Healthier lifestyle is one of the reasons why the Dominican Republic is recognized as the best Caribbean destination. Fresh and good quality meat, fish, fruit and vegetables that cost an arm and a leg in your home country are available here at lower prices. Especially local fresh fruits will surprise you with its natural non-artificial flavor and juiciness. Besides, there are some exotic nutrient-rich fruits that are not so well-known to international visitors. Pineapples, mangos, oranges, watermelon and bananas are all familiar fruits. But if you’re looking for something more exotic and peculiar, we suggest that you check the following species.
1. Breadfruit or Guanpán.
We’ve introduced our Facebook followers to the nutritional facts of this fruit in a dedicated post. If you’re one of our followers, you may already know that the fruit has got this name because when cooked it gets potato-like taste and texture similar to freshly baked bread. If you’re not our Facebook follower yet, now is a great moment to become one. Just click this link and get first-hand access to the Dream City updates and useful information about the life on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic.
Back to our breadfruit, it is extremely healthy for a number of reasons:
– it is gluten free;
– it is a good source of antioxidants, calcium, copper, dietary fiber, energy, iron, magnesium, niacin, omega 3, omega 6, phosphorus, potassium, protein, thiamine, vitamin A and vitamin C;
– it contains some carotenoids and lutein which is not present in white rice or white potato;
It’s easy in cooking and can be used in salads, pancakes, breads, curries, dips, like hummus, or vegetarian burgers or pâté and many other dishes. The average price for 1 breadfruit is 150 RD or 3 USD.
2. Water/Java apple or Cajuilito.
This exotic fruit can be easily mixed with apples and cashew fruits. With the first, they only share the name and red color. The water apple actually does not taste like an apple, and it has neither the fragrance nor the density of an apple. It tastes more like a snow pear and its texture is similar to that of a watermelon.
The java apple looks very similar to cashew fruits which also grow in the Dominican Republic. The main difference is that the cashew fruit has its seed growing outside of the fruit. Whereas the java apple’s seed is situated inside in a sort of cotton-candy-like mesh. Though cashew fruits are also edible, Dominicans consume only their seeds.
The season to eat this exotic fruit in the Dominican Republic starts in April-May and lasts till October. It usually costs very cheap, under 100 RD or 2 USD for 1 pound. People who have water apple trees normally offer the fruits to their neighbors, friends and colleagues for free. Because trees produce a lot of fruits which easily start to rot when fall on the ground.
3. Noni fruit.
This exotic fruit is extremely “exotic” because of its smell. Its stink has earned it the colloquial name of a ‘cheese fruit’ or even ‘vomit fruit’. Nevertheless, noni has saved many people from starvation. Despite its strong smell and bitter taste, it was used by indigenous people as an emergency fruit during famine. Noni fruits have found their way to a larger consumer market in forms of beverages, powders, cosmetic products, oil and pills. Though no clinical studies provide evidence but noni is often consumed as an anticancer product.
The exotic fruit’s powder contains carbohydrates, dietary fibre, vitamin C, niacin (vitamin B3), iron, potassium, vitamin A, calcium and sodium. Sodium levels in noni juice are even higher than in orange juice. As for the price, you can buy noni juice in drug stores and small grocery stores for around 250 RD or 5 USD per bottle.
4. Spanish lime or Limoncillo
The fruit has numerous local names in different Latin America countries. People would refer to it as quenepa in Mexico and Puerto Rico, mamoncillo or mamón in Cuba, Costa Rica and Colombia, gnep or ginep in US Virgin Islands, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. In the Dominican Republic though it’s known as limoncillo.
The fruits are a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as calcium, phosphorus, and fiber. The small fruits also contain tryptophan, which helps produce serotonin. Limoncillos are also a good source of phenolic compounds, which act as important antioxidants. The fruit pulp has been used to help treat digestive issues and hypertension in the Caribbean.
They are most often eaten fresh, right out of the skin. To eat a Spanish lime, you need to bite into the thin skin, peel it back and so you can get to the pulp. The easiest way to eat it is to put the whole fruit into the mouth and suck the pulp from the seed. The limoncillo season falls on summer months. Street vendors sell clusters of 12 or more fruits for 50-100 RD or 1-2 USD.
5. Sea grape or Uva de playa.
Sea grape trees are very common for the coastal regions. They are wind resistant and highly tolerant of salt. It’s the main reason why they are planted to stabilize beach edges. Their byproduct, grape fruits are absolutely safe and tasty to eat. Apart from natural fruits, you can also find jams and juices made of sea grapes.
The fruits are rich in vitamins A, E, K, B2, folate, biotin, sodium, potassium, calcium and iodine. As a result, this exotic fruit helps in digestion, proper functioning of liver, reducing the overall glucose and cholesterol levels, regulating the blood pressure and healing rashes and skin based problems.
Sea grape ripens in the late summer or early fall. Normally you wouldn’t buy it, you would just go to the nearest beach and take fruits directly from sea grape trees.
6. Star fruit or Carambola.
As you may guess from the picture, the fruit owes the name to its star form when cut in cross-section. Dominicans may eat it entirely or use it to make jams and jellies. The flesh is crunchy, firm, and very juicy. It does not contain fibers and has a texture similar in consistency to that of grapes. The taste is difficult to match, but it has been compared to a mix of apple, pear, grape, and citrus family fruits.
Star fruits are rich in vitamins A, B6, C, E, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), folate, calcium, iron, magnesium and some other minerals. But individuals suffering from kidney failure and stones should be very careful with this exotic fruit. As it contains caramboxin and oxalic acid, its consumption may produce hiccups, vomiting, nausea and other side effects.
The star fruit trees flower throughout the year which results in at least two fruiting seasons. One usually happens at the end of spring-beginning of summer and the other one at the end of autumn-beginning of winter. You can normally buy star fruits at supermarkets for 100 RD or 2 USD per pound.
7. Tamarind or Tamarindo.
That one is a very peculiar fruit. It looks like a pod with a brown shell and contains an edible pulp. Distinct nations throughout the world use it in their national cuisine. In some Asian countries, the fruit pulp is used to polish brass shrine statues and lamps, and copper, brass, and bronze utensils. But here in the Dominican Republic it is mostly consumed fresh or as juices.
The pulp has a special juicy, acidulous taste. It is high in tartaric acid, sugar, A, B vitamins, and calcium, copper, iron and magnesium. The fruit pulp extracts of tamarind possess high phenol and antioxidant activities. It also helps to lower cholesterol levels.
The price for 1 pound of tamarind pods is approximately 50 RD or 1 USD.
8. Sour sop or Guanábana.
Sour sop trees adapt to areas of high humidity and relatively warm winters. Its flavor presents a combination of strawberries and apples mixed with sour citrus notes. But in order to taste it, you will need to overcome the first rejection that the sight of the fruit texture will produce. It will look like a white mucous cream similar to lard but with black seeds.
The fruit’s pulp serves for making fruit nectar, smoothies, juices, as well as candies, sorbets, and ice cream flavorings. Sour sop can boast significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B1 and vitamin B2. The seeds are not edible because of compound annonacin which is a strong neurotoxin. The exotic fruit has got a wide promotion recently as an alternative cancer treatment. Though there is no medical evidence proving its cancer treating effects, any Dominican will confirm to you it does help to fight cancer.
Whether you believe in its magic properties or not, you can always easily get and taste it in the Dominican Republic. Moreover, the price is low and tends to be around 80 RD or 1.5 USD per fruit.