More than the usual bananas, coconuts and pineapples, it may come as surprising that there are fruits that you are unfamiliar with that are fairly common in Banderas Bay area.
The state of Nayarit, and the Ameca river valley are some of the most fertile lands in Mexico, perfect for the cultivation of all types of fruit.
Below is a list of 10 exotic fruits; be sure to try them all!
1 Chicozapote and Zapote Negro (Sapodilla)
Chef Betty Vazquez, Culinary Ambassador for the Riviera Nayarit, has called the Chico Zapote, the “Flavor King,”—and that’s not far from the truth! Its juicy pulp tastes very much like a pear and is truly delicious. In pre-Hispanic times, the Aztecs—who believed in its healing properties—called this fruit tzapotl. Its name stems from the Nahuatl word chictli, which means chicle, or gum.
The zapote negro is very prolific in Nayarit, although it’s native to the coastal areas of Chiapas, Veracruz and Yucatan and can even be found in the woodlands of Central America. When it’s ripe it turns green on the outside and brown on the inside and tastes sort of like chocolate. This fruit is harvested from August through January.
2 Huaya or Mamoncillo (Spanish Lime)
This fruit comes from the Dominican Republic and is also known as talpajocote, guayo, maco, limoncillo or quenepa. This is a sweet, small pink or light orange drupe. It can be eaten fresh, canned or even soaked in moonshine. It’s said to contain vitamins B1, B3, B6 and B12, as well as minerals, amino acids and unsaturated fatty acids. To find it you have to travel to the municipality of San Blas, north of the Riviera Nayarit.
3 Maracuyá (Passion Fruit)
Maracuyá is one of the best-known exotic fruits in the world. It can be found in Central America, some South American countries, southern region of Africa and in Australia. Though the main producer of maracuyá is in Brazil, it has been cultivated very successfully locally. Its taste is bittersweet and refreshing, and it has a round or oval exterior and a large number of seeds inside covered with pulp that can vary according to the species. This fruit can be found from October through April.
4 Mamey (Mammee Apple)
When traveling by road it’s common to see vendors in the stretches between towns on either side of the road selling this fruit. Its very bright salmon-colored exterior covers pulp that tastes like honey and almonds. This pulp is creamy, soft and sweet—perfect for ice cream, shakes and desserts. The mamey is part of the zapote family and is produced between January and July.
5 Mano de Buda (Fingered Citron)
The Mano de Buda (Buddha’s Hand) is from the citrus family, and its fruit is fragmented in sections that look like fingers or tentacles. It’s venerated in some Asian cultures because it looks like the Buddha’s hand in prayer, ergo the curious name. It has a slightly sweet taste and its color varies from green to yellow as it ripens. It’s also very aromatic, which is why it’s used in China and Japan to perfume rooms and closets, as well as for liqueurs and cocktails. Currently they cultivate it in small farms in Aticama in the municipality of San Blas.
6 Mangostán (Mangosteen)
This delicious fruit has healing properties and for centuries it has been used in traditional medicine. It originated in the more tropical countries of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. It’s also known as the mangostino or jobo de la India (Garcinia mangostana) and notwithstanding its name, it isn’t related to the mango.
7 Yaca (Jackfruit)
This fruit is also known as the árbol del pan and it elicits pretty intense reactions: you either hate it or love it. Although it tastes sweet, it can be overly so, and some people find its odor off-putting. The yaca arrived here in the 18th century from Indonesia and Malaysia, where it found the perfect climate conditions for its growth. It stands out for its large size, with a diameter anywhere from 25 to 60 centimeters and can weigh up to 20 kilos; its flavor is close to a combination of banana, melon and papaya. It’s also known for its anti-asthmatic and anti-diarrheal properties, as well as being one of nature’s most potent aphrodisiacs.
8 Guanábana (Soursop)
This area is the top producer of guanábana on a national level, with 16 thousand tons per year, according to data from Sagarpa. There are currently one thousand families dedicated to this crop with two thousand hectares being cultivated. It’s also exported to the United States, Europe and Asia. Its delicious bittersweet flavor is great in desserts, ice creams, frozen pops, juices, marmalades, candies and much more. The guanábana is also said to have healing properties.
9 Rambután (Rambutan)
This fruit originated in the Malaysian archipelago: its name means “hairy” in that language, thanks to its unique appearance. It has an intense red color and its flavor is a mixture of coconut, pineapple, grapes and lychee. Locally farmers have been able to establish small orchards thanks to the climate and land conditions.
10 Litchi (Lychee)
Among the many exotic fruit that can be found locally it is, perhaps, one of the best known and valued, especially in the culinary arena and in the preparation of cocktails. It’s known as lichi, lychee, leechep, leche, lin-chi or litchi, and its Asian name, lee-chee, means “provider of the joy of living.” This fruit is sweet, small, translucent and white on the inside, and is originally from southern Asia.
Extra: The area is so rich, that besides the fruit mentioned here one can also find tropical delights such as coconut, mango, pineapple, guava, nanci or nanche (nance fruit), pitahaya (dragonfruit), carambolo (starfruit), tamarind, plum, marañón (cashew apple), and bananas.