Rasta tropical fruits are delicious and varied. From the unique tang of the June plum and intense sweetness of the stinking toe fruit, to the calmative effect of Soursop juice, they are not only delicious but have powerful medicinal qualities. If you live in a Tropical or sub-tropical climate you can grow some or all of these fruit trees. Due to the particularly dry tropical climate, of Caribbean islands the fruits tree ripen to an intense sweetness.
Ackee – Staple Rasta Tropical Fruits
Common name: Ackee
Botanical Name: Blighia sapida
Ackee is a one of the staple Rasta tropical fruits. It is the national fruit of Jamaica and was introduced to Jamaica in the eighteenth century from West Africa. It bears between January and March and June and August. Unripe ackee is poisonous and only fully ripened fruit are to be eaten. The edible portion is known as arilli and is white. When cooked it resembles scrambled eggs. Ackees are unique in that they are high in protein. Ackee and Saltfish is Jamaica’s national dish.
Breadfruit – Staple Rasta Tropical Fruit
Common name: Breadfruit
Botanical Name: Artocarpus altilis
Breadfruit is another one of the rasta tropical fruits from the fig family Moraceae. It is eaten as a staple food all around the tropical world. It is believed to be native to Asia and the seed was carried to the West Indies in the seventeen hundreds by foreign explorers. The Breadfruit is a fast growing evergreen 26m tree, When the fruit is in the green stage it is hard and inside is white, starchy and fibrous. When ripe the flesh is soft, creamy yellow coloured and fragrant. There are many varieties of Breadfruit. Like the Plantain, the breadfruit can be eaten ripe as a fruit or under-ripe as a vegetable. As a vegetable, it is baked or boiled. As a medicine, it is believed to lower blood pressure and relieve asthma.
Black Star Apple
Common name: Black Star Apple
Botanical Name: Chrysophyllum cainito
Black Star Apple is believed to be indigenous to Central America. It is an evergreen tree that can grow to a height of 8-30m. Star Apples must not be bitten into. The skin and rind are inedible. The ripe chilled fruit can be spooned out and eaten. In Jamaica, the flesh is often eaten with sour orange juice, a combination called “matrimony”; or it is mixed with orange juice, a little sugar, grated nutmeg and a spoonful of sherry and eaten as a dessert called “strawberries and cream”.
Common name: Cacao or Jamaican Chocolate
Botanical Name: Theobroma cacao
The Cacao is a small tropical evergreen tree to 25ft. The fruits or “beans” are produced in large angular capsules up to a foot long and four inches in diameter. The Beans or seeds range from twenty to forty per capsule and are about one inch across. After removal from the capsule, the beans are washed or fermented to remove the pulp. Chocolate is made from roasting grinding and sweetening the beans. Cacao is an important tropical rainforest species grown for the oil-rich seed to produce cocoa and cocoa butter. Cocoa seeds are a major cash crop in the tropical world. Over six hundred million pounds of beans are imported annually into the Americas from Africa and Sth America.
Common name: Cashew Nut
Botanical Name: Anacardium occidentale
Latin Americans and West Indians over the years have been most enthusiastic about the succulent cashew apple and have generally thrown the nut away or processed it crudely on a limited scale, except in Brazil, where there is a highly developed cashew nut processing industry, especially in Ceara. The apple and nut fall together when both are ripe and, in commercial nut plantations, it is most practical to twist off the nut and leave the apple on the ground for later grazing by cattle or pigs. But, where labour costs are very low, the apples may be gathered up and taken to markets or processing plants. In Goa, India, the apples are still trampled by foot to extract the juice for the locally famous distilled liquor, feni. In Brazil, great heaps are displayed by fruit vendors, and the juice is used as a fresh beverage and for wine. In the field, the fruits are picked up and chewed for refreshment, the juice swallowed, and the fibrous residue discarded. In the home and, in a limited way for commercial purposes, the cashew apples are preserved in syrup in glass jars. Fresh apples are highly perishable.
Common name:Five Star Fruit
Botanical Name: Averrhoa carambola
The Carambola is a slow growing, bushy, rounded deciduous tree to 9m. The showy fruit has then waxy orange-yellow skin and juicy crisp yellow flesh when fully ripe. It originated in Ceylon and the Moluccas and is cultivated throughout the world. There are some specimens of the tree in special collections in the Caribbean islands, Central America, tropical South America, and also in West Tropical Africa and Zanzibar. Several trees have been growing since 1935 at the Rehovoth Research Station in Israel. In many areas, it is grown more as an ornamental than for its fruits. There are 2 distinct classes of carambola–the smaller, very sour type, richly flavoured, with more oxalic acid; the larger, so-called “sweet” type, mild-flavoured, rather bland, with less oxalic acid. It will grow in tropical and subtropical climates. Ripe carambolas are eaten out-of-hand, sliced and served in salads, or used as a garnish on avocado or seafood. They are also cooked in puddings, tarts, stews and curries. In Malaya, they are often stewed with sugar and cloves, alone or combined with apples. The Chinese cook carambolas with fish. Thais boil the sliced green fruit with shrimp. Slightly underripe fruits are salted, pickled or made into jam or other preserves. In mainland China and in Taiwan, carambolas are sliced lengthwise and canned in syrup for export. In Queensland, the sweeter type is cooked green as a vegetable.
