Fruits of the Season

By Ismael Charrouf
Feb. 8, 2018

Few things are more particular to time and place than the fruits we eat, especially when living without paved roads or refrigerators. 

Under these conditions, a change in weather foretells a change in diet. Soon new fruits will become available, as the year’s first cyclone looms over northern Madagascar, and the rainy season sputters to a slow start in the Deep South. Below is a sampling of the last fruits of the dry season, now made all the more exquisite by the short window of time left to enjoy them.

The baobab fruit.

Endemic to Madagascar, baobabs shed their leaves each year, revealing woody fruits on branches that look more like roots. Inside it’s bone-dry, with seeds coated in pulp so acidic it strips the enamel off your teeth. Hence, it’s best enjoyed diluted as baobade. Heat water until it boils, shut off the gas, dump the insides into the pot and leave overnight. Next morning you have milky juice and 40 seeds ready for the nursery. Bottle and store in a cool place. After three days, the result is a thirst-quenching beverage that tastes like a cross between lemon and coconut.

Mahabibo or cashew fruit.

Can you tell what this is? You may have guessed by the seed. It’s cashew.
Rich, creamy, and slightly sweet, it’s a topshelf nut in America. Few Americans, however, know it to be part of an edible fruit. Out here, no one eats the seed. With flesh unlike any other fruit, it’s a struggle to describe. A little sweet, it looks like banana Laffy Taffy, and feels almost rubbery. After eating a few, one’s throat may tighten, as if being poisoned.

Litchi Gasy.

'Litchi Gasy'
Not to be confused with its hairy relative Litchi Sinoa, Litchi Gasy fruits look reptilian. Their outer shells are soft enough to be broken between teeth, revealing the prize inside. As big as a large grape, and just as sweet, a white fleshy fruit surrounds a single black pit. Imported from the east coast, 171 km away, their price quadruples as you venture over the mountains and into the desert. Too many, too quickly, and the sugar rush will make you sick.

Manga karoty.

'Manga Karoty'
Known locally as carrot mango, this variety is the first of its family to ripen, and has been coming from Tulear, 421 km to the northwest, by the camion load. Picked green and firm, they arrive with hardly a bruise. Enjoyed at every level of ripeness, few fruits are as versatile. This one in particular was the ripest at market that day. It was sweet, soft, a little effervescent and almost alcoholic. The range of flavors and smells are complex and change everyday. Caught just in time, when the skins are green, but just starting to yellow near the stem, they leave the tangy aftertaste of orange-carrot juice on the tongue.