The Virgin Islands are home to a variety of tropical fruits. Coconuts are probably the first one that comes to mind for many of our visitors. Other common fruits are mango, papaya, guava and passion fruit. Some that may be new to you and worth trying are genip, soursop, sugar apple, figs, tamarind and sea grapes. Below is an introduction to a few of the fruits found in the Virgin Islands.
Mangos grow on an evergreen tree which bears a large number of fruit. The fleshy fruit is usually 5-6 inches and oval shaped. The skin is green and turns yellow, red or orange when ripe. Mango is used to make a variety of treats from drinks to ice-cream.
Soursops grow on small evergreen trees. They are a large, elongated, deep green fruit that can be up to a foot long and 6 inches wide. They usually weigh several pounds. The fruit is covered in small, soft, knobby spines. The green outer skin is easy cut when the fruit is ripe and inside is a delicious white creamy pulp with numerous (50-200) black seeds. Soursops are sweet and often used to make ice-cream.
Passion Fruit grows on a vine. The flowers are large and showy and turn into a tennis ball sized fruit. The non-edible outer shell is green and turns yellow or purple when ripe. Inside the shell are many small seeds in a sweet flesh. The flesh and seeds are edible. The fruit is highly fragrant and delicious. The flesh is used to make a passion fruit drink that is refreshing and sweet.
A ‘fig’ in the Virgin Islands is a small banana like fruit. The skin is yellow when ripe and it grows in huge bunches similar to bananas. The taste is sweeter than a banana. Certainly a yummy treat!
Coconuts grow on a coconut palm tree. The tree, which grows very well by the sea, bears single-seeded fruit or a coconut. Coconuts have a fibrous, green outer husk and a hard, brown inner shell which encloses a layer of white flesh and a milky water. Coconuts are sold by local street venders. The flesh is tasty and the water is also good to drink. Coconut is used to make tarts and candies. If you have an opportunity do try some of the local deserts made with coconut.
Genips grow on a large leafy tree. The trees grow wild and can be found along road sides and in forested areas of the Virgin Islands. The genip is a single seeded small green fruit. The green outer skin is not edible but inside there is a seed covered with a beige colored jelly-like flesh. The trick to eating the genip is to break the shell, pop the genip seed in your month and use your teeth to scrap the flesh off then throw the seed out. The flesh has a tangy taste.
Papayas grow on small un-branched tree. The soft wood trunk is crowned with several long stalks with green leaves. The fruit, which grows up to 12 inches long, are usually yellowish gold. The fruits are juicy but bland and considered very good for the body.
Star Fruit or Carambola
Star fruit are juicy, refreshing fruit. They are a pleasure to taste and are quite pretty. The fruit is greenish-yellow, about 3-6 inches long and has a star shape. The skin is edible. It has a mild, sweet, sub-acid flavor and can be eaten by cutting it into slices or like an apple by just holding it and biting into it.
Sea Grape is a berry that grows on small evergreen trees. They appear on hanging clusters of about 40 berries. Sea Grape trees are most commonly found along the sandy shore line on beaches. The berry is tougher than the ordinary grape and has one large seed as opposed to several small ones. They are in season during the late summer months (August-October). The fruit is a dark burgundy color when ripe and green when not ripe. You can find sea grapes on most beaches in the Virgin Islands. They have a sweet acidic taste.
Breadfruit grow on an evergreen tree. The tree can grow up to 60 feet tall. Breadfruit does not travel well and it is unusual to find them outside the tropics. The fruit is green, round or oblong and about 8-9 inches in diameter. The breadfruit is cooked and eaten, usually boiled in stews or soups or roasted.
Pomegranates grow on neat, rounded often spiny shrubs. The fruits are usually 2 to 4 inches in diameter with a tough, reddish skin. The interior is separated by a white, spongy, bitter tissue into small compartments. Each compartment is filled with a sweet, acidy, juicy, pinkish pulp and small seeds. The fruit has it’s origins in the Middle East.
Tamarinds grown on very large evergreen trees. The trees can be found on road sides and in forested areas of the Virgin Islands. The fruits are 4 to 6 inch pods which hang in clusters from a tree. The fruit starts out green and leathery. When ripe the shell is hard and thin. The edible brown, fuzzy flesh surrounds a non edible brown seed. The flesh is very tart; trying these will certainly make you pucker up. Many delicious drinks and candies are made with tamarind.
Pronounced [avohkahdoh]. Avocados grow on an evergreen tree. The pear shaped fruit is dark green. Inside there is a yellow-green edible flesh surrounding a single large seed. Avocado is enjoyed in the islands eaten alone, with bread, in a salad or with a meal.