As soon as you leave the big cities of Latin America and the Caribbean, you’ll find roadside stands with tropical fruits everywhere, allowing your family to stock up on favorite tropical fruits snacks. I call these “produce drive-thrus.” They’re so much healthier for us than the fast-food drive-thrus I grew up visiting in So. California.
You can either stay in your car and point to what you want or get out of the car and stretch your legs while examining all the healthy homegrown fruits, and those that act like vegetables. These drive-thrus make it so much easier to grab healthy snacks on the way to your sightseeing trips or on the way home to get dinner essentials, fresh from garden to table.
Favorite Tropical Fruits Disguised as Vegetables
Tropical Fruits: The Avocado Fruit
Avocados are possibly the largest of all the berries in the berry family! On my farm, we consider avocados to be our “second” meat, and we’re not even close to being vegetarians. They are anti-aging (as are all berries), flavorful, satisfying, and great for our overall health. We only need ½ an avocado per day to improve skin, hair, eyes, and brain functioning.
The avocado is the only choice for making a fabulous guacamole dip for chips. Simply cut a ripe avocado in half, around the seed, and carefully slice the flesh from its skin, then squeeze those pieces into a mixing bowl, mashing up larger pieces. Add & mix in ½ a diced onion, a minced garlic clove, a couple of dashes of lemon (or lime) juice, and extra virgin olive oil (a chopped ripe tomato – optional). Salt and pepper to taste, and wow! Grab the chips, or sliced carrots and celery stalks to dip.
You can also add guacamole dip to top off tacos, or nachos, and roll into burritos. But don’t stop there, you can add avocado slices into a sandwich, or omelets, or onto a breakfast plate of Huevos Rancheros (Ranch eggs on a tortilla with warm enchilada sauce). And add chunks of avocado to salads, or mash with lemon juice and salt to make a wonderfully healthy salad dressing.
Tropical Fruits: Cooking Oils
Considered on the list of foods that are “good” oils, from the tasty flesh of the Avocado to the pit (an enormous nutrient-dense seed), which is also processed into an oil.
It can help to insulate brain nerve endings for smooth, uninterrupted motor signals, a common neurological problem associated with seizure disorders, according to the Johns Hopkins Children’s Anti-Seizure diet regiment.
It has one of the highest smoke/burn-points of 500 degrees, as compared to coconut or olive oils and with lower smoke/burn thresholds of approximately 350 degrees.
Oils degrade after they reach their smoke-point and become aging, if not toxic. So, avocado oil is the healthiest cooking oil, and the only one I use for frying.
Grow your own avocado trees, as we have by simply planting the seed in a sunny location of your yard, or in a pot (to transplant, once it becomes bushy).
Keep it watered, and as it grows, splice it with a fruiting tree branch from another avocado tree, and in hot, sunny climates you’ll be growing your own fruit within a few years.
Tropical Fruits: Breadfruit
This large, green, bumpy, spikey-skinned monstrosity is a starchy food source that looks similar to a pineapple slice when cut widthwise, and when fried up tastes like fried potato, but doesn’t take as long to cook. Salt and pepper to taste. Breadfruit is always cooked, and it’s said to take the place of pasta, potatoes, rice, or any other starchy food called for in meal dishes.
Every part of the plant, from the tree trunk to the enormous leaves and even the spikey skin, can be used. Historically, this tree and its fruit were used to make furniture, string, paper, and many other necessary items, around the time the Polynesians brought Breadfruit to the Caribbean.
The Breadfruit is very rich in starch, carbohydrates, water, vitamin C, potassium, and zinc. Before being eaten, they are roasted, baked, fried, or boiled. When you cook the breadfruit it tastes somewhat like potato, or similar to fresh-baked bread. In reality, it takes the flavor of whatever you cook it with, so sometimes it’s prepared with coconut milk or with different kinds of meat. Excerpt from “Breadfruit in Belize“
Tropical Fruits: Garden Tomatoes
We do not associate tomatoes with tropical fruits, but they’re used worldwide, and extensively by Latin American and Mediterranean countries as a mainstay in their healthy diets.
Sauces, soups, stews, and spicy salsas demand an enormous supply of fresh tomatoes.
And while loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, cooked and/or processed tomatoes, especially Cherry Tomatoes, have the highest amounts of Lycopene (for skin and eyes) than in any other fruit or vegetable.
Quoting from Healthline Nutrition;
“Lycopene is one of the most abundant plant compounds in tomatoes. It’s found in the highest concentrations in tomato products, such as ketchup, juice, paste, and sauce.”
Whether tomatoes are cooked into pasta sauces, or prepared fresh and chunky for spicy salsas, our meals would be rather boring without this versatile veggie-fruit the Garden Tomato.
For tips on growing your own Tomatoes year-round, indoors or out, we devoted an entire chapter to them in my book “How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden” – chapter 6, on planting, soil prep, growing, and cooking with Tomatoes.
But for now, check out part one and three in this series here on TCI, and sign up for free to join the conversation.
by Cheri Majors, M.S.