruit in Honolulu, of course. Oranges, pine-apples, bananas, strawberries, lemons, limes, mangoes, guavas, melons, and a rare and curious luxury called the cherimoya, which is deliciousness itself.” – Mark Twain

Four days after arriving in Guatemala, we decided it was time to move on from Antigua. We set our sights on Lake Atitlan.

Lago de Atitlan is a beautiful mountain lake, surrounded by volcanoes and dotted with small villages. Our major dilemma was deciding which village to stay in. We eventually settled on San Pedro, which was described in our guidebook as a laid back backpackers hub. It sounded like our kind of place, so we booked a shuttle and were on our way.

About two hours into the trip, the shuttle pulled into a gas station. Right away I noticed a young girl selling fruit. I hopped off the bus and made a beeline to check out the goods:

The fruit stand had strawberries, blackberries, mandarinas, oranges, granadillas and lemons. And if you can believe it, also for sale at this Guatemalan service station was what I consider a rarity, an exotic fruit called the cherimoya.

The cherimoya is a green, heart-shaped fruit with an outer skin that I can only describe as reptilian. The inner flesh is white and creamy. Also known as the custard apple, Mark Twain once called the cherimoya “the most delicious fruit known to men.”

Of course I just had to buy one. When I pointed to the cherimoyas, senorita helped me pick one that was very ripe and ready to eat. The fruit was quite soft and was giving off a strong, fruity odor. I couldn’t wait to eat it. However, I would have to be patient.

I got back into the shuttle, and after another hour on the road, we turned off the main highway and drove past a sign saying Bienvenidos al Lago de Atitlan (Welcome to Lake Atitlan). I thought we were almost there and that soon I would be eating my cherimoya.

No such luck. The road to San Pedro was so windy and pocked with potholes that it took two hours to get to San Pedro from the entrance point.

Finally, we pulled into San Pedro, welcomed by hippies selling bracelets and bbqing on the streets. Oh, and of course we were also welcomed by the stunning Lago de Atitlan:

We settled into our hotel, and at last I was able to eat my cherimoya. Using my trusty fruit adventurer tool kit (a small, sharp knife and a portable spoon) I cut the cherimoya in half to reveal the white flesh, dotted with black seeds:

I scooped the fruit out of each half with my spoon and ate the custardy treat, being careful to avoid the seeds:

It was very tasty indeed. Notes of pineapple, pear, banana and strawberry. Creamy texture. Super sweet, delicious, tangy custard taste. Almost like pineapple ice cream.

Eating the rare and exotic cherimoya, purchased from a gas station, was such a lovely exercise in contrast. I love Guatemalan pit stops. You can get a tank of gas, take a bathroom break and pick up some exotic fruit all in one place!

Granadilla, My New Favorite Fruit

The granadilla came into my life on Day 2 of The Fruit Adventurer family’s trip to Guatemala. We were sitting on a bench, eating ice cream in Antigua’s Parque Central. Vendors kept approaching us, pushing everything from jewelry, wooden flutes, scarves and textiles. We said “no, gracias” more times than we could count.

But then, a lady with a basket of fruit on her head approached us. You know me… I was into what she was selling. She had some oranges, but what I was really interested in was an orangy-green fruit shaped like an egg. I pointed to it, and she said “Si, granadilla.” I immediately entered negotiations and wound up with five granadillas for 5 Quetzales.

The fruit lady showed me how to eat the granadilla, and now I will share this fruity wisdom with you!

To eat a granadilla, you hit the granadilla over a hard surface to crack the shell, just like you would crack an egg:

You then pull open the outer shell to reveal an alien-looking mass of gelatinous seeds:

You slurp the seeds up out of the shell, and swallow the cool, sweet, jelly-like fruit:

And that is all there is to it!

After the lady showed me how to eat the granadilla, I followed suit. And I was in love. The granadilla is my new favorite fruit! It is a cool and refreshing treat on a hot day. It’s very portable and easy to eat, so it makes a great on-the-go snack. And best of all, it is sweet and delicious, tasting like a passionfruit without any of the sourness.

I don’t know if it was because I was now on a granadilla hunt, but I encountered them everywhere in Guatemala. In many ways, my trip to Guatemala was all about the granadilla. Whether I was enjoying city life in Antigua, relaxing by Lake Atitlan in San Pedro or climbing the Mayan ruins at Tikal, I was always eating a granadilla.

Now that I’m back home, I’m missing the granadilla like crazy. I have to get planning my next trip so that I can taste those cool, gelatinous seeds again.

Are there fruits that you miss when you are not traveling? Do you wish you could get your favorite fruits at home? Or is it better to keep them waiting for you in far off lands, as an incentive to travel? Let me know in the comments!

Nispero: A Fruity Surprise

The first thing I love to do when I arrive in a new place is to spend a day wandering around the city. On my first day in Guatemala, I wandered around Antigua, and I quickly stumbled upon a market. Being The Fruit Adventurer, markets are one of my favourite things to explore.

Well, this market seemed to sell mostly household items, electronics and handicrafts, so I was about to give up on finding any fruit. But then I saw it… The nispero. The nispero, known as the loquat in English, was a fruit I researched before heading off to Guatemala. So when I saw a bag of them sitting in a market stall full of phones, I recognized them right away.