Common name: Spanish Lime
Botanical Name: Melicoccus bijugatus
The mamoncillo tree is a slow-growing attractive tree to 25m. It is native to Colombia, Venezuela, Margarita, French Guiana, Guyana and Surinam. A male and female tree are required for pollination. Peeled fruits are boiled to make delicious cold drinks or they can be eaten out of the hand tearing them open and squeezing into the mouth like a lychee. The flowers are extremely rich in nectar and hummingbirds and honeybees love them. The honey from the Guinep tree is dark in colour but has a good flavour. In Panama, the leaves are scattered to repel fleas.
Common name: Jackfruit
Botanical Name: Artocarpus heterophyllus
The Jackfruit is a beautiful stately evergreen tree to 21m. The “rind’ or exterior of the compound or aggregate fruit is green or yellow when ripe and composed of numerous hard, cone-like points attached to a thick and rubbery, pale yellow or whitish wall. The interior consists of large “bulbs” of yellow, banana-flavoured flesh, massed among narrow ribbons of thin, tough undeveloped perianths (or perigones), and a central, pithy core. The origin of Jackfruit is unknown. In the seventeen hundreds, some Jackfruit plants were captured from a French ship destined for Martinique and taken to Jamaica where they are now common. Thousands of acres are grown in Ceylon for timber but the fruit is a valuable and much-appreciated biproduct. Westerners generally will find the jackfruit most acceptable in the full-grown but unripe stage, when it has no objectionable odour and excels cooked green breadfruit and plantain. The fruit is simply cut into large chunks for cooking. The chunks are boiled in lightly salted water until tender, when the really delicious flesh is cut from the rind and served as a vegetable, including the seeds which, if thoroughly cooked, are mealy and agreeable. The chunks are boiled in lightly salted water until tender, when the really delicious flesh is cut from the rind and served as a vegetable, including the seeds which, if thoroughly cooked, are mealy and agreeable. It is said that Jackfruit has been banned from hotels due to an odour of vomit when overripe.
Jamaican June Plum
Common name: June Plum
Botanical Name: Spondias dulcis
June Plum or Ambarella as they are also known are members of the Neem Tree family, Anacardiaceae. It is a rapidly growing deciduous tree with compound pinnate leaves and can reach a height of 18m. Native to the South Sea Islands it was introduced to the West Indies from Hawaii by Captain Bligh. This tropical, subtropical tree can be grown from seed. If picked whilst firm it makes a delicious cold drink. Similar to applesauce, it has a richer flavour and cinnamon and other spices can be added to enhance it. In Indonesia, it is steamed and eaten as a vegetable with salt fish and rice.
Common name: Mammee
Botanical Name: Mammea americana
The Mammee Fruit is related to the Mangosteen and is from the botanical family Guttiferae. It is a handsome evergreen tree reaching 21m. The Mamey is native to the West Indies and northern Sth America. The flesh of the Mammee fruit is delicious raw alone or in fruit salads. It can be used in pies or tarts and seasoned with cinnamon and ginger. In Brazil, a wine is made from the fruit. In the Dominican Republic, a frozen sherbert is made from the uncooked flesh blended with sugar. This is one of the rare Rasta tropical fruits that need to be protected.
Common name: Naseberry
Botanical Name: Manilkara zapota
The Sapodilla is a slow-growing elegant tree growing to 18m. Its leaves are highly ornamental. It is believed to be native to Yucatan and Mexico. It is a highly prized fruit and there are huge plantations in India and Central America. Many different cultivars are grown. The ripe sapodilla preferably chilled is cut in half and eaten with a spoon. Care must be taken not to swallow the seed as it has a protruding hook that can lodge in the throat. They can be crushed and boiled and made into a syrup. The bark and leaves have medicinal qualities.
Common name: Otaheite Apple
Botanical Name: Syzygium malaccensis
The Malay Apple, as it is otherwise known, is a member of the Myrtaceae family. It is a tropical tree needing a humid climate with a rainfall of 152cm or more. It will germinate readily from seed. Captain blugh is thought to have brought three varieties of the small tree from Timor and Tahiti to Jamaica in the seventeen hundreds. The ripe fruit is eaten although it is a little flavourless. It can be stewed with cloves and served with cream for a dessert. The astringent bark is used in local remedies. In Hawaii, the flowers are sacred to the volcano goddess Pele.
Common name: Plantain
Botanical Name: Musa paradisiaca
Bananas are a large fleshy herb growing from a fleshy rhizome or corm. The suckers growing from the base can be used to generate new plants. The belong to the Musaceae or Banana family of plants. Bananas and Plantains are grown in humid tropical regions and are the fourth largest food crop in the world. World production is estimated at twenty eight million tons. Plantains like bananas can be boiled green as a starchy vegetable or left to ripen for a creamy sweet dessert. Plantains can be cut and fried into chips. Plantain flour can be made by leaving unripe plantains in the sun to dry and then pulverizing. In Ghana, the plantain is eaten at five different stages of ripeness. There are hundreds of recipes for Plantains. Dried green plantains have even been ground fine and roasted to make a substitute for coffee.
