The Weirdest Fruit, Part I

Mystery Fruit: Guanaba

Hi, I'm Yoli, Community Moderator for KCET.org. I like food and want to learn about locally grown food, fresh ingredients, and interesting cuisines that can be found in Los Angeles. Come with me on this journey, and let's dig in together!

A couple of weeks ago an aunt of mine decided to host a family gathering at her house. Little did I know that this seemingly unremarkable family gathering would lead me on a culinary quest!

Story continues below

Once everyone showed up, my aunt said she had something to show us. She pointed to her counter and said, "Miren, tengo guanaba!" (Look, I have Guanaba!)

I looked, and it was the weirdest fruit I'd ever seen. It looked like a badly formed cactus, something akin to a fruit from space. I'd never seen anything like it. From the start it did NOT look appetizing. But everyone around me did not agree with my assessment. They were very excited about it, crowding around trying to grab the mysterious fruit.

"Where did you get it from?" my mother asked my aunt. "Can you get some for us too?"

I continued to stare at it from a distance, confused. Are you supposed to peel off the skin? How do you know when its ripe enough to eat? What if you let it sit for too long and it gets mushy, wait, are you supposed to let it get mushy? Can you eat it with limon y sal like you can with mangoes? I had many questions.

A close up of the mystery fruit.

I tried learning more about this guanaba from my aunt. She revealed to me that she got the fruit from a friend and that guanaba is a little hard to come by. This explained the reactions of some of my family members, some of whom had not eaten guanaba since leaving El Salvador.

All of this just raised even more questions for me. I've lived in Los Angeles my whole life (and Orange County for a couple of years). I've gone to all types of supermarkets, local markets and farmers markets, and I had never seen this fruit. I left my aunts house determined to not just learn about it, but to also find it.

A couple of days later I went to dinner with my sisters. We decided to eat some Costa Rican food. I opened the menu, and lo and behold, the green spiky fruit was on the menu!

The picture on the menu had the guanaba cut open in half, revealing a white interior with black seeds surrounding the stem. But Las Delicias Restaurant was not selling fresh guanaba, they were only selling a guanaba drink

A refreshing guanaba drink at Las Delicias

I showed my sisters the menu, pointing out the guanaba. But upon closer inspection, I noticed that on the menu it wasn't called guanaba, it was guanabana. Two names for the same fruit? The mystery of the mysterious fruit continued!

It turns out guanaba goes by many names, differing not just by language, but also by region. It is called soursop in the U.S., guanaba in El Salvador, guanabana in Mexico, catoche in Venezuela, corosol in Haiti, and thu-rian-khack in Thailand.

In my next post I'll tell you more of about this green fruit, but first, I'd love to hear from you! What do you call this fruit? Is it any good? More importantly, how do you eat it?