MARIA'S FRUIT & VEGETABLE STAND
PASSION FRUIT - BELIZE'S LITTLE TROPICAL GEM
Often, I'll have customers walk up to my produce stand and ask me, "What's this?"
"Passion Fruit!" I tell them.
I enjoy cutting open and allowing my foreign customers to see and taste the various fruits and vegetables of Belize. For many of them, trying something new is a wonderful way for them to experience Belize. I enjoy getting to share their experience for the very first time. For most of my foreign customers, Passion Fruit is something new.
Passion Fruit is like a little tropical gem, which grows on a vine here in Belize. It produces a round oval fruit that is either yellow or purple in color. This vigorous climbing vine, will cling to almost any support. It can grow 15 to 20 feet per year, but once the vine takes hold – it needs good support to continue growing. This vine is relatively short lived (in that), it usually lasts about 5 to 7 years. The passion fruit is native to Central America, northern Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.
The vine will produce a single fragrant flower, 2 to 3 inches wide. The bloom consists of 5 greenish-white sepals, 5 white petals, with a rich purple color at the base. Carpenter bees are the most efficient pollinators of this flower. There are two types of passion fruits. The bright yellow variety is also known as the Golden Passion Fruit. It grows similar in size to that of a grapefruit. The dark purple variety is smaller in size, similar to a lemon. It is less acidic than the yellow, and has a richer aroma and flavor. The vine, especially the yellow form, is fast growing and will begin bearing in 1 to 3 years. Ripening occurs 70 to 80 days after pollination.
The fruit is usually 1-1/2 to 3 inches wide, has a tough rind that is smooth and waxy and ranges from either yellow or dark purple at maturity, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with numerous seeds. One passion fruit can have as many as 250 small, hard, dark brown or black, pitted seeds inside it. The fruit can be grown to be eaten or for its juice, which is often added to other fruit juices to enhance the aroma. The fruit shown are mature for juicing and culinary use. For eating right out of the fruit, the fruit should be allowed to wrinkle for a few days to raise the sugar levels and enhance the flavor.
The purple passion fruit is subtropical and prefers a frost-free climate. The plant does not grow well in intense summer heat, so you will often find this vine growing in partially shaded areas. The yellow passion fruit is tropical or near-tropical and is much more intolerant of frost. Both forms need protection from the wind. Generally, annual rainfall should be at least 35 inches.
MARIA'S FRUIT & VEGETABLE STANDMANGO SEASON IN BELIZEIt's mango season here in Belize. Belize enjoys about 20 different varieties of mangoes.
Most people are familiar with mangoes, but for those of you who are not, a mango is a fruit only grown in the tropical areas of the world. It is one of the most delicious fruits in the Caribbean. The taste is hard to describe, but the closest thing I've heard is that of a Japanese persimmon.
Mangoes vary in shape and size and have many different name. To name just a few of the more popular ones: 1) Julie
, 2) Slipper, 3) Sugar, 4) Thundershock
5) Number Eleven, 6) Bellyful, 7) Blue, 8) Judgewig 9) Apple
, 10) Common, and 11) Hairy. Mango blossoms
are small pink flowers covering the trees beginning in January. They transform into tiny green mangoes around May then slowly fill out and acquire a reddish tint
in readiness for the rain showers in June that put the ripening touch to a mango. By that time the colors range from blue to red to yellow and when cut
there is a flat white seed in the middle surrounded by firm, juicy, yellow flesh.
The more common varieties like the "Common" and 'Hairy' mango are delicious but filled with fibers that get stuck between your teeth, while the bigger mangoes that are special grafted varieties and the ones they export, have very few if any fibers.
All mangoes when they are unripe are 'green'. You need to be careful how you eat them, as the seed (flux) inside is soft, and if eaten can give the person a massive bellyache. There are 4 stages, that a mango goes through. Step One: the green stage. Step Two: the turn stage. Step Three: the ripe stage. Step Four: the overripe stage.
So the question is now, what is a turn mango? A turn mango, is a mango that is half-ripe & half-unripe - with firm flesh that is slightly sweet and can be eaten with no problem. Overripe mangoes are usually squishy to the touch, ooze juice when bitten and are best used for mango juice.
Here is Belize, many produce road side stands (such as myself), will sell sliced mangoes in plastic bags, which can be eaten fairly easy by locals, tourist, and children after school.
Mango season in Belize, isn't just about eating mangoes, it's about how you got your mango. Everyone loves a story about where they found the best mangoes. I have gotten them from Mennonite farmers, taxi rivers, local fisherman and mainland suppliers and even picked them off the trees myself.Next time you're in Belize, stop by Maria's Produce Stand for your next mango.
These are green plantains.
MARIA'S FRUIT & VEGETABLE STAND
I often get asked, what is the difference between a plantain and a banana?
What is a Plantain? Plantains are a member of the banana family. They are a starchy, low in sugar variety that is cooked before serving as it is unsuitable raw. It is used in many savory dishes somewhat like a potato would be used and is very popular in Western Africa and the Caribbean countries. It is usually fried or baked - but usually NEVER eaten raw like a banana.