Common name: Pomegranate
Botanical Name: Punica granatum
The Pomegranate is an ancient tree originating from Iran to the Himalayas. It was praised in the Old Testament of the Bible and the Babylonian Talmud and it featured in Egyptian mythology and art. It has a long shelf life making it easy to store for long periods. It has become naturalized in Bermuda but is only occasionally seen in the West Indies. The juice is extracted for a delicious medicinal drink. Leaves, seeds, roots and bark are used in folk medicine. There are many varieties of Pomegranate.
Common name: Sea Grape
Botanical Name: Coccoloba uvifera
The Sea Grape is a small tree reaching 30 feet with stiff roundish leaves eight inches across. It is native to coastal shores of the American tropics. The little round fruits are .75inches in diameter and are borne in clusters. The fruits contain an edible pulp and have a single seed. The pulp is eaten but it also makes a good jelly. The fruit from native plants is harvested.
Common name: Soursop
Botanical Name: Annona muricata
The Soursop is a low branching, bushy tropical tree growing to 9m. It is usually grown from seed however it can be successfully grafted onto other Annona genus like custard apples with great success. The soursop will flower and fruit continuously but it has it’s principle seasons in different climates Least acid and fibrous soursops are cut in sections and the flesh is eaten with a spoon. Soursop drinks are very popular as a nerve tonic. In Brazil, these are known as champola and in Puerto Rico as carato. The seeded pulp is pressed in a sieve and squeezed in cheesecloth to extract rich creamy juice. This can then be beaten with milk or water and sweetened if necessary. The seeds are toxic. The pulverized seeds and a dedoction of the leaves can be used to kill head lice bedbugs and numerous other pests.
Common name: Stinking Toe
Botanical Name: Hymenaea courbaril
Stinking Toe is a large tree to 30m. As the name suggests it smells terrible but is a very sweet fruit. It is renowned as an important timber tree and is used in carpentry and shipbuilding. It is a very powerful medicinal plant and has many used in Jamaican folk medicine. The flowers are pollinated by bats.
Common name: Tahitian Lime
Botanical Name: Citrus latifolia
The origin of the Tahitian Lime is unknown. It could be a hybrid of the Mexican Lime and the Citron. There are a few named cultivars of the Tahitian Lime. It is hardier than the Mexican lime and is usually budded onto a rough bush lemon. The Tahitian Lime is used to make delicious drinks and cocktails in sauces and sweets or served with fish. It is large and full of juice.
Common name: Tamarind
Botanical Name: Tamarindus indica
Tamarind is a leguminous tree and is slow growing and long lived. It will reach a height of 30m at maturity. The flattish beanlike fruits are borne in abundance along the stems. The Tamarind is native to tropical Africa and is grown throughout Sudan. Tamarinds can be left on the tree for six months after maturity to reduce the moisture content to 20% or lower. The food used of Tamarind are many. Tender immature very sour pods are cooked as seasoning with rice, fish and meats in India. The fully grown, but still unripe fruits, called ‘swells’ in the Bahamas, are roasted in coals until they burst and the skin is peeled back and the sizzling pulp dipped in wood ashes and eaten. The fully ripe, fresh fruit is eaten out of hand by adults and children. Tamarind seeds have been used as emergency food. Roasted, soaked to remove the seed coat, then boiled or fried or groundd as a flour or starch. The flowers of the Tamarind attract bees and the honey is good. Tamarind twigs are used as Chew Sticks. The medicinal uses are uncountable. Some African tribes venerate the tamarind tree as sacred.
Common name: Tangerine
Botanical Name: Citrus reticulata var tangerine
The Tangerine comes into the Manderin classification of Citrus. Tangerine is usually confined to the types with red-orange skin. The Tangerine is a small tree and in old age can reach a height of 7.5m. Tangerines do not keep well and are best eaten straight off the tree. They can also be juiced. Mandarin essential oil and Petitgrain oil and tangerine oil, and their various tinctures and essences, are valued in perfume-manufacturing, particularly in the formulation of floral compounds and colognes. They are produced mostly in Italy, Sicily and Algiers.
West Indian Cherry
Common name: West Indian Cherry
Botanical Name: Malpighia punicifolia
The Barbados Cherry or Acerola Cherry as it is also called is a large bushy shrub or small tree to 6m. It is native to the Lesser Antilles and into Brazil becoming naturalized in the West Indies. They are very high in Vitamin C and is easy to grow. Ripe Acerola are fragile and will bruise easily. They are best eaten straight off the tree or made into a juice to treat a cold ora sore throat. When picking the fruit it is wise to wear gloves and a long shirt as the stinging hairs on the leaves can cause irritation.