Thursday, January 20, 2011

FRUITS OF BRAZIL - Seriguela

For such a small fruit, the seriguela (Spondias purpurea )has an astonishing number of names - besides the most commonly-used seriguela, there's siriguela, ciriguela, ciruela in Portuguese, and in other languages we have jocote (Spanish) and red mombim, purple mombim, hog plum and sineguela (English), prunier d'Espagne, mombim rouge, cirouelle (French) and even Момби́н пурпу́рный in Russian. What it's called in Farsi I don't know!

The seriguela is a well-loved fruit in the northeastern part of Brazil, where I live, and when seriguela season rolls around in mid-summer (December to February south of the equator) I'm likely to have some in my fridge - as I do right now. The state of Ceará where I live, and in particular the semi-arid interior of that state is the largest seriguela-producing area in Brazil, although the market is largely restricted to Brazil's northeast - the fruit is not well known in other regions of the country.

This vitamin-packed fruit is a small and round or oval, with a yellow-orange skin that is often mottled with red. It's most commonly eaten as-is, raw, and that's the way I like it best. During the harvest season, vendors sell seriguelas from carts throughout the city, and at traffic lights, people sell net bags of seriguelas to drivers and passengers in the cars waiting for the light to change. I usually buy from these sellers, as I find buying fruit from them a refreshing way to hold off the army of squeegee kids that also populate busy intersections in Fortaleza.

I find that seriguelas keep best in the fridge, floating in cold water in a bowl. Every time one opens the door to the refrigerator there's an automatic excuse for popping a seriguela in the mouth, skin and all. The soft skin surrounds a not-too-sweet but very aromatic pulp that melts in the mouth and is very juicy. The flavor has hints of mango and cajá, which is not surprising as these three fruits are all from the same botanical family. In the center of the fruit is a single seed that takes up at least half of the volume of the fruit, but which is surprisingly light. I've never opened one, but I think the seeds must be hollow, they're so light.

Besides snacking and nibbling, other uses for seriguela are in fresh juice, and as a flavoring ingredient for ice creams and popsicles. But, for me, nothing beats a icy-cold, juicy seriguela "straight up." They're only available for a couple of months, and that's one more reason to gorge while the gorging is good.

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