Exotic Fruits of the Dominican Republic and their nutrients
The tropical fruits of the Dominican Republic are some of the most varied in the world. The Dominican Republic is abundant in fruit. Here’s a list of just some of the exotic fruit grown on this island.
The fruit is about the size of a large grape, round and green and grows in bunches. Skin is thin and hard but easily cracked with teeth. Inside the flesh is yellowy pink and soft, like a lychee. Peel, pop in mouth and suck the flesh off the stone (take care – juice will stain clothing). Taste is tart to sweet. Children sell them at Macao beach.
Uva de playa – sea grape
On beaches around the Dominican Republic you will often see short stubby trees with dark green big leaves that have a reddish-colored primary vein extending from the base. Often they will also have clusters of grape-like fruit. This is the sea grape tree, which is extremely hardy, wind resistant, tolerant of salt and loves being in the full sun. They help prevent erosion and provide much welcome shade on coastlines. They are also great trees to climb in when you are a kid.
The fruit itself is mostly seed. When ripe at the end of summer they tend to be of a mauve color and despite the fact that they have little flesh they are still a refreshing and nutritious beach snack.
The nutritional value of sea grapes is thought to be similar to other purple grapes, being rich in copper, iron, potassium and manganese. They are also a good source of vitamins A, B, C, K and beta carotene.
The fruit can also be used to make jelly or wine. Bees love the flowers of this tree, which yield abundant nectar. The honey made with these flowers tends to be of good quality, light amber in color, and spicy. A gum or resin from the bark has been used for throat ailments and the roots used to treat dysentery. Boiling the wood yields a red dye. The tree also seems to lend itself well to bonsai growing.
Guanábana / soursop
A large fruit, green and ovoid in shape, can weigh up to 10lbs. The surface is covered in thorn shaped nodules. The inside is white with dark inedible seeds. The flesh tastes creamy sweet and tart with a custard like texture. Champola de guanabana is a delicious drink made from guanabana pulp, milk and sugar.
Guayaba / guava
A green pear sized fruit with soft, sweet pink or white flesh. The flesh is full of seeds and has a strong perfume aroma. Makes a great compot. In most colmados you can find the sweet dulce de guayaba sold in blocks. It’s made by stewing guayabas in water and sugar.
Jagua / genipap
Not rated as an edible fruit but used for juices and beverages. The juice from an unripe fruit is colourless but oxidises on exposure to air and turns black inky blue. Like henna, the juice is often used as a natural dye or for non-permanent tattoos. In parts of the Caribbean the tree is used as a living fence.
Zapote /mamey / sapote
Oval shaped, slightly pointy at one end. Skin is brown and rough. Flesh is brownish orange and covers a large, shiny dark brown seed. Flesh has a flavor similar to sweet potato. Makes great, creamy, rich fruit shakes.
This controversial medicinal fruit is supposed to be a cure for every ailment under the sun from cancer to menstruation cramps. However, currently no noni products are licensed as medicines or therapies. The fruit starts off green, turns to yellow and then white, when ripe, when it has a pungent aroma (noni is also known as cheese fruit or, less charmingly, vomit fruit). It has a bitter, unpleasant taste and is not eaten in the Dominican Republic but noni juice is available in some supermarkets and from home cultivators.
Banana (Guineo) and Plantains (Platano)
are some of the most recognizable fruits of the world. Here in Dominican Republic we love our bananas. These large, big leaved plants can produce many fruits. They taste better here in Dominican Republic because they are ripened right on the plant and not picked green like the ones shipped to other destinations. Choose a red, yellow or green banana/ guineo which can be eaten without cooking, or a green to yellow platano which needs to be cooked, nothing tastes better than getting it fresh.
Carambola, also known as starfruit
The entire fruit is edible, including the slightly waxy skin, unlike other tropical fruits. The flesh is crunchy, firm, and extremely juicy, having a texture similar in consistency to that of grapes.
