Our snack shelf. From left to right: garlic, cucumber and avocado you can recognize. The green things are sutsut, the yellow is grapefruit and the green thing in the corner is makot. The long thin one is sugar cane.
I keep coming back to the topic of food, but it takes up a disproportionate amount of my mental energy. I think about it a lot, in lots of forms. Everything from what can I pull out of the bush, to my garden to cooking island style or using the local ingredients to make whiteman food. I just like food.
The other day I looked over at my shelf and saw snacks. Then I realized that the snacks I saw I mostly didn’t know English names for. So, here is a run down of the things we munch on.
The more normal ones include mandarin oranges and sweet grapefruits. It is avocado season now, which is delicious.
We also eat sugar cane, which is less eating and more chewing and spitting out. To eat sugar cane, you peel the skin off with a knife then slice chunks of it off. You chew the chunks like gum until they lose flavor, then you spit them out and start with a new piece.
Passion fruit doesn’t seem to have a season, but it is always kind of hard to come by. It grows on a vine up in the bush. People tell me to mix it with sugar and water and make juice. I just like to eat it straight, though it does have an odd texture.
Makot looks like grapefruit but is not. It is a citrus, though not strongly citrus flavored. It tastes slightly like a sweet, mellow grapefruit with an almost spicy after taste. If you know the Celestial Seasonings “spice” teas, it has that kind of an after taste. So good. Made even better by not having seeds.
Naus or Barus is unlike anything I have eaten the fruit family before. It is hard, like a carrot hard, but slightly sweet. The skin is bitter, so you have to peel it off or smash it against a hard object to break it open. I’m no good at the smashing, though chucking it against my cement floor works pretty well. I told you, they are hard. The pit looks likes a cross between a tumbleweed and a caltrop.
Nakapol is not my favorite. People keep telling me it is sweet, but to me it has the consistency of boiled leather and only marginally more flavor. I eat it when I’m bored because it takes so long to chew.
They have something they call ceres, but that is the French name. They are sort of wild cherries, but not really. They are incredibly sweet, almost like cough syrup, and very small. The guys use them to wash the taste of kava out of their mouths if the kids leave any on the trees.
(only the flower, the fruit wasn’t in season)
Nakavika is currently out of season. It is called a Vanuatu apple, which I guess is accurate. The skin is red and the flesh is white. It has one giant pit in the center that rattles when it is ready to eat. It is sweeter than most fruits I’ve tasted and has a vaguely apple-like taste, though it is a lot softer and doesn’t give that satisfying crunch that apples do.
Ngai is a not that is a lot like an almond including the slight buttery or oily feel. These are among my favorites. Unfortunately, they have a season which is not now.
Nahvel is ready all the time, it just depends on the tree. These are crunchy and very slightly sweet. They can also be boiled or roasted. They get a bit greasy that way, but are still delicious.
Namambe has been called the Vanuatu chestnut. Raw, they are starchy and not too tasty, but boiled they are really good. If they are boiled long enough, they reminded me of a slightly crunchy potato. Apparently that’s about what their nutritional value is, too.
Natapoa is the tree most commonly used for building houses, but the nut from it is also edible. The husk on the nut is bright red and the nut itself is made of tons of thin layers that wrap around and around. They sell dried ones in Vila, which I’m trying to get my area to start exporting.
Cacao grows wild here. Though it takes a lot of work to make chocolate, it doesn’t take any work to cut a pod in half and suck on the seeds. They don’t taste like chocolate but they are sweet. They do have a texture roughly equivalent to snot, which puts some people off. I think they are tasty.
|Breadfruit is poked with a stick until it falls down|
Sour sop is another very sweet fruit that grows wild. The outside is green and spiky and the inside is white and very fibrous. To eat it, you peel strips of the fiber off and chew on them until they won’t choke you when you swallow. The wife of our country director makes amazing sour spo juice but running it through a blender.