Thursday, October 29, 2009

Everything you wanted to know about the cajá...


In the Flavors of Brazil video tour of Fortaleza's central market many exotic tropical fruits were featured, including one called cajá. One of this blog's readers was intrigued by this apparently unknown fruit, and asked me to describe its taste. Trying to formulate a verbal description of any taste is a formidable task, but I thought I'd give it a try. Which led me to doing some research on this fruit, which led me to this post. Everything you wanted to know about the cajá, but were afraid to ask.

When I'd checked the internet casually for an English name for the cajá recently, I didn't find one, and so assumed that one didn't exist. Bad assumption! In doing more detailed research, I found the botanical name of the tree on which the cajá grows - Spondias mombin. Checking the botanical literature for this tree, I discovered that there is indeed an English name for this fruit, though not a very pretty one, I fear. Throughout most of the English-speaking Caribbean and West Africa, it's called the "hog plum". For what reason, I do not know.


The cajá is a tree-fruit, and one of the problems in commercial cultivation is the height of the tree - often more than 100 ft. (30 m). Nonetheless, it's extensively cultivated and highly appreciated in Brazil, particularly in the Northeast and in the state of Bahia. The fruit itself is about 5 cm. (2 in.) in length, and has a leathery skin, a thin layer of pulp, and a large, hard pit. Cajá is most often processed than eaten raw, and is valued as juice, jelly, and flavoring for ice cream, yogurt, etc. One of the most delicious ways to sample cajá is in a caipifruta, an alcoholic drink derived from the caipirinha. A recipe can be found in this post.

The only remaining task for this post now is the description of the taste of cajá. I've struggled mightly to try to think of how to describe it, and the best that I've been able to come up with is this - it's like a combination of apricot and mango (with a slightly resiny taste), but with jacked-up acidity, like a mild passionfruit. Don't know if that is sufficient, but I do know that even typing the description has made my mouth water. Cajá is exquisite, and any description beggars the task. 


6 comments:

  1. Thank you so much James! I can't wait to try this fruit one day when I visit Brazil!! :)
    I just googled it and it turns out there is a relative of the fruit here in Australia that I have tried once before - the 'ambarella' or 'great hog plum'(spondias cytherea)http://www.marketfresh.com.au/produce_guide/product.asp?ID=5
    Next time I see it I will try making it into a caipifruta! Thank you!! :)

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  2. Glad you were able to source the cousin of the caja in Australia, Nina! Enjoy the caipifruta... (Can you get cachaca in Australia? In Canada it's difficult to find, and expensive. Here in Brazil, a litre costs about $3 Canadian.

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  5. I just had some cajá juice today and I completely agree with your taste description! Immediately I tasted something similar to a mix of mango and passionfruit. Thanks for the interesting post! I came across your blog as I was searching for the English name of cajá myself!

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