Countries in tropical zones aren’t always as paradisiac as one could imagine. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Cuba, but this second visit to the island has opened my eyes to another truth: temperatures might be relatively stable all year round, but it’s climate is really volatile.
Last time I visited the island, back in October 2010, it was hurricane season and, as such, temperatures dropped significantly from one day to another and it was pouring so much that I had to get a cab to go to the office (which, by the way, was about a 50 meters walk from my hotel). Strong winds rushed through the city as a hurricane was approaching the east of the island.
This time, it was so hot I thought I would melt on the streets. Despite this, every afternoon was greeted with 10 minutes of heavy rain followed by a thunderstorm that would continue until right before dinner. Quite unstable, isn’t it?
But although tropical climates have this catastrophic downturn, there are some upturns as well – that is, the ability to grow fantastic fruits!
Disclaimer: There are many more upturns to cuban climate – or, say, tropical climates in general – but for the purpose of this post, I’ll only concentrate on what takes such an important part of my life: delicious food.
Watermelon – Mamey – Papaya
The Watermelon is originally from the south of Africa. How did it make all the way across the Atlantic Ocean? Given the country’s history, I would think it was introduced during the times of African work force, that had been introduced to Cuba by the Spaniards from early 16th century. The fruit thrives best in warm an humid climates that both, receive good sunshine and are well watered (sounds like Cuba, huh?).
Mamey is exotic and rare outside the growing regions, which is mainly Central America and the Caribbean. It has brown skin and a fleshy orange pulp that is really sweet – it’s actually a bit too sweet for my taste, but everyone else loves it, specially in milkshakes and smoothies!.
The Papaya, which looks very similar to Mamey, has a completely different taste – it’s soft, juicy with a very delicate sweet flavor that ends up a bit sour (in a good way). Cubans press fresh lime juice over it, to intensify its flavor.
Guayaba – Mango
Guayaba (Guava) is, personally, one of my favorites. From the outside, it looks like a pear (and it’s texture is also a bit grainy), but the taste is very different from what one expects it to be! The Guava is best to prepare jams and was my daily breakfast drink in Cuba (it contains a lot of vitamin C).
Mangos originally come from India, but frankly, I can’t imagine them tasting anything better than the ones I had this afternoon in the island. I wasn’t a fan of it before I ate it this last time, and I realized it was because I hadn’t tasted the real mangos. No fibers, pure taste, juicy, almost melting in my mouth… do I need to say more?
Chirimoya is another exotic food not so easy to find. This ancient Incan fruit was originally reserved for royalty. Its custard like flesh (which is why in english its called custard apple) is said to taste like a combination of all tropical fruits in one (my palate is not that delicate though). I love it.
Mango – Pineapple – Guayaba
Pineapple has a very refreshing taste, perfect for the summer. No wonder it is grown in hot climates! Comparing with what you may get in a supermarket in Switzerland, Cuban Pineapples are really sweet and juicy – no offense, Europe, but the Pineapples here just look like Pineapples, don’t taste like them!
Besides all these, we also had Plantains and Bananas, which account for over 70 percent of national production. Plantains are often used for delicious entries like tostones and plátano frito.