Almost 95% of the Costa Rican population are of Spanish or Mestizo (mixed) heritage, heavily influencing the country's cooking style. Costa Rica's traditionally mild, not over-spiced cuisine usually features rice and beans, which are also the main ingredients in the national recipe, gallo pinto.
Costa Rica grows many exotic fruits. The bunches of bright vermilion fruits on the stem found at roadside stalls nationwide are pejibayes, teeny relatives of the coconut. You scoop out the boiled avocado-like flesh; its taste is commonly described as falling between that of a chestnut and that of a pumpkin. Not for me. The pejibaye palm (not to be confused with the pejibaye above) produces the palmito (heart of palm), used in salads.
Guayabas (guavas) come into season Sept.- Nov.; their pink fruit is used for jams and jellies. A smaller version finds its way into refrescos (see Drinks) and ice cream. The maranon, the fruit of the cashew, is also commonly used in refrescos. Mamones are little green spheres containing grapelike pulp. And those yellowish red, egg-size fruits are granadillas (passion fruit).
Most of the tropical fruits you'll find in stateside supermarkets were grown in Costa Rica. The sweetest and most succulent sandias (watermelons) come from the hot coastal regions. Be careful not to confuse them with the lookalike chiverre, whose "fruit" resembles spaghetti! Pina (pineapple) is common. So too are melon (cantaloupe) and mangos, whose larger versions are given the feminine gender, mangas, because of their size! Papayas come in two forms: the round, yellow-orange amarilla and the elongated, red-orange cacho. Moras (blackberries) are most commonly used for refrescos.
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This page modified January 2007
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