Add Flair to Your Summertime Eating with These 3 Tropical Fruits
Jun 3, 2014
Long prized in Latin and Asian cultures, papayas, guavas and mangoes are sweet, juicy and refreshing on hot summer days. Packed with nutrients, these once exotic fruits are now available year-round. Give them a try this summer to add some tropical flair to your meals!
Christopher Columbus reputedly called papayas "fruit of the angels." With its juicy, sweet flesh and musky scent, it's no wonder the papaya has long captured imaginations (and appetites).
You might find two different varieties in your local grocery store: Mexican, which is long and heavy, and Hawaiian, which is pear-shaped and smaller than its Mexican cousins. Both are delicious, but the Hawaiian variety has a more intense flavor. Unripe papayas are bright green and turn yellow as they ripen. Ripe papayas will give slightly when squeezed. When choosing your papaya, don't be put off by bruising on the fruit -- it's normal and not an indication of quality.
Papayas are an excellent source of Vitamins A and C and soluble fiber. A unique enzyme called papain in papayas has a variety of medicinal uses, including as a digestive aid and to treat swelling and inflammation. The enzyme helps break down proteins, which is why it's also used as a meat tenderizer.
To eat a papaya, rinse well, slice in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. The seeds have a peppery flavor -- you can spread them out to dry and add them to salad dressings for added zing. The soft, buttery flesh of the papaya can be scooped out with a spoon or melon baller to add to fruit salads or smoothies. Or you can eat it from the skin with a spoon, with a squeeze of lemon. Can't wait for your papaya to ripen? You can make a delicious Thai green papaya salad with under ripe papayas.
Small and round or oval, these pastel-hued fruits are nutritional powerhouses. Guavas are high in fiber and contain about four times the Vitamin C as an orange.
When choosing a guava, remember that the softer the fruit, the sweeter it is. Unfortunately, guavas go bad quickly once they've reached this stage, so eat within one or two days.
Guavas can be eaten whole like an apple or sliced and added to salads. A popular drink in Mexico is guava (guayaba in Spanish) agua fresca. To make it, chop a guava and add one cup of the fruit to a blender along with one cup of water. Puree until smooth, and strain out any pulp or seeds with a mesh strainer. Sweeten to taste and serve over ice. This recipe also works well with other summer fruits like strawberries or watermelon. Add some basil or mint from your garden for a truly refreshing drink.
Available year-round and in six unique varieties, mangoes are quickly becoming a grocery store produce aisle staple. The rich, juicy flesh is high in Vitamins A and C as well as fiber and a host of other nutrients.
Color is not a good indication of ripeness in mangoes, but firmness is. Squeeze the mango gently; a ripe one will give slightly. Ripe mangoes will often have a rich, fruity scent at the stem ends. Do not refrigerate mangoes before they ripen. Once ripe, you can store whole mangoes in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Cutting a mango can seem like a puzzle the first time -- here's how to do it. Mangoes are delicious eaten as is, but their tangy flavor makes them an excellent addition to salads and seafood dishes. Try a grilled shrimp and mango salad topped with shredded coconut for a tropical weeknight dish.
Adding tropical fruits to your menu will add fun, variety and flair to your summertime eating—without any of the guilt!