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 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.
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.