Plantains are native to Belize and grow abundantly in our tropical rain forest climate. Plantains are sometimes referred to as the pasta & potatoes of the Caribbean. Plantains are a staple to the Belizean people. Plantains are sold at most road side produce stands or grocery stores in Belize. They usually resemble green bananas but when ripe, plantains are black in color.
This vegetable tastes different at every stage of its development. The interior color of the fruit will remain creamy, yellowish or lightly pink (as seen in the pictures below). When the peel is green to yellow, the flavor of the flesh is bland and its texture is starchy. As the peel changes to brown or black, it has a sweeter flavor and more of a banana aroma, but still keeps a firm shape when cooked.
The plantain averages about 65% in moisture content, whereas a banana averages about 83% in moisture content. A banana is ready to eat when the skin is yellow whereas a plantain is not ready to eat "out of hand" until the skin is almost black.
I sell alot of coconuts, and for most people this is often their first experience in tasting a fresh coconut right from the tree. Coconuts are abundantly found on most any palm tree here in Belize. Once you've had a young coconut, where the meat is soft and sweet to eat, you will want another, and another and another. They are absolutely delicious!
A full-sized coconut weighs about 3.2 pounds. It takes around 6000 full-grown coconuts to produce a tonne of copra.
There is a single see within the shell. When the seed germinates, the root of its embryo pushes out through one of the eyes of the shell. The outermost layer of the seed, adheres to the inside of the shell. In a mature coconut, a thick albuminous endosperm or meat adheres to the inside of the shell. This meat is the white and fleshy edible part of the coconut. Like most nut meats, coconut meat contains less sugar and more protein than popular fruits such as bananas, apples and oranges. It is relatively high in minerals such as iron, phosphorus, and zinc.
Immature coconuts are more likely to contain coconut water and less meat. They are often sold with a small portion of the husk cut away to allow access to the coconut water. Young coconuts used for coconut water are called tender coconuts. The water of a tender coconut is the liquid from the tender meat. It is sweet (mild) with an aerated feel when cut fresh. Depending on its size a tender contains 300 to 1,000 ml of coconut water.
The meat in a green young coconut is softer and more gelatinous than that in a mature coconut—so much so that it is sometimes known as coconut jelly. When the coconut has ripened and the outer husk has turned brown, a few months later, it will fall from the palm of its own accord. At this time the coconut meat has thickened and hardened, while the coconut water has become somewhat bitter.
The coconut palm is a member of the palm family. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word. The term is derived from 16th century Portuguese and Spanish cocos, meaning "grinning face", from the three small holes on the coconut shell that resembles a human face.
Found across much of the tropics, the coconut is known for its great versatility as seen in the many domestic, commercial, and industrial uses of its different parts. Coconuts are part of the daily diet of many people here in Belize. The oil and milk derived from it are commonly used in cooking and frying; coconut oil is also widely used in soaps and cosmetics. The clear liquid coconut water within is a refreshing drink and can be processed to create alcohol. The husks and leaves can be used as material to make a variety of products for furnishing and decorating. It also has cultural and religious significance in many societies that use it.
When the coconut fruit is still green, the husk is very hard, but green coconuts only fall if they have been attacked by molds or other blights. By the time the coconut naturally falls, the husk has become brown, the coir has become drier and softer, and the coconut is less likely to cause damage when it drops, although there have been instances of coconuts falling from palms and injuring people, and claims of some fatalities. This was the subject of a paper published in 1984 that won the Nobel Prize in 2001. Falling coconut deaths are often used as a comparison to shark attacks; the claim is often made that a person is more likely to be killed by a falling coconut than by a shark, yet such evidence as there is would suggest that the number of deaths due to falling coconuts is small.
FACTS ABOUT COCONUTS
"Fresh coconut juice is one of the highest sources of electrolytes known to man, and can be used to prevent dehydration, for instance in cases of diarrhea or strenuous exercise, instead of a sports drink. Some remote areas of the world even use coconut juice intravenously, short-term, to help hydrate critically ill patients and in emergency situations". Its a natural isotonic beverage, with the same level of electrolytic balance as we have in our blood.
During the Pacific War of 1941-45, both sides in the conflict regularly used coconut water - siphoned directly from the nut - to give emergency plasma transfusions to wounded soldiers. Most coconut water is still consumed fresh in tropical coastal areas - once exposed to air, the liquid rapidly loses most of its organoleptic and nutritional characteristics, and begins to ferment.
1. Coconut Water is More Nutritious than whole milk - Less fat and NO cholesterol!
2. Coconut Water is More Healthy than Orange Juice - Much lower calories
3. Coconut Water is Better than processed baby milk- It contains lauric acid, which is present in human mother's milk
4. Coconut water is naturally sterile -- Water permeates though the filtering husk!
5. Coconut water is a universal donor-- Its identical to human blood plasma
6. Coconut Water is a Natural Isotonic Beverage - The same level we have in our blood.
7. Coconut water has saved lives in 3rd world countries thru Coconut IV.