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Sample the Tropical Fruit Available in Puerto Rico

Posted on Jun 4th, 2009 by • Updated on Mar 3rd, 2015

Fresh Fruit in Puerto Rico

One of my favorite things about going on vacation is the opportunity to try food that is different than I can get at home. Tropical fruit has become somewhat of a passion of mine, and it’s always something I seek out whenever we travel. Luckily for me, we can grow a bunch of different types of tropical fruit right in Puerto Rico.

Where Can I Get Some of this Fruit to Try?

You can find many of these fruits at street side fruit vendors or local markets. Also almost every town will have a “mercado” that should have fruit stands. The Mercado in Rio Piedras is especially fruitful! There is sometimes a decent fruit stand called La Frutera on Route 3 Este, at Km 32.5, before you get to the Luquillo beach and kiosks. It had a small variety of fruits. Even if you don’t want to try the fruit, these fruit stands make beautiful pictures! Along many roads you will find fruit stands set up in cars or trucks along the roadside (RT 3 has a number of them between Canovanas and Fajardo). You may even find some tropical fruit at the supermarkets, but you need to watch for freshness and ripeness. I have found Amigo supermarkets sometimes carry some of these tropical fruits. Also check out the Urbano Market in Condado (first Sunday/month), Organic market in Old San Juan every Saturday and Plaza Las Americas Mall has a large Farmers Market every weekend from Thursday – Sunday on the third floor. Many fruit growers are out west, so check out there for some good locally grown fruit too! The San Sebastian Mercado on Fridays usually has some neat stuff. One thing to note about tropical fruit is that it is usually soft and mushy — you eat a lot of them with a spoon, unlike apples, peaches or pears which you can just hold in your hand and eat.

But I Don’t Speak Spanish

If you stop at a local stand and they don’t speak English, here are a few words & phrases that will help with your fruit purchase

  • ¿Es maduro? = Is it ripe?
  • ¿Para hoy? = For today? (as in Can I eat this today, or should I wait?)
  • ¿Para mañana? = For tomorrow?
  • dulce = sweet
  • agridulce = sweet & sour
  • agrio = sour

What Kinds of Fruit Can I Expect to Find in Puerto Rico?

Here is a sampling of the fruits you’ll be able to find at Coqui’s Hideaway (in season) and across the island

Fresh Fruit in Puerto Rico

  • Banana (guineo in Spanish) — There are lots of different types of bananas, some taste like your standard supermarket bananas that you’re used to from home, while others taste very different. Cavendish bananas are your standard bananas that have the typical banana flavor. Niño bananas are tiny and sweet. Manzana bananas are medium-sized and taste like apples when they’re fully ripe. But a fresh banana picked ripe from the stalk tastes SO much better than those from the supermarket, which are picked green and have to ripen off the stalk.
  • Papaya (papaya) — There are also different variates of papaya. I like the ones that are darker orange inside (not yellow inside). A nice ripe orange papaya is sweet. They should be golden yellow outside when ripe and give slightly when pressed. Papayas have many round, black seeds inside that are easily scooped out. A papaya will ripen off the stalk if it’s not fully ripe when you buy it at the store.
  • Fresh Fruit in Puerto Rico

  • Mango (mango) — There are many different types of mangos, and they come in all colors and sizes too. The color when ripe depends on the variety, but when they’re ripe, they will all give slightly when pressed. A good, ripe mango is sweet. The better varieties are fiberless. Mangos have one large pit inside.
  • Citrus — You’ll be able to find all different kinds of "normal" fresh citrus fruit, depending on the time of year: grapefruit (toronjas), oranges (chinas), limes (limas), clementines (mandarins), lemons (limóns), etc. There are all sorts of varieties. Fresh from the tree — yum!
  • Chironja — This unusual citrus is a natural cross between an orange (china) and a grapefruit (toronja). That’s where it gets it’s name — chi-ronja. It is very juicy and tastes like a cross between a not-tart grapefruit and a not-sweet orange. They are very good!
  • Coconut (coco) — You can usually find coconuts being sold roadside as coco frio (chilled green coconut), with the top cut off and a straw stuck into it so you can drink the juice. Be forewarned — it does not taste like coconut. Try it, it is an acquired taste (personally I don’t like it!). If the fruit is allowed to ripen, the husk gets hard and brown, and it’s very difficult to open. If you buy one of those, ask if the vendor will open it for you! Ripe coconut meat tastes just coconuty, but don’t expect it to taste like the sweeten shredded stuff you buy in the bag!
  • Soursop (guaynabana) — This is an odd-looking fruit (one the bottom left of the first picture above). Kinda heart-shaped with soft spikes all over the outside. It should be dark green when ripe and give slightly when pressed. The flavor is sweet with a slightly sour taste. The fruit sometimes has a grainy texture. There are many brown seeds distributed throughout the fruit.
  • Pineapple at Coqui's Hideaway

