It’s been a hot minute since I’ve had a random, never-seen-before, questionable looking fruit shoved in my face, but last night it happened again.
It was almost as if Carlos went out of his way to find me and ask me if I had ever had a zapote before.
“A za what?” I said
His eyes lit with excitement as he realized he would be the one to serve this gringa her first zapote ever.
And for good reason because it was so tasty. It was this tender, not-too-sweet fruit that tasted expensive and classy JUST like a fig yet soft and hearty like a cooked squash. I truly thought that I had seen and tasted all that there is to offer in Fila Naranjo after 16 months of living here, but this land is still full of surprises.
Mamón Chino aka Rambutan aka some sort of cousin of the Lychee
When I was just 13-years-old, I got my first job working at an Italian Restaurant right down the street from our home in cute little downtown Delafield, Wisconsin.
Coming from a family with a lot of people and not a lot of money, I always wanted a job so I could have my own cash in my own pocket; even if that meant working after school, on the weekends, and in between basketball and track practices.
It’s guayaba season here in Fila Naranjo, which means the trees are full of this fresh, delicious fruit and the grounds are covered in old, mushy, ripe guayabas that have matured and created a soft, slippery, fermented rug that covers all the land here in the beautiful mountains of Costa Rica.
Before coming to Fila Naranjo, I had never had a guayaba (guava) in my life. I had tasted guava juice, guava kombucha, guava flavored jellies and jams, but never had the real deal. Guava kombucha is one of my favorites, I love the floral, unique, semi-acidic flavor of guayaba so when I first spotted a guayaba tree here, I was stoked.
I plucked one straight from the tree in the middle of long, laborious day working at the finca and held it up to my nose for just a minute to breathe in the aroma. It was such a Peace Corps moment. Here I was, working in the fields alongside a group of local women and I stumble upon a fresh fruit tree. How cool is this?! This is why you’re here Tily, for these small beautiful organic moments. I embraced the moment so hard I took a seat under the guava tree and ate 4 guavas. Can you believe it?! Four.
After scarfing down my fill of guayabas, I headed back up to the other side of the finca to find a few ladies doing the same. But it was the weirdest thing, they were all pulling apart the fruit and throwing the middle seeded part onto the ground. I asked one of them if she was throwing out the middle because she didn’t like the texture of the seeds and then…I learned what gusano meant.
Gusano is the Spanish word for worm or maggot. When guayabas turn the slightest bit soft, fruit flies lay their eggs beneath the fruit’s skin and the maggots are born inside and feed on the fruit’s succulent flesh. Continue reading →
I love fruit. I LOOOVE fruit. And vegetables. And coffee. I love all things fresh, delicious, crunchy, soft, gooey, acidic, tart, earthy, juicy, fleshy (just for you papaya), bubbly, spicy…the list goes on. I love all the tastes and textures.
So when I got my site assignment for Fila Naranjo and read that it was a small coffee farming community in the mountains of Costa Rica my heart melted into a pool of dark chocolate fondue. Endless amounts of coffee? Fresh homegrown Costa Rican coffee? That was all I needed and all I wanted. It was enough to keep me satisfied for the next 2 years. I was happy…I was extática…with coffee.
But once I got to site, I discovered that the sweet, pure, fertile tierra of Fila Naranjo sprouted so much more than just the best coffee in the world. You name it, we got it. We’re like the expensive produce aisle in Whole Foods that everyone walks through but can’t commit to making a purchase. You might put that $6 exotic dragon fruit in your cart but you know you’re going to take it out once you get to the check-out and slip it behind the kombucha cooler.