Pitaya (Dragon Fruit)
Cut open a pitaya in Nicaragua and the flesh is a hot pink. The bright color packs a flavor punch with creamy, nutty, berry notes. The black seeds are eaten with the flesh. Pitaya is available during the rainy season. The cactus that produces the pitaya fruit only blooms at night. Fun fact: Dried and frozen pitaya sourced from Nicaragua is packaged and sold by Pitaya Plus throughout the United States. Pitaya Plus operates one of the only solar-powered facilities in Central America and provides over 250 jobs for single mothers in Nicaragua.
Nispero, Zapote or Sapote (Sapote)
Native to Central America the nispero belongs to the Sapodilla family. The flesh is white, red or orange (depending on the variety) with two long black seeds and extremely sweet. You’ll find the fruit widely available from February to May. Fun fact: If you come across a nispero dessert you should try it. You’ll be in for an ultra-sweet flavor sensation.
Plantains are easily confused with bananas. The difference is how they are used (plantains are cooked) and their size (plantains grow larger than bananas). Available throughout the year, plantains are used in many typical Nicaraguan dishes. Fun fact: In Nicaragua tostones are slices of starchy unripe plantain that have been flattened and fried. Platano maduros are long lengthways slices of the sweeter, ripened fruit that have been baked in oil.
Nancite or Nance (Savanna Serette, Golden Spoon)
This strongly scented, small, round, sweet, yellow fruit can be eaten both raw or cooked. Nancite is also fermented to produce an alcoholic beverage. The skin is thin, opening to reveal a white, oily pulp surrounding a single large stone. Fun fact: Nancite is mixed with ice (raspado) and sold by street vendors on the streets of San Juan del Sur.
Mamon Chino (Rambutan)
Locally named “Mamon Chino” due to the fruit’s Asian origin, Rambutans are available throughout Nicaragua during the rainy season. Closely related to the lychee, once the hairy outer skin is removed the exposed yellow flesh has a sweet, grape like quality and a large single seed. Fun fact: You know you have a good mamon chino when the flesh comes easily away from the seed.
Papaya (Papaya or paw paw)
You’ll find papaya available year round in Nicaragua. When the fruit is ripe it feels soft to the touch and the skin turns yellow or orange. Most people avoid eating the tiny black seeds that line the sweet interior flesh due to their bitterness. Green or unripe papaya is cooked before eating. Fun fact: Papayas in San Juan del Sur can be huge – some are as long as your arm.
Calala or Maracuya (Passion fruit)
The passion flower vine not only produces a beautiful flower reminiscent of a water hyacinth but also a delicious fruit. The juicy interior is both sweet and tart and filled with numerous seeds. Available year round, the fruit can be juiced, used in smoothies, added as a topping for yogurt, as a flavoring for cheesecake or eaten whole. Fun fact: When the skin begins to shrivel the fruit is ripe.
Noni (Cheese fruit)
This strange looking yellow/white fruit has a pungent odor and a bitter taste. But you don’t eat a noni fruit for its taste, you eat it for its medicinal qualities. According to folklore noni juice can be used for many health conditions – from constipation to diabetes to high blood pressure and depression. Fun fact: Got a scratch on your cornea? Some noni juice evangelists even claim that the juice can heal eye problems.
Jocote (Hog Plum)
As a jocote ripens the skin changes from green to a dark red or yellow color and the flesh sweetens. Mostly available in the dry season this is a small fruit, sold in bags of 20 or 30. The skin and flesh are eaten, leaving only a single large seed. Fun fact: Unripe, green jocote are eaten with salt.
The brown sticky pods of the tamarind make for an odd looking fruit. Sold wrapped in plastic, tamarind has a wide variety of culinary uses. Add it to water for a tart tasting juice, mix with sugar to make jam or syrup, or use as a paste to add a savory kick to curry dishes. Fun fact: According to local folklore, tamarind is good for cleaning the digestive system.
Pineapples in Nicaragua are commonly eaten raw but can also served in smoothies and jams at restaurants catering to tourism. The fruit pulp of pineapples in Nicaragua appear to be more of a white color rather than yellow, but they’ll equally sweet and delicious! Fun fact: It takes almost 3 years for a pineapple to fully grow.
Mangos are probably the most popular and common fruit found throughout Nicaragua. Mango season peaks in April and May. When in season, you’ll find them sold in local markets and even on street corners. Fun fact: It is not uncommon for mango trees in Nicaragua to grow over 100 feet tall!