My grandfather was Spanish, he was born in Asturias. From the age of 17 he lived in Cuba without losing his roots. He always talked about the tropical fruits he ate at Caney. He would always remember this place. He discovered it upon his arrival at the wonderful island that welcomed him as a son.
You ask yourself what is the Caney? It is a cozy and picturesque town near the city of Santiago de Cuba. Today, not everyone on the Island knows this site. But they say it is, without a doubt, a paradise where you can find the best Cuban tropical fruits. It is said that it was in 1902 that the first two bizcochuelo mango trees sprouted in this fertile eastern region. They were planted by the Spaniard José Burgos on his farm. He had brought the seeds from the nearby island of Santo Domingo.
It seems that there were many favorable agents there: soil, humidity, peculiar temperature, and the attention of its people. All of these factors made this place famous. It became one of the best sites on the whole island where to find most delicious fruits. A few years later the trio Matamoros would immortalize the place by popularizing the song “Fruits of the Caney”, which has gained international fame. All these contributed to expansion of the well-deserved prestige of this place. Indeed, it was achieved thanks to its excellent bizcochuelo mangoes, the mameyes, zapotes and marañones harvested on fertile soil of the region.
Fruits: various and exquisite
In Cuba, there are many tropical fruits with sweet, natural, refreshing, unique and unmistakable flavors. They can be even distinguished from those grown in other Caribbean destinations. Cuba treasures diverse fruits, rich in vitamins, of unique taste and texture. On the island, fruits grow at different times of the year. Most of Cuba’s agricultural fruit production (60%) is made by farmers and members of a cooperative.
When you visit the island, you should definitely try fresh seasonal Cuban fruits. But even off season you can still take a delight in its exquisite taste as in Cuba they are frozen and are used in juices or sweets. Some are common in the Caribbean region, others are characteristic for certain areas within the island and barely known elsewhere.
During your visit to the magical island of the Caribbean try tropical fruits that we recommend you and take a delight in its nectars and aromas. Here I share with you some of the best known and other more exotic fruits.
Some of the most famous Cuban fruits
One of the most common and well-known fruits is guava. It is said to be originally from the island and has been mentioned since past times. The pineapple occupies a place of honor par excellence. It is considered as the queen of fruits and sovereign of the fields. The mango comes in the most varied forms. As a versatile and multifaceted fruit, always juicy, sweet, ripe or green, it is also eaten with sugar or with salt.
But these aren’t the only fruits common in Cuba, indeed there are many others. Some are better known and others are less common. Among the best-known ones there are a coveted coconut, grapefruit, mandarin orange, sweet orange, anoncillo, tamarind, frutabomba or papaya and plums. Among the not so well-known fruits you can find: mamey, chirimoya, anon, cashew, sour orange, manzano plantain, guanabana and loquat. There are so many other fruits that this list could be much longer.
Where can you find most delicious fruits when in Cuba?
On any street in Cuba, you can see small trucks or stalls where you can buy fresh and ripe fruits. All cultivated by farmers. Generally, you can get them at affordable prices and in Cuban pesos. It may happen that when the sellers notice that you are a tourist, they’ll try to put up the prices a little bit, but you can negotiate with them. Above all, at street markets you will always be able to interact with the most authentic Cubans. I can guarantee you that you’ll will get products of quality.
Many travelers prefer to stay during their trip at casas particulares (private accommodation). If you want to stay at Cuban homestays, you’ll be served some delicious fruits there. Normally, breakfasts include natural fruits and juices, called jugos there. Also at the hotels or in the restaurants you will see a sample of selected seasonal fruits.
There are things you can only find if you walk the streets. Only if you live in the houses of Cubans and if you search and ask questions, will you be able to try the way in which the fruits are commonly consumed on the island. Now I will share with you some peculiar ways in which fruits are consumed.
7 things to prepare with fruits
In Cuba fruits are nutritious, healthy and tasty, what more can you ask for?
Now I’ll show you 7 of the various forms of presentation or elaboration of some of the Cuban fruits. When you visit the island do not hesitate to ask for them. You will love its flavors!
The garapiña is a slightly fermented drink, made with the pineapple peel. It is preferably consumed very cold.
Champolas (basically a fruit-and-milk “smoothie”) is a generic way to consume some fruits. Among the most common is that of guanabana or anoncillo. It is prepared by removing the mass of the fruit. Then it is mixed with water to make it more fluid. Sugar is added to taste during preparation. One has the idea that sugar helps to separate the pulp from the seed. It is usually prepared at home and is drunk very cold.
Jugos: Juices can be made from the fruit pulp like mangos, pineapple or melon. The fruit can have a lot of fiber so it is liquefied by adding water. Then you can strain it to remove the excess of the annoying fiber. Although many prefer not to strain it. It can be made with fresh or frozen pulp. Of course, it’s always natural and the taste is delicious.
These can be prepared in varied ways. The fruits that are added depending on the time of year. Mango, orange, papaya, melon and some guava are usually used. There are those who prefer to put a light syrup as well. Others choose to add a slightly sweetened orange juice. Some just let the fruits release their natural juice by mixing them into regular cubes. Almost everyone agrees that the guava is very strong and steals all the flavor. Therefore, it’s said that it is better to put only a little piece of this fruit. The fruit cocktail is very refreshing. It is tradition to offer these to visitors.
Sweets in syrup
Another way to consume fruits in Cuba is in various sweets. The sweets in syrup have great prominence in the culinary of the island. Those made with guava are ones of the most precious and diverse. The most delicious are jams and guava shells (casquitos) in syrup.
Sweets in bars
Guava bars or “guava candies” are the most popular sweets, although they can be made from other fruits. They are prepared from the pulp of the ripe fruit. Add abundant sugar and cook until the thickness is adequate. They are cooled inside a bar-shaped mold. Then they are cut into flakes that can be eaten alone, with cheese or with biscuits and bread. There is an interesting story about this sweet, which I will mention in another article.
The coconut is a queen of fruits with which many varied recipes are made. You can eat its flesh in a totally natural way. You can also drink refreshing water from the very same fruit or in cocktails. You may also taste the most elaborate and exquisite candy or give it cosmetic use. Among the less known recipes for those who visit the island is the grated coconut sweet in syrup, hard coquito or sugary coquito. The latter, the caramelized coquito, is a recipe transmitted by word of mouth. Only some people have their magic to prepare it well and not everyone gets to learn it. It has a nice presentation. Its base is a sweet made from the mass of grated dry coconut. It is cooked with sugar until it is like a grit. Then, it’s kneaded still hot to form small balls. Then it’s let stand to harden. Once hardened they are passed through a caramel and placed on a greased tray to prevent them from sticking. It is a sweet with a very delicate presentation and an excellent flavor.
When you visit the beautiful Caribbean island, you will surely find some of these fruits and their preparations, but I also recommend you to eat them naturally, its flavors will take you for an unforgettable culinary journey!