Now, even though I recognized this fruit as nispero, I was a bit surprised, because they were much, much smaller than I was expecting them to be. Based on the pictures I saw of nispero beforehand, I had imagined that a nispero would be the size of an apple. Au contraire, they are actually more like the size of an apricot. And funnily enough, they were also of a similar colour to apricots, even though I was picturing a pale yellow fruit.

Taking the fruity surprise in stride, I bought a big bag of nispero for 5 Quetzales ($1 USD). Here I am with my prize, right before I headed back to my hostel to sample the goods:

Excited to try my first new fruit in Guatemala, I bit into a nispero, and a sweet, juicy, fruit taste flooded my mouth. Continuing on the apricot theme, the nispero actually reminded me of apricot, although I would say they are a little less tangy and definitely sweeter than an apricot.

Nisperos, or loquats, are a fruit I would absolutely recommend. If you are lucky enough to have them in your neck of the woods, give them a try, otherwise, look out for them the next time you travel to Guatemala!

Fruit Recap

As I sit down to write a recap of all the fruit I tried in Guatemala, I can’t help but reflect back on my recent travels there. I often find that after I come back from a trip, I need some distance to really process everything I’ve seen and done. Guatemala was no different.

Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I really enjoyed traveling in Guatemala. This was my first foray into traveling with a baby, and our trip was much slower than what Mr. Fruit Adventurer and I are used to. While on the road, that sometimes got us down. But in hindsight, there were many advantages to going at a more leisurely pace.

In the past, our travels involved staying in one place for 3-4 days, and rushing to see all the sights and do all the things. This time around, we stayed in each place for about a week, so we got to enjoy some everyday living in Antigua, Lake Atitlan and Flores.

It was so nice to have time to visit the markets everyday and get to know the people working there, and to enjoy daily coffees in the local cafes. We also had a lot more local interaction on this trip, since all the Guatemalans wanted to meet our baby. And in the end, we got to see everything we wanted to see, the highlight being the amazing Mayan pyramids at Tikal.

Of course a huge bonus for The Fruit Adventurer was that I had a lot more time to sample the local fruits! Guatemala is a beautiful country with both tropical and more temperate mountainous regions, so there was a huge variety of fruits to try. As I write the list I’m shocked by how many fruits I ended up eating, some of them multiple times!

Here are all of the fruits I had the pleasure tasting in Guatemala:

Granadillas – My new favorite fruit!

Nispero – Much smaller than I thought they would be

Avocados – The size and shape of a baseball

Mangos – Heaven is a mango eaten close to the tree

Mandarins – The sweetest oranges I’ve ever tasted

Pink pomelo – Smaller and sweeter than the Asian variety

Pink bananas – Dark pink peel, slightly pink on the inside, and an overwhelming tropical flavor

Tiny yellow bananas – About the size of my thumb, incredibly sweet

Cherimoya – Sweet fruit with the consistency of custard

Ice cream bean – Huge green beans with fluffy white fruit on the seeds

Mamey sapote – Creamy, orange fruit with texture of an avocado

Mora – The biggest blackberries I’ve ever seen

Strawberries – Similar flavor to the ones from California, but smaller and sweeter

Guavas – So sweet with a heavenly perfume

Fruit Success and Failure

Before leaving for Guatemala, I wrote a post on 5 Guatemalan fruits I was excited to try. Those five fruits were mangosteen, nispero/loquat, ice cream bean, mamey sapote and jocote. Well, I scored 3 out of 5 guys.

I easily found the mamey sapote and the surprisingly small nispero. And I’m so happy I finally got to experience the famous ice cream bean, a fruit adventure dream I’ve had for a long time. I also discovered many other exciting fruits I’m just dying to tell you about! So over all my Guatemalan fruit adventure was a huge success!

But unfortunately I did have some fruit failures. I was really pumped to try Guatemala’s national fruit, the jocote. But try as I might, I just could not find it! My guess is the jocote was not in season, so my jocote fruit adventure will just have to wait until another time.

While I’m mildly sad about missing out on jocote, my biggest fruit failure on this trip was that I never got my hands on mangosteen. And it wasn’t from lack of trying. Mangosteen is one of my favourite fruits, and one that you cannot get in Canada (easily and inexpensively, at least).

I was so looking forward to a reunion with my old fruit friend in Guatemala, but as the days flew by, I had to stare reality in the face. There was a very real possibility I was going to be denied mangosteen.

I searched high and low, and even took my mangosteen mission into the grocery stores in Antigua. I asked after the mangosteen to Mayan ladies selling fruit on the streets, in parks, and in bustling markets, but they all just shook their heads.

On the last leg of our journey we headed to the tropical department of El Peten, and I wondered if mangosteen would be waiting for me in the markets of Flores, but no such luck. I even hoped against hope that I would run into mangosteen in the jungles of Tikal. Nope. And with that my mangosteen dreams were dashed.

I have since read that the season for mangosteens in Guatemala is June to October. Well lesson learned! For any future travels, I’ll be sure to research the season of fruits before I get all excited about trying them…

On the bright side, there were lots of other new and exciting fruits I did get to try for the first time in Guatemala. And I even have a new favorite fruit! My next few posts will recap all the wonderful fruit I did get to experience, including a few fruit surprises and special fruit places.