  • Pineapple (piña) — There are many varieties of pineapples. They are ripe when yellowish and give just slightly when pressed. Ripe pineapples are sweet. See if you can find small varieties — those are especially sweet and, depending on the variety, may not have a core (meaning you can just slice it and eat it).
  • Star Apple (caimito) — I have the green variety, but there is also a purple variety. They should give slightly when ripe. Serve them chilled. To eat them, cut them open quickly and scoop out the insides. The skin contains latex that will make your lips sticky! You’ll find a few black seeds inside.
  • Avocado at Coqui's Hideaway

  • Avocado (aguacate) — There are many different varieties of avocados, and they can be found year-round here, but most locally grown ones are available only late summer or early fall (though I have a neighbor that has a delicious winter variety — he has a roadside stand when they are in season). Ripe avocados will give slightly when pressed. They have one large brown seed inside.
  • Star Fruit (carambola) — These are golden yellow when ripe. They are juicy and slightly sweet. They have a few yellow seeds inside. You can eat the skin. Cut on the horizontal (to show the star shape), they a make the nice decoration in salads. Fresh ones off the tree are way better than the small dry ones I remember getting in the supermarkets up in the States.

Other fruit to keep an eye out for include passion fruit (parcha), guava (guayaba), tamarind (tamarindo) — both the sour & sweet varieties, corazon, mamey zapote, canistel, nispero, and acerola. And now, out west, you will find a few vendors selling really exotic things like rambutan, pulasan and mangosteen!

Where else can I try these fruits?

Like I mentioned earlier, I have become somewhat of a tropical fruit nut. After buying our vacation rental property — Coqui’s Hideaway in Rio Grande — I started planting a number of different types of fruit trees and plants. Our guests get a fruit bowl filled with fresh fruit from our property and they can pick their own from the trees. I am more than happy to tour the property with our guests, showing them the odd and wonderful world of tropical fruits.

So go ahead, try some new and unusual tropical fruit!

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  1. Corazon, mamey zapote, and canistel are my faviorites!

  2. Wow! Break my heart, there is nothing like food from home!!! Where can I find Nisperos, not the “loquats” some call nisperos but those that resemble the Kiwi fruit? Your site is great.
    Thankyou, Susanne

  3. Susanne- we have found nisperos (other places also call them sapodilla) at some of the Mercados or street side fruit vendors. Try the Plaza Mercado in Rio Piedras- they had lots of delicious things:

    But on occasion, I have gotten them at the Amigo or Walmart supermarkets.

  4. Besides the nisperos, I miss the anones, corazones, quenepas and most of all, jobos. In the states it is possible to get most of the other fruits, but those five are close to impossible to get. If you make it to a plaza del mercado, try purchasing some of the delicious fruits I’ve mentioned.

  5. I wouls like to know if anyone knows where I can find cerezas. They are small cherry type fruit light yellow in color with a doun pit. They grow on a tree no a bush and grow in clusters. They are usually very sour in taste, no they are not acerolas.

  6. We assume that the fruit you are asking about is Grosella.

  7. I spent a summer in Puerto Rico in 1972 and ate quenepas every day. I wish I could by some here.

  8. Gwenn,
    Do you still live on the island? My wife and I just moved here from Minneapolis and would love to have someone tour us around at the Rio Piedras market. Let me know and I can send you my number. Thanks!

  9. Yes, we still live here, but we don’t give tours as we don’t have the time or the license! People can ask the vendors or people there and just try a few things. Tropical fruit is very varied and different from what most people are used to. Trying things for yourself is the best way to experience something (without other people’s opinions swaying your experience. But I believe there are a few companies that give tours of the fruit markets. We did a nice tour of Santurce with Flavors of San Juan.

  10. thank you

  11. Hello: I am trying to find the name of the small mango that grows in Puerto Rico. I live in Florida and would love to plant one but haven’t being able to find the name. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    thank you

  12. It is probably the Mayaguezano.

  13. Does Puerto Rico have an extention service with info on what and how to grow in the Virgin Islands ?
    Thanks so much,

  14. They have Agricultural Research Centers around PR that study what grows here well and works on varieties etc. You can contact them: http://www.ars.usda.gov/main/site_main.htm?modecode=66-35-05-00

  15. I bought a small fruit from a street vendor in Boston that tastes somewhat like passion fruit. It is tan and has a hard shell and a big pit. You break off some of the shell and suck it out into your mouth and keep sucking it off the pit. Difficult to eat but delicious. It begins with que. What is its name? Several grow on a stem.

  16. Quenapa! Or Spanish Limes, limoncillo or mamoncillo. Latin name: Melicoccus bijugatus. It is very popular here.

  17. I have not had a quenepa or jobo in about 33 years. My auntie had a jobo tree in her backyard along with cerezas, limon, aguacate, mango, guayaba, virtually a child’s paradise. I lived in that backyard! I have not been able to find jobos or quenepas since I moved back to the USA. I usually order puertorican products from antojitos.com, but it’s been a while. I don’t know if they have ever carried the two items I miss the most. BTW, I live in Alabama. Thanks for taking me down memory lane…

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