Carambolas are best consumed when ripe, when they are yellow with a light shade of green. They will also have brown ridges at the five edges and feel firm. Overripe starfruit will be yellow with brown spots and can become soggier in consistency. Ripe carambolas are sweet without being overwhelming, and have a tart, sour undertone. The taste is difficult to compare, but it has been likened to a mix of apple, pear, and citrus family fruits all at once. Unripe starfruits are firmer and sour, and taste like green apples.
Carambola is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and low in sugar, sodium, and acid. It is also a potent source of both primary and secondary polyphenolic antioxidants.
Tamarindo is a tropical fruit originating in East Africa but now exists in much of tropical Asia and Latin America, including the Dominican Republic. Its scientific name is ‘Tamarindus indica’. These fruits are like bags, containing a pulp and covered, and within them lie the seeds. The seeds can be scraped to speed germination.
The tree may reach up to 20 m tall. The leaves of the tamarindo are usually 10 to 18 leaflets.It is found in places with warm semi-dry, but can also thrive in warm humid climates. Their range of precipitation is 800 to 1,400 mm per year. It grows at roadsides and is common around homes. It thrives well in deep soil with good drainage, loam-textured clays and a PH of 6.5 to 7.5, can however vegetate in slightly acid soil, grow in relatively poor or limestone soils provided they give you a good fertilization and be counted water for irrigation in dry periods.
Tamarindo is a refreshing and tempering the digestive tract; ideal laxative for its taste and its effects. A small dose is used to combat the states of irritation of the digestive mucosa, for this purpose is frequently associated with other stronger purgatives, but irritating. At higher doses acts as a mild laxative effects, and even in some individuals serves as an excellent laxative.
Pineapple or piña
Riding from Santiago to Santo Domingo, you can see extensive fields with just pineapples. They taste sweeter here then the exported ones, because here they can ripen completely in the sun. The pineapple belongs to the Bromelias family.
Avocado or aquacate
Is it a fruit or a vegetable? Nowadays Avocado is used much in the western kitchen too. The soft taste and the property to enrich the taste of other dishes have made the Avocado very popular. What’s crab without Avocado? In a salad with some onions and lemon juice? They also use it in hair lotions, shampoo and skin cream.
Season: There are 19 different varieties, for example Hass avocado which occurs all year or Popenoe harvested from May to July. The main export variety is Semil 34, which is harvested from October till February.
The production areas of avocado around the country are Cambita (San Cristobal), San José de Ocoa (Calimete in Elias Piña), Arroyo (Pedernales), Altamira (Puerto Plata) and Villa Trina (Espaillat province).
Bread of fruit or Pan de Fruta
This giant jungle tree is also foreign; Captain Bligh imported the tree from Tahiti to Haiti in 1773 (You can see this in the movie ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’). The tree has enormous leaves and carries green fruits with a hard structured skin. The fruit is peeled first and then fried in slices. It’s like a normal potato but it’s sweeter. The fruit is rich in vitamins A, B and C. One of the varieties has a big brown stone inside and you can roast them like a sweet chestnut.
Coffee or Cafe
You come across these man sized coffee plants in the higher parts of the island. It takes nine months to grow from a little flower until the berries have ripened and can be harvested. The red berries are removed from the branches and the harvest will be about 2000 kilo per hectare. The berries will be stripped of their red fruit flesh. They will be fermented and afterwards washed and dried. The green coffee is then ready for export. The beans are ready to be roasted by the coffee importers . If a Dominican family invites you for a cup of coffee, it can happen that they offer you self roasted-coffee. Many farmer families roast their coffee themselves. They offer the coffee very strong in a small cup with a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg.
The name cacao is derived from the Indians who had already named it cacao. The Spaniards rightly estimated the value of this delicacy and soon started cultivating this tree. Cacao grows straight and fairly tall. The brown fruits, as big as your fist, hang down in between the leaves and branches. The flowers of the cacao tree bloom at night and are pollinated mainly by bats. The fruits then ripen in 5-7 months. If you cut the fruit open, you’ll see five rows of white kernels, or nuts, embedded in a white pulp. These nuts are removed and fermented for 3-5 days to get rid of the pulp. After this the beans are dried slowly, during which the beans oxidise and turn a dark brown colour. It takes around 20 fruits to produce one kilo of dried beans. But before you can use them the beans need to be roasted for 30 minutes at a temperature of 90-140 degrees Celsius, before being Cacao crushed and ground. The resulting cacao powder can then be used to make chocolate.
