By Brooke Gazer
Sampling the fabulous fresh fruit found in this region is one of the many pleasures Huatulco offers. While some are available year round others are referred to as “fruta de la temporada” or seasonal fruit. Visitors and residents of Huatulco are fortunate to have access to almost 80 varieties of fruit from the extensive orchards of Hagia Sofia. Some are local to Oaxaca but Armando Canavati has introduced a number of interesting new crops from around the world. Three exotic examples are: Mata Sabor, Mangosteen and Rambutan.
Mata Sabor (flavor killer) is the most recent addition to the orchard and is still in its developmental stage. Not yet available for sale, it offers an exceptional taste sensation if you visit Hagia Sofia while the bushes are in fruit. This berry, which is about the size of your fingernail, originates from West Africa. The bright red skin covers a stone surrounded by gelatinous flesh that is lacking in flavor; however it alters the taste of other foods in a way that defies all logic. After chewing the flesh of one berry you can pick a sour lime off a nearby tree, cut it in half and suck out the juice. Instead of causing your face to pucker up the lime will seem as sweet as honey! This unusual sensation lasts for about 20- 60 minutes. Berries ripen from March through May.
How does it work? A natural protein called “miraculin” has sugar molecules that bind to the tongue and when acid enters the mouth the sugar receptors press into the sweet receptors. With low sugar content this berry could become a sweetening alternative for dieters and diabetics. The fruit allegedly counteracts the metallic taste that is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Although yet to be proven it is hoped that this protein may make some foods more appealing to cancer patients and studies are currently underway. If you want to know more this fruit is sometimes referred to as “Miracle Fruit” and the Latin name is “Synsepalum Dulcificum”.
Mangosteen trees take 5-9 years to bear fruit and first crop was seen briefly on Huatulco streets this June. Armando has planted 500 mangosteen trees at Hagia Sofia, so as more trees mature we will have an excellent opportunity to enjoy its unique taste. This round fruit is about 2-3 inches in diameter with a thick purple exterior the shade of an egg- plant and a soft white interior that is segmented like an orange minus the cellulose. It is an exotic fruit with a tangy sweet flavor that some say combine elements of mango, papaya and pineapple. It is thought to have originated in Indonesia but is found throughout South East Asia and parts of South America. Referred to as the “Queen of Fruits”, in 2007 it sold in trendy produce boutiques in New York City for as much as $45. per pound when it was first imported to the USA! As they became more common prices dropped but mangosteen is still a pricey indulgence if you can find it. Do not miss the chance to sample it if you are here between June and October.
Rambutan comes from the family of lychee nuts which were occasionally available in Huatulco before Armando planted 1500 rambutan trees. The variety that came from Chiapas is a smaller fruit with a pit that does not separate easily from the flesh, so the locally grown variety with a smaller cling free stone is preferable. This bizarre looking fruit is about an inch in diameter with a heavy red skin covered in coarse hair. Breaking the skin allows a ball of juicy, sweet, translucent fruit to slide out. Biting into one is something like eating a peeled grape. It is tempting to devour a large bag full; shelling them much as you would peanuts. I love including a few on a mixed fruit plate because they add both vivid color and curious texture to the presentation. Simply score the fruit around the center and leave the top intact. This strange looking delicacy is widely available in Huatulco from July through November.
Whatever the time of year Hagia Sofia, located just north of Santa Maria Huatulco, is an interesting place to visit and each season offers something extraordinarily delicious. For more information about tours to Hagia Sofia: http://www.hagiasofia.mx
Brooke Gazer operates Agua Azul la Villa, a bed and breakfast in Huatulco http://www.bbaguaazul.com