Tropical Fruit 101

Star Fruit.   Fruit most aptly named: Star Fruit.

Talk about a crash course in tropical fruit. Kumu Aina Farm has over 60 varieties of fruit- many with names I’ve never heard of.  Since the market is on Sunday, Friday and Saturday were spent harvesting the various fruit currently growing. Here are some of my favorites.

Most fun fruit to harvest: One of the first fruits we went after was lilikoi, or passion fruit. The smallish round fruit grows on a vine that has made its way over a few treetops. On the vine this fruit has a green color, but they’re yellow by the time they’ve ripened and fallen to the ground. So to harvest them we looked in the grass under the vine, occasionally spotting pockets of yellow balls a little bigger than golf balls. Searching for the round orbs in the grass reminded me of hunting for Easter eggs. I had heard of passion fruit as a flavor in drinks and candy, but hadn’t actually tasted the fruit. Peeling away the rind, inside a clear gel with seeds greeted me. Apparently you can eat the seeds too, which seemed easier to do since there were several stuck in the fruit. Juicy, sweet, and tart, it all went down deliciously. 

A passion fruit peaks out from under the grass.

A passion fruit peaks out from under the grass.

Largest fruit: Ever heard of a jackfruit? I find these guys remarkable for their sheer size. They somehow manage to stay hanging from the tree, often low, directly out of the trunk, without falling. They look to me like beehives: a tree of beehives.

The jackfruit manages to hang on.

The jackfruit manages to hang on.

Most surprising tree: I asked where the papaya trees were since I didn’t think I’d seen the fruit. I had somehow managed to overlook the skinny trees right next to my cottage. Compared to the rest of the sturdy trees, the papaya trunk seems almost delicate. In addition, the trunk is hollow.

The papaya tree has a skinny trunk and the fruit grows in clusters where the trunk meets the limbs.

The papaya tree has a skinny trunk and the fruit grows in clusters where the trunk meets the limbs.

New favorite fruit: Mamey supote is one of my new favorite fruits. These have brown skin, and when picking them you can tell the ripe ones from the unripe ones by scratching the skin. If an orange tint, as opposed to a green tint, comes through then you’re good to grab. Under the tough skin, the soft orange/ red fruit cuts away easily. Sweet, with a consistency similar to cooked sweet potatoes, these really hit the spot.

The mamey sapote is so sweet.

The mamey sapote is so sweet.

Craziest fruit: The durian wins this category for a couple reasons. 1. It’s pokey like a giant burr. 2. It’s extremely pungent—the soft, white flesh almost has a garlic hint to it. After I ate a sample and was asked what I thought, I tried to politely answer it must be an acquired taste. This fruit is extremely popular with people who eat a raw food diet—I’m not exactly sure why.

The durians have a pungent taste and smell.

The durians have a pungent taste and smell.

Best fruit realization: Most, if not all, fruit can be made into wine. I enjoyed partaking in a little banana wine the other night. A little yeast, honey, water, and Voila! It took about a month to ferment into its sweet goodness. 



  1. Oh, a mamey! It’s been years since I’ve had one… like 12 yrs!
    I don’t know if they have them in Hawaii, but have you tried the cashew fruit? I haven’t seen one for much longer than the mamey…

  2. mamey sapote looks like papaya and i am so intrigued. have you tried fresh figs? so delicate and yummy. banana wine sounds awesome. jackfruit makes a meaty and delicious indian vegetable dish. i love your blog…you are too funny and clever.

  3. I did try fresh figs in California- quite tasty. I’d be curious to know how the jackfruit is made into the Indian vegetable dish.

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