Hainan’s unusual, niche fruits - have you tried them all?

By Ding Xin / hicn.cn / Updated: 16:25,26-May-2021

The island of Hainan has all the popular varieties of tropical fruit you’d expect, mountains of coconuts, mangoes, pineapple, and litchi…. but once you start really exploring what’s available here, you will discover so much more to enjoy! Today, we are taking a look at a few of the unusual, niche fruits of Hainan.

Some of Hainan's fruits are common in the local area, but haven’t quite made it to the big time for one reason or another. These fruits, like red heart guava, sapodilla, and hardy banana seem to be niche, but they have won the hearts of many people because of their unique, wonderful flavors.

Guava Tree

Guava

Hainan’s local guava variety is relatively small in size, and the unripe fruits have a light green skin. Unripe, raw guavas taste quite sour and astringent. The fruit turns yellow and white when it is ripe, and mellows, turning tender and sweet. The red heart guava variety, with its cheerful hue, is quite popular in Hainan.

Red Heart Guava

Although guava fruit and pomegranate sound similar in Chinese, they are not botanical relatives at all. Guava (fānshíliu番石榴) is a member of the myrtle family, while pomegranate (shíliu石榴) is a member of the pomegranate family.  In Hainan, you can try ordering a special drink called salt red heart guava juice (lǎoyánhóngxīnfānshíliushuǐ老盐红心番石榴水). This icy, refreshing drink is a great way to relax and enjoy the flavor of red heart guava without worrying about the seeds!

Sapodilla

 Sapodilla

Sapodilla is called the Heart Fruit (rénxīnguǒ人心果) in Chinese, perhaps because when sliced in half, this sweet tropical fruit has a bit of a heart shape! The uncut fruit is oval and has brownish skin, which makes it look more similar to an egg or a faded kiwi.

This plant originated in southern Mexico to Central America and the West Indies, and was introduced to China at the beginning of the 20th century. The sapodilla is mostly cultivated in southern China these days.

In Hainan, some streets are lined with sapodilla trees, whose tall, leafy branches provide excellent shade. In the summer, tawny sapodilla fruit begin to peep out amongst the green leaves. Locals enjoy knocking a few down with a stick, and then burying the fruit in a rice bowl until they are perfectly soft and ripe.

Hardy Banana

Hardy banana

Musa basjoo, known as Hardy Banana, or bājiāo芭蕉  in Chinese, is often found growing in small, scattered groves in parks, fields, or in the wild. Their large, bright green leaves can be used in a pinch as a makeshift umbrella! From a distance, the aubergine-colored buds of this banana species look like upside-down lotus flowers hanging on the tree. The bananas are much smaller than their commercial cousins, and resemble thick, stubby fingers curled up