Living the Ice Cream Bean Dream

For the past 10 years, I’ve considered myself a fruit hunter. The type of person who travels around the world to try rare and exotic fruits. And being that I am The Fruit Adventurer, I have a list of fruits that it is my dream to try.

One of the fruits that has been on my fruit bucket list for a long time is the ice cream bean. So in the research I did leading up to my Guatemalan travels, I was so excited to read that they have the ice cream bean in Guatemala! Was this my chance to finally eat the ice cream bean?

The first few days of our trip had us chilling out in Antigua. I scoured Antigua’s markets, keeping my eye out for the ice cream bean. Sadly, it was nowhere to be found.

But luckily, as we pulled into San Pedro, on the shores of Lake Atitlan, I saw out of the corner of my eye the shell of a big, green bean on the ground. I knew the ice cream bean couldn’t be far away.

As we checked in, Maria at the front desk of our hotel gave us the lay of the land. “Oh and don’t forget,” she said. “Tomorrow is Sunday, market day in San Pedro.”

Bingo. On Sunday, we awoke to a gorgeous, sunny morning, and got ready to make a trek to the local market. We started the day off with breakfast at Cafe Las Cristalinas, a charming little restaurant with coffee plants growing right on the patio:

After breakfast, we climbed the hill into the local part of town. Right away, the hubbub of the market drew us in, and we were surrounded by vendors hawking household goods, meat, vegetables, and to my delight, an array of fresh, tropical fruit.

Within this feast for the eyes, I was searching for the coveted ice cream beans. And suddenly there they were, a mound of ice cream beans surrounded by a group of women picking through:

I watched the women for a couple of minutes to get a sense of what they were picking for. It looked like bright green, thicker beans is what they were going after.

Once I knew what I should be looking for, I jumped in and joined the throng, picking through the ice cream beans to get the best of the best.

After the market, we walked around the village square, enjoying the sites of San Pedro. Then we went for coffee at a lakeside cafe, and took in the stunning views of Lago de Atitlan.

There I had my first taste of ice cream bean. Fluffy white fruit, like cotton candy, that you eat off the seeds. It was very sweet and tasty, the fluff melting in my mouth, revealing a creamy, vanilla-like flavour with undertones of clover.

Finally, I was living the ice cream bean dream.

And I want you to live the ice cream bean too. So next post I will share with you where to find, and how to eat, this interesting fruit.

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!