Cacao powder can also be pressed to separate the cacao butter from the cacao. Cacao butter is often used in cosmetics such as sun-tanning products or skin cream.
Cashew or Cajuil
This is a tree that produces very large fruits. An extra piece (containing the ‘nut’) grows at the end of the fruit (the ‘apple’). The nut is obtained by roasting this kidney-shaped growth. The fruit itself is inedible. The nut has to be roasted otherwise it’s poisonous
The cashew nutshell liquid (CNSL), a byproduct of processing cashew, is mostly composed of anacardic acids (70%), cardol (18%) and cardanol (5%). These acids have been used effectively against tooth abscesses due to their lethality to a wide range of Gram-positive bacteria. Many parts of the plant are used by the Patamona of Guyana medicinally. The bark is scraped and soaked overnight or boiled as an antidiarrheal; it also yields a gum used in varnish. Seeds are ground into powders used for antivenom for snake bites. The nut oil is used topically as an antifungal and for healing cracked heels.
Coconut or coco
The coconut is undoubtedly the best-known fruit on the island. The coconut palm tree was introduced by the Spaniards from Africa and did not originally grow on the island. This large tree, with its distinctive crown of palm leaves, grows all over the island, even in the coastal regions where the soil can be very salty. The only areas where it cannot grow are the mountains and higher regions of the island. Here you only find deciduous and coniferous trees. The palm leaves are still used as roofing material, especially in the interior of the country.
The nuts ripen all year round. The fresh and absolutely germ-free coco milk is a tasty thirst quencher. But coconut is also used to prepare fish, meat and chicken. Just add a little rum and you’ll get the Coco Loco. It is also an important ingredient in your Piña Colada. Coconut is used in many dishes as well as in chocolate bars such as ‘Bounty’.
The coconut has a thick green skin, which is about an inch thick. This is necessary because when the coco is ripe it falls off the tree – and it’s quite a distance to the ground! Without this protective skin it would be smashed to pieces. Palm trees provide good shadow from the hot sun, but it’s dangerous to sit directly underneath, as you may be hit on the head by falling coconuts.
It takes 12-14 months for the fruit to ripen. After six months the fruit is fully grown, but the pulp still has to grow inside. Unripe nuts don’t have any pulp inside, they are just filled with a tasteless watery liquid. On the other hand, ripe nuts contain an inch-thick layer of solid pulp and a sweet oil-like liquid.
Coconuts are exported by the Dominican Republic. Farmers plant the trees with a distance of eight metres in between. The trees produce 30-50 nuts a year. Per hectare this results in a crop of 8000 coconuts a year.
The various parts of the coconut have a number of culinary uses. The nut provides oil for frying, cooking, and making margarine. The white, fleshy part of the seed—the coconut meat—is edible and used fresh or dried in cooking especially in confections and desserts like macaroons. Desiccated coconut can be used as an ingredient or to produce coconut milk which is frequently added to curry dishes and other savory viands. Coconut flour has also been developed for use in baking and to combat malnutrition. Coconut chips have been sold in tourist regions like Hawaii and the Caribbean. Coconut butter is often used to describe solidified coconut oil, but has also been adopted as a name by certain specialty products made out of coconut milk solids or puréed coconut meat and oil.
This popular fruit grows on a tall tree with a big crown of leaves and branches. If you break the leaves they smell like turpentine. The tree bears a lot of fruit every year, which grows to become as big as your fist. The colour varies from yellow to red. The ripe fruit is very sweet and fragrant. Mangos are also exported by the Dominican Republic.
In mango fruit pulp, the antioxidant vitamins A and C, Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folate, other B vitamins and essential nutrients, such as potassium, copper and amino acids, are present. Mango peel and pulp contain other phytonutrients, such as the pigment antioxidants – carotenoids and polyphenols – and omega-3 and -6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Season: Traditionally in the Dominican Republic they say that mangos are in season after Easter Week – in practice it is during May, and the season lasts until September. The trees are everywhere and laden with fruit.
June is mango month in the Dominican Republic.
Tip for picking mangos: A mango ripe for the picking will snap easily from its stem, if you have to pull too hard then it’s not ready.
Papaya or lechosa
This is a fragile fast-growing tree that needs a lot of water. It has a crown of big leaves and produces oval-shaped fruits that hang from the trunk of the tree. When the fruits are ripe they are a light yellow colour with an orange-coloured pulp inside. Once a papaya is ripe it has to be eaten quickly. After a few days it will start to turn black and smell bad. But when they are fresh and ripe they taste delicious with a little lemon and sugar. The food industry often uses the juice from the skin as a flavoring. In America they use it in beer as a stabilizer.
Papaya fruit is a rich source of nutrients such as pro-vitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C, B vitamins, dietary minerals and dietary fibre. Papaya skin, pulp and seeds also contain a variety of phytochemicals, including polyphenols.The ripe fruit of the papaya is usually eaten raw, with or without skin or seeds.
Season: June – September. The Dominican Republic’s papaya production ranks fourth worldwide after India, Brazil and Indonesia.
Passion fruit or Chinola
This is a climbing plant with shiny egg-shaped green fruits that turn yellow when they are ripe. When you cut the fruit open you see a yellow to reddish pulp that is full of black pips. This fragrant and delicious-tasting pulp can be eaten on its own or mixed into any kind of drink. It’s the nectar in many cocktails. These days chinola fruit juice is often mixed with other juices and exported to Europe and America.
Fresh passion fruit is high in beta carotene, potassium, and dietary fibre. Passion fruit juice is a good source of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and good for people who have high blood pressure. Some research is showing that purple passion fruit peel may help with controlling asthma symptoms. The yellow variety is used for juice processing, while the purple variety is sold in fresh fruit markets. The fruit contains Lycopene in the mature and immature pericarp.
Season: the whole year. When ripe the fruit is about the size of a tennis ball with a smooth yellow thick skin. Wait for the skin to get wrinkly and the inside will taste even better.
Tayota is a hard green and hairy bean-shaped liana fruit with a white pulp inside. It is used a lot in the local kitchens as a seasoning for fish or meat dishes. The fruit can also be cut into slices and soaked in sugar water overnight. The next day you have a sweet fragrant juice that children are crazy about.
The fruit does not need to be peeled and can be eaten raw in salads. Cooked or raw, it has a very mild flavor by itself, and is commonly served with seasonings (e.g., salt, butter and pepper in Australia) or in a dish with other vegetables and/or flavorings. It can also be boiled, stuffed, mashed, baked, fried, or pickled in escabeche sauce. Both fruit and seed are rich in amino acids and vitamin C. Fresh green fruit are firm and without brown spots or signs of sprouting. Smaller ones are more tender.
Lime / limon
The common lime eaten in the DR is of the Persian lime variety. The scientific name is Citrus × latifolia. As lemons (Citrus × limon) are less common, they are called by the more descriptive name of limón amarillo.
In Spain, where lemons are much more common than limes, lemons arelimones and limes are limas, and this is confirmed by the Real Academiadefinitions that describe limones as yellow and limas as green. The origin of the word “lemon” is thought to be Middle Eastern, from the Arabiclaymun and from the Persian limun, the generic term for citrus fruit. The actual fruit originated in Asia and it is said that Columbus himself brought the first seeds to Hispaniola in 1493.
Lemons are a sub tropical/tropical crop but they rarely appear in markets and supermarkets in the Dominican Republic.
In Dominican cooking, limes are used in juices like jugo de avena and morir soñando, and in marinades for chicken and fish.
Oranges are known as ‘chinas’ in the Dominican Republic because they come from China. The sweet delicious juicy orange eaten all around the world was born a sour fruit, growing wild in China. Dating back thousands of years, the orange was probably being cultivated by the Chinese by 2500 BC. The orange first ventured across the Atlantic Ocean in 1493 with Christopher Columbus. Columbus carried seeds of the orange, lemon and citron, or possibly young trees, from Spain’s Canary Islands to the island of Hispaniola, today shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Soon several of the Caribbean islands were raising oranges, whether sweet or sour or both.
Oranges do not necessarily have to have a bright orange color to be good. Oranges that are partially green or have brown russetting may be just as ripe and tasty as those that are solid in color. Avoid oranges that have soft spots or traces of mold.
Although oranges are grown nationwide, the major inland production zones are: Hato Mayor, Higüey, San Francisco de Macorís, Santiago, Puerto Plata, Bayaguana, Monte Plata, San Cristóbal and Cambita. The main grown varieties in the Dominican Republic are: Valencia, the Creole and the Pineapple oranges, which are eaten fresh and enjoyed as juice. Also produced is the Washington Navel variety, which is consumed fresh.
A tangerine or mandarin. These can be found January thru February and November thru December in the Dominican republic. It’s a very juicy, and fairly sweet fruit, normally colored green/orange.
As in oranges, Tangerines too are very low (53 calories/100 g) in calories. Nevertheless, they are valuable sources of flavonoid anti-oxidants like naringenin, naringin, hesperetin, vitamin A, carotenes, xanthins and luteins; in fact, several times higher than in the oranges. In addition, the citrus fruits are very rich sources of vitamin-C (ascorbic acid), a water-soluble vitamin. Vitamin-C is one of the powerful natural anti-oxidant, which play vital role in collagen synthesis, wound healing, anti-viral, anti-cancer activity, and help prevent from neuro-degenerative diseases, arthritis, and cold/fever…etc., by removing oxidant-free radicals from the body. Vitamin C helps absorb iron in the food by reducing ferrous form of the iron elements to easily absorbing ferric form inside the gut. Further, they contain natural soluble and insoluble fiber like hemi-cellulose, pectin…etc., which prevents cholesterol absorption in the gut. Adequate fiber in the food aids in smooth bowel movements by acting as a laxative.
Grapefruit (Grei-fru o Toronja)
Grapefruit is a citrus fruit, known in some countries as pomelo or grapefruit; It is a hybrid of a citrus and orange. Red grapefruit or grapefruit were caused by a mutation of the white variety, the red color is due to its antioxidant content which is higher than the white variety.
Grapefruit has a wide acceptance among people as consumers of this fruit property attributed to lose weight and reduce high blood pressure. The truth is that grapefruit, especially the red variety, helps reduce blood cholesterol precisely because of its antioxidant property, as recently demonstrated an Israeli study.
Grapefruit as a whole is known for its great benefits. The extract from the seeds is used as remedy against fungi, the infusion made with its flowers is used as a treatment for insomnia. Grapefruit stimulates the digestive tract and have also been attributed diuretic properties. The pulp for its acidic properties used to treat urinary infections and containing pectin can help reduce cholesterol.
Acerola / barbados cherry / cereza
There are 11 types of different cherries in the world; in Dominican Republic we have the Prunus and p. avium cherry. It is very appetizing because of it’s flavor and its medicinal properties. These cherries are more acidic than the cherries we are accustomed to use in desserts, but they are still delicious and ideal to make juice and sweets. Normally, from your cereza tree you can harvest plenty of fruit. After a great harvest there is nothing better than a cold glass of “jugo de cereza” in the terrace.
Medicinal Property of the fruit: Urinary Problems: Such as cystitis, pielonefriis and the kidney stones will receive much help with the fruit and the infusion of the peduncles. Chronic Constipation: It has a laxative and invigorating effect of the digestive tract. In people with Diabetes: The carbohydrates or sugars of the cherry, fructose and levulose are so easily assimilable. People with diabetes can eat this fruit without major problems. Season: Cherry trees only bear fruit from June to July.
Updated Jan 31, 2017
Category: DR Living |