As a Brazilian-American, I’m never quite sure if I fit into the “Hispanic” category. After all, Brazilians don’t speak Spanish, and on forms, sometimes we’re considered included in the group, and sometimes we’re not. But I have made the decision to include myself in Hispanic Heritage Month, which starts on September 15th, because it’s just too fun not to!
To celebrate, I thought I’d share some information about a few traditionally Latin American fruits and vegetables that you may be able to find at your local farmer’s market and what you can do with them.
Jicama – This traditional Mexican snack looks a little like a turnip, but don’t let that discourage you! It’s a super yummy, crispy, sweet vegetable that you can add to salads, salsas, and veggie platters, but perhaps my favorite way to eat it is to cut it up into French fry-like strips, sprinkle on some salt, and squeeze a little lime on top. Some people even add chili powder for some added spice! If you haven’t had it before, I recommend trying it this way first to get a sense of the flavor, and then you can be creative and find ways to incorporate it into other dishes.
Plantains – I love getting fried plantains at Cuban restaurants! What a delicious side dish or dessert. And honestly, it’s super easy to make yourself. Simply fry banana halves in some olive oil until brown and tender. Or you can slice the bananas, sprinkle on some brown sugar, and sauté them in butter and peanut oil until they have caramelized.
Yucca – My grandma in Brazil (my vovó) used to make some delicious fried Yucca. It turns out many other South American countries make this dish as well. If you like French fries, you’ll like these! Boil one yucca for 45 – 50 minutes or until it is very soft. After it cools, remove the outer skin as well as the cord in the middle. Chop it up into thick “French fries.” (Think steak cut – or even larger!) Next, heat about four tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Once it is nice and hot, add the yucca “fries” and sprinkle on a little sea salt to taste. Lightly brown the yucca (roughly 3 – 4 minutes for each side.) Place the yucca on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Then enjoy!
Guava – This is one under-utilized fruit! You can eat it like you would an apple. The outer skin adds a slightly bitter counterpart to the sweet pulp. It also makes a delicious juice. Just put the pulp of the fruit through a blender or fruit processor and use a sieve to remove any seeds. In the Caribbean, it is often used to make a delicious mousse, and you can also add it if you are making a jam. Another exotic way to use the guava? Add pieces to your favorite salsa recipe!
Photo Credit – Eliazar