Limoncillo was brought to the island in pre-Columbian times and thrives in the Caribbean.It is small round fruit about the size of a lime. The color is green to yellow and has a hard, thin, leathery skin. Inside the skin you will find a yellow to pinkish, cantaloupe colored almost slimy, translucent flesh. This bittersweet layer of flesh is covering a large brown, hard seed. It is a real treat and the flavor is quite nice, even though there is a little work to removing it from the shell and the seed. But it is worth it and sort of fun to eat.
How to eat Limoncillos - First you have to crack the skin. Usually a little finger nail or a bite will achieve this, and it does make a little crack sound. Then push the insides into the mouth. Make sure not to get any of the juice on your clothes. It does stain. Proceed by moving the fruit around inside the mouth, manipulating it so as to remove the somewhat slimy flesh from the large seed in the center. It does not look pretty at first but once you master this the flesh removal process can go fast. After the flesh is removed spit the seed.
When spitting be careful, they are a little large and can hurt (I like to aim them at the garbage can and see if I can hit it. Makes it a little more challenging. LOL/jeje!). The next step is to start the process all over and go for another.
It is also used to make juice, jellies and other tasty items.
The fruit is usually available in July and August. It can be bought on the street in bunches connected by small branches tied with a little twine or grass. A must try!
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Limoncillos ready to enjoy
Tamarindo / Tamarind is a fruit originally from Africa where it grows wild. The tree is a slow growing type of evergreen that can get quite large. The fruit is sweet with a very ugly appearance. It was introduced to Central America around the 16th century and it has thrived ever since. Though ugly in appearance, they taste much better than they look (when I first saw this fruit it looked to me to be a dirty pod type thing). The pod is ugly and does not look appetizing. The fruit is the same, quite ugly. Yet when you get past its ugliness and taste the sweetness its appearance seems to change to not be quite so unattractive.
The tamarindo fruit grows in pods on the tree. This pod has a brown shell covering the brown fruit that in turn covers the seeds inside. When the pod is mature it turns a dirty brown. It is filled with seeds, usually between 3 to 6. These seeds are surrounded by a brown, fibrous pulp. When it is ripe the shell of the pod is sort of brittle and can be removed easily. It breaks off and sometimes just falls of when touched roughly. The inside, surrounding the seeds, is the sticky pasty pulp. This is the edible part. It is sweet and yet sour, acidy and pungent. It is high in Vitamin B and Calcium and can make you a bit relaxed or even tired.
Tamarinds are good eaten fresh and plain. In Dominican Republic the pulp is used to make a wonderful beverage that when mixed with sugar and water is very refreshing. It can be used for cooking and makes a great sauce, jelly and candy. You can also find it in many stores throughout the country in bags with the shell already removed.
Moringa can be found in most of the markets and on the streets of the Dominican Republic. People will be walking around carrying what looks like a bunch of weeds selling them to eager customers. They want to use this fast growing plant for its miraculous healing attributes. It is one of the most nutritious trees in the world.
Much of the plant is edible by both humans and animals. The leaves are rich in protein, minerals and Vitamins A, B and C. According to Wikipedia feeding the high protein leaves to cattle has been shown to increase weight gain by up to 32% and milk production by 43 to 65%. The seeds contain 30 to 40% oil that is high in oleic acid, while degreased meal is 61% protein. The defatted meal is a flocculant and can be used in water purification to settle out sediments and undesirable organisms.
It is said to help relieve symptoms of AIDS, reduce high blood pressure, lower blood sugar, increase breast milk production, help cure anemia, to help with diarrhea and dysentery.
Noni Fruit can be found in the markets throughout Dominican Republic. The tree grows wild throughout the country as well. The plant bears flowers and fruits all year round. It is very stinky when it is ripe with a sort of smelly foot or even vomit odor. It starts out green then ripens to a yellowish-white color and is semi-soft to the touch. If you can get past the stink of the fruit is edible either raw or cooked and the many seeds can be roasted as well.
People say the juice of the Noni fruit is very beneficial providing energy and is also said to be a great antioxidant and boosts the bodies natural healing process.
For me, I have tried to eat the fruit. I have tried juicing the fruit even trying to mask it with other sweet fruits to hide the taste and smell. A friend told me that after time he got used to eating Noni right off the tree and he likes it. I figure that there are other fruits that have the same benefits that do not smell like rotting flesh or stinky feet so I will pass but really, you should give it a try and see how you feel about Noni fruit. (FYI - Noni is also sold in pill form for those who want the nutrition but cannot handle the smell)
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(above) Noni tree with a honey bee enjoying the flowers.
(left) Ripe, smelly noni fruit ready to be picked
Almendra / Almond is an edible nut grown on very large tropical trees. These trees are great for sitting under on very hot days as the shade them make is wonderful, just watch out for falling nuts.
These trees produce flowers that are both male and female in the same tree. The fruit turns from green to yellow and then to red when it is ripe. The outside red covering is soft and has to be removed to get to the hard shell inside. This shell needs to be cracked open to get to the single seed inside.
These seeds or nuts are not as big as the traditional cooking almond. These nuts are long and thin but they still taste great. You can purchase them along the streets and in shops in Dominican Republic. They usually are roasted and salted. If you go to Palinque Beach you can usually find someone always selling these nuts in small bags that they picked and roasted themselves to make their living.
Did you know? The locals say that if you soak the leaves in water you can put it on pet's to wash away fleas.
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(top left) Geen Almendra with the Caribbean Sea in the background.
(left) Ripe Almendra in the tree
(right) Roasted and packaged Almendra ready for eating.