Fruit of the Month: Jocote
Tart and delicious, the jocote fruit is in season from August to September in Costa Rica. Many locals prefer to eat them unripe, adding a touch of salt. I find the green jocotes a little too bitter, and wait until they're almost red, which equals sweet and juicy goodness. The jocote goes by many monikers around the globe: purple mombin, red mombin, hog plum, and sinigwela to name a few, but I just call them tasty. A member of the cashew family, Spondias purpurea is a flowering plant native to the tropical Americas.
The color of the fruit varies from green to dark yellow and red. Occasionally, even a green jocote may be ripe, so your best bet is to gently squeeze it with your fingers. The softer the fruit, the sweeter its flavors tend to be. Jocotes are usually eaten raw, but may also be dried or boiled for use in other dishes. Each fruit has a single seed, and the skin is edible though a little thick.
During the harvest season, you'll find them at farmers' markets, roadside stands and grocers throughout the country. I can usually pick up a bag with 20 jocotes for less then $2, and enjoy a week's worth of guilt-free snacking on this nutritional fruit. High in antioxidants and a natural source of Vitamin C, jocote are also thought to aid in digestion. A 3.5 ounce serving contains only 75 calories and 20 grams of carbohydrates.
This is one of my favorite fruits in Costa Rica, and I'm always delighted to share them with visiting friends and family from the States. Next time you're out shopping, be sure to give them a try; you just might get hooked on their unique flavor!