Friday, 20 December 2013

Food Challenge: What is this Purple Neotropical Fruit?

Readers, here is our second food challenge: what are the round purple fruits pictured above in the foreground? 

Please tell us what you think this fruit is by writing your guesses in the comments section at the bottom of this blog post. If you have tasted this fruit, please include where you ate it and what it tasted like. But, before you guess, I'll give you some more information. 

This purple fruit is found all over the globe even though it is native to the American tropics. Although the exact origin of this species has not been reported, it appears to be native to southern Central America. Because this fruit is widely culitvated by humans, botanists refer to it as semi-domesticated, meaning the plants humans cultivate are very similar genetically to their wild plant relatives. 

But, you don't need to be a botanist to know what this fruit is. If you have visited a tropical country, I'm sure you have seen it. Here is a list of some areas where you can find this fruit: The Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobagao, Haiti, Jamaica, Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, French Guiana, Peru, Bolivia, Vietnam, India, and Singapore. 

Eating this fruit is an art. People have developed unique ways to prepare it to avoid biting into its skin. This is because the skin produces a sticky and bitter white liquid that should not be eaten. I have only eaten the flesh of this fruit but people have reported that the bark of this fruit tree can also be used as a medicine.  

Readers, with this information in mind, can you identify this fruit? 


  1. This is clearly a grape. What do I win?

  2. I feel silly that I don't know what that is! Is it some kind of Sapotaceae?

  3. Good guess! The fruit in the photo does resemble a large grape, such as the muscadine grape. However, the tropical fruit in the photo is native to Tropical America and the species the grape was domesticated from is native to the Near East.

  4. Hi Jessie, Thanks for commenting. Yes, this fruit tree is a species from the Sapotaceae family. What information clued you in to this plant family? Was it was the information about the white liquid (latex) present in these fruits?

    Now that we have narrowed it down to the plant family, do you have another guess?

  5. Based on the huge clue, my guess is Chrysophyllum cainito. What fun!

  6. Excellent guess Les! The purple variety of passion fruit looks a lot like the fruit in this picture. I can also see why passion fruit comes to mind because the yellow fruit behind the purple fruit (in the picture) is a variety of passion fruit, so this was tricky (here is a visual of both passion fruit varieties Also, your guess was a right on because passion fruit is grown in many, if not all, the countries I mentioned.

    The reasons why this is not passion fruit are: 1) passion fruit does not have sticky white liquid in its fruits (latex) and 2) the passion fruit grows on a vine and not a tree like this mystery fruit does. The answer to this puzzle was provided below by Abe Lloyd below who guessed it was the Star Apple, a.k.a. caimito in many Latin American countries.

    Thanks for guessing. I was only familiar with the yellow variety of passion fruit before today and your guess led me to some new information. Out of curiosity, where have you seen/eaten passion fruit?

  7. You got it! Chrysophyllum cainito also known as Star Apple, Milk Fruit, or Caimito where I do my research.

    Thanks for guessing. Out of curiosity, where have you encountered/tasted this fruit?

    I first tasted this not so sweet but succulent fruit in the Caribbean of Costa Rica. I recently visited that same area, but, unfortunately, caimito was not in season!

  8. I think I was standing in my kitchen at the time...
    Kidding. I have had it only once or twice and only in restaurants. I'd never seen the actual fruit, but had been told it came in a purple skin that wasn't eaten - I didn't know there were other colours of passioin fruit.

  9. Great food dish. Cookscape