by Stevie on February 19, 2010

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One of the things that I most enjoy while visiting Brazil is sampling tropical fruit. Naturally, they’ve got a huge variety to choose from and unlike here, it’s usually at its freshest, ripest and tastiest. I’m a huge fan of papaya, guava, starfruit and even cashew fruit. If I weren’t allergic, I’m sure that I’d adore pineapple, too. On our most recent visit, I wanted to try something more off the beaten track so I was amazed to find this peculiar fruit, jatobá, at one of the local supermarkets in São José dos Campos.

jatobá for sale at Carrefour

Jatobá is a weird looking thing. It comes in large dark colored pods that are quite hard. I literally needed to use a hammer to open them. They sort of rattled around when shaken, like a child’s percussion instrument.

The plant is native to the Amazon and according to various web sites that I looked at since returning home, it allegedly has some medicinal purposes. These same sites state that the fruit releases an “offensive oder.” Certainly that’s the first thing that we noticed when we cracked open these monster pods. Hegui thought that it smelled like “forest decomposition” though I think that he was being kind. His sister, Tinha, who has a lot of experience with and opinions about tropical fruit, says that jatobá’s awful. Well there you go.

taking out our frustration on jatobá

We didn’t really know anything much about evaluating the quality of the fruit. Were our samples ripe? Were they past their prime? Could we die from eating this?!

The interior of the pods contained these whitish-yellowish-grayish “fruit,” I guess you’d call the strange stuff. It was powdery on the edges but had a firm core. I got a book about tropical fruit that said that jatobá is supposed to look white, but ours weren’t quite like that. Does that mean they were too old?

I tried the powdery stuff and found it completely repulsive. It tasted rotten, yet, oddly, mildly sweet with a unique flavor somewhat akin to cashew fruit or maybe unripe papaya. Might it taste better picked right off the tree? Or perhaps the natives from the Amazon basin were repulsed by it too, and therefore concluded that it must be good for you, hence finding all of the medical uses for the dreadful thing. Ugh.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

tasteofbeirut March 3, 2010 at 4:00 pm

I think it was just rotten; too bad

Jonnie November 11, 2011 at 5:31 am

Are you kidding? Jatoba is fantastic! The smell is a little strange and kind of off putting at first, but once you discover how to use the fruit, the possibilities are endless. It’s wonderful in milkshakes and smoothies. If you grate it and then sift it, you’re left with a flour that can be used for baking delicious treats. You can also make a yummy spread for toast. If the fruit is a light green color it should be good, but if it has brownish spots on it, it’s no good. Next time, if there is a next time, just put it in a blender with some milk and sugar after grating it. Throw in a banana for good measure.

Heguiberto November 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I am willing to try it again and will prepare it the way suggest. Alas that will have to wait until I get down to Brazil again. I don’t think our whole foods carries this fruit 🙂
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