10 Exotic Bahamian Fruits for Better Health
Growing up in the Bahamas really was an awesome experience looking back as an adult. Through local fare we experienced the best that the world has to offer in exotic fruits although it was not exotic to the child that could feast on it every season. I must admit that i always enjoyed our fruits.
As a child we could pick them off the trees, enjoying sharp fragrant tastes on a daily basis at no cost. What i didn't realize is how much they contribute to a healthy lifestyle, with all the benefits that aid in digestion, overall health and wellbeing.
1. Coconut - a nutritious food source, is one of the most common and prolifically grown fruit nationally and internationally. The bark, the shell, the three eyes, the fibers, the water, white meat - jelly or hard makes it a super food. Opening a coconut can be a challenge but well worth it for the water and the meat, it is called barking.
Barking is when the whole coconut with its tough husk attached must be pounded so that it splits the outer lime green shell. Once it splits you strip the husk to the hard wood like inner shell which holds the coconut water and meat. The water is good for drinking and the meat in the jelly - young stage, is soft and thin and delicious. The more mature the coconut the harder or more dense or firmer is the meat, a little drier and great for desserts, pastries and cooking.
Coconut's hard meat is grated and cooked with sugar to make candy and tarts.
Coconut - coco: the monkey face, came to the Bahamas by Spanish explorers, originally from India. Every part of this palm can and is used for different reasons. Coconut palms can be found virtually all over the planet, having adapted to many regions of the earth they thrive on land and in water, mangroves and near beaches.
The fruit - the seed is not really a nut. But coconut oil is highly valued for it health benefits, this is produced from the milk, by grating the mature coconut meat. The liquid when refridgerated separates from the coconut cream and is then heated.
Its leaves as used to make brooms, baskets, floor mats and roofing thatch.
The trunk is used by Hawaiians to make canoes, containers and drums,
Coconut's health benefits are various, it provides fiber, are relatively high in minerals such as iron, phosphorus and zinc, as well as proteins, antioxidants and vitamins.
2. Genip / Spanish lime - this is a fruit grown in clumps like grapes but they have a greenish 'thin plastic like,' shell that needs to be bitten into, so that you can get to the sweet hairy pulp and large seed. Known as a Genip in the Caribbean to the rest of the world this luscious fruit is known as a Spanish lime.
This tree was introduced to the islands by European settlers.
The plant grows large with male, female and bisexual flowering properties whose ovoid fruit is nutritious with seeds that can be roasted and eaten.
Health benefits of the Genips are a good source of minerals like iron, phosphorus, and niacin. As well as fiber, calcium and vitamin A.
Caution when eating this fruit - it stains, leaving a dry brown spot wherever it lands, Arawak Indians, used it to dye cloth.
3. Guava - a round green fruit when bitten into is pink, sweet and juicy. Used in a well known Bahamian dessert called Guava Duff. This confection is so good when done well and served with its sauce makes the mouth water. Oh how good it is!
You can also make a cake with guavas and it sauce but i prefer the duff.
Guava Duff is a little time consuming but it is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, it is always worth the wait and the effort. The recipe is simple but takes work because the guava seeds and flesh need to be washed, peeled and strained through a fine sieve, to make a thick paste. The skin is finely diced or minced.
The dough is fairly simple you'll need 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1tsp salt, 1/2 cup of vegetable oil and 2 cups finely sliced guava
Combine all the dry ingredients then mix.
Add oil. Knead approximately 10 minutes until smooth and pliable. Place on a flat surface and roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Spread sliced guava over the dough. Roll like a jelly roll loaf. Wrap in foil and cook in a double boiler for 1 hour.
Sauce ingredients are 1 lb of butter, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 8 oz cans of sweetened condensed milk, 1 cup of finely sliced guava or nectar, 1/4 cup of brandy or vanilla extract
Blend butter and sugar about 15 mins, add condensed milk, guava, blend 2 mins. Add brandy / vanilla blend 1 minute.
Cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices and serve with sauce.
It is also used to make jams, jellies, juice / pulp and paste.
Guavas were introduced into the islands by Spanish explorers or other European settlers.
The trees or plants are of the myrtle family, with tough dark green leaves and five petaled white flowers with multiple stamens. The pink flesh with a green skin is totally edible except for the numerous pale beige seeds.
Health benefits, guava is known as a super fruit, providing lots of fiber, vitamin C - 4 times as much as an orange & A, folic acid, and minerals like potassium, manganese and copper. As well as antioxidants.
4. Mangoes - this is probably one of the most well known of all the fruits, i grew up with two versions of this sweet succulent fruit that has a thick skin, a large seed and dense meat. The Bahamian one i grew up with is more of a hairy example. Be careful when eating this because the juice will stain your clothing, a perfect handheld vitamin pack sweet fruit where you can peel the skin with you teeth, sucking and chewing the deep gold orange yellow meat.
Mango trees and seeds were brought to the islands by the English from their colonies in India. They are known to live long and produce most of their mature life, the leaves are evergreen and grow in deep soil with wide spreading roots.
Mangoes are also good for juice and pulp.
Health benefits - these fruit provide prebiotic fiber, vitamins B, C, & K, provitamin A & E and beta carotenoids, B6, minerals that are essential to a healthy natural lifestyle.
5. Papaya / Paw paw - this is shaped almost like an avocado with a skin and black seeds with an pinkish -orange flesh. It can be sweet but i find it a bit subdued.
The tree or plant reminds me of a palm with the fruit growing at the top like coconuts. They need a light rich soil with good drainage. Paw paw can be started from seedlings but it is better to grow them in containers for transporting.
It is a short lived and fast growing tree with a hollow green purplish straight trunk that contains latex - papain used to tenderize proteins such as animal meat. The leaves grow out of the top, spiraling out of the trunks center. The flowers are five petaled, waxy, fleshy and slightly fragrant.
Introduced in the Bahamas by European settlers but known to be native to central America and Mexico.
Used in shakes, fruit salads, but mostly consumed sliced and raw. Green papaya is cooked in foods like curries and stews The seeds are spicy.
Health benefits it's good for the digestion.
Caution; the latex can contribute to allergies but this is normally found in green or slightly green papayas.
6. Sapodilla / dilly - this is a fruit typically the size of a handball. It is a round, and earthy brown on the outside with light brown or tannish meat that has large black glossy seeds with hooked ends that can not be eaten and are hazardous if swallowed. The flesh is sweet and grainy but the outer thicker skin is not consumed. It needs to be picked to ripen.
The tree is a long living plant with a sticky milky latex sap, tannins and wind resistant bark. The leaves are ornamental, green and glossy. It's flowers are bell shaped and small bearing its fruit in a six lobed corolla. The have adapted to many different soils.
Originating in central America - Yucatan the dilly is known to have traveled to the Bahama islands along with Arawak or Carib Indians or European settlers.
Health benefits of the dilly it is rich in vitamins like C & A, folate & niacin, minerals like potassium, copper & iron and antioxidants. It replenishes and energizes the body. It is also known to contribute huge amounts of fiber. The tannins make it an excellent anti - inflammatory, anti - bacterial, anti- viral and anti - parasitic fruit.
7. Seagrape - usually it starts out as a green cluster that reminds one of grapes hence the name but they are not ripe until they are purple and succulent, there is a large seed with little flesh but oh so good. To eat you just wash with water and consume, usually by the handful. Maturing in fall or late fall you could literally gather up the fallen fruit or pick them from the branches.
The tree is an evergreen plant, that thrives in the tropics, the leaves are large, stiff, elephant eared and leathery, but when young they are purplish turning green as they age. The flowers are small whitish and fragrant, appearing in spring and early summer. The female tree usually produces but a male tree is always near by, needed for pollination.
The fruit is used to make jellies, jams and wine. This is news to me having enjoyed them straight off the tree as a child.
The seagrape tree is native to the Bahamas and the surrounding regions like southern Florida. Salt tolerant, wind resistant growing near the beach.
Health benefits it helps with digestive troubles.
8. Soursop - usually a large ugly green skinned fruit with white meat which is both sweet and sour with large indigestible black seeds, this is good with condensed milk, cold or made into an awesome ice cream.
The tree is an evergreen white flowering broad leaf native to Mexico, the Caribbean and other tropical regions like sub Saharan African countries. They like warm winters and humid weather.
The fruit is an ugly lime green spiked misshapen round fruit that hides a succulent secret, its white ivory juicy flesh is oh so creamy and soft, melt in the mouth good. When ripe you can enjoy something so exotically different that it tantalizes the taste buds, but if you add condensed milk to the cold flesh of the fruit - Wow, watch out!
You know when they are ripe because the heavy laden fruit pulls its branch low getting ready to drop to the ground, it's firm soft flesh gives slightly when touched or when squeezed but the indentations smooth back out. Like testing a ripe avocado.
These are harvested full but not ripe then 'force' ripened in a dark cool area.
Used to make sorbets, ice cream, smoothies, fresh fruit juices and candy.
Native to the West Indies.
Health benefits high in carbs because of frutose, vitamins B1, B2 and C. Some studies have produced evidence that it can be used to fight cancer.
9. Sugar apple - bumpy greenish round shaped fruit when ripened is a little black, with a thick skin creating individual , squeezable segments that break apart into little cone shaped white soft fleshy pieces that hide a black glossy seed. Each fruit varies in size, with a sweet smelling fragrance.
The tree is a semi - evergreen plant growing in the tropics. The leaves are green and oblong shaped. The cluster of flowers are made up of three large and three small petals. They thrive in sub tropical and tropical regions of the globe.
Used in different parts of the world to make cool drinks.
The Sugar apple is also known as a custard apple. Introduced by the Spaniards to the New World.
Health benefits high in calories and iron.
10. Tamarind - when ripe the flesh is brown with large black seeds, when trying to get to the meat which is brown and tangy, adding a sour or tart edge to teeth when eaten. It can be eaten ripe straight off the tree, dried, as preserves, as a candy and a sauce, which is usually a dark color and thicker than molasses. As well as sorbets, ice creams and flavored drinks. I have tried it green but the taste is distinctively sharp, like sour gummy candy revved because of acidity.
The tree is a native of tropical Africa and the Sudan, it is a slow growing, long lived evergreen with bright green foliage which is dense giving good shade. The young leaflets close during the night. The flowers are five petaled unnoticeable and yellow with orange or red streaks.
The fruit matures in the late spring early summer, turning a velvety brown with large seeds, thin flesh, in pods.
Introduced by settlers from the Americas.
Health benefits of tamarind sources of vitamin B and calcium, also as a natural laxative.
There is so much more information on these fruits and so many more fruits that are in the Bahamas having become native or indigenous to the islands themselves. But they are always intriguing and delicious to try, if only once.
Some are an acquired taste but all are good as a natural alternative to processed sweets and a great way to spruce up your healthy life style.
Many or all of these fruits can be found anywhere on the island, growing wild, on farms and in people's gardens or in the yard. Cultivated or wild searching for and hunting for any of them is a treat that every adult and every child looked forward to, after school, on the weekends whenever the season made them available.
They all do well in the subtropical weather and thrive in the warmth of the Caribbean sun.
- Tropical fruit trees, akee, all spice, ambarella, annona, avocado, cherry, bay leaf, black pepper, c
Tropical fruit trees, akee, all spice, ambarella, annona, avocado, cherry, bay leaf, black pepper, caimito, canistel, carambola, cashew, coconut, coffee, curry leaf, grumichama, guava, jaboticaba, jakfruit, longan, loquat, lychee, macadamia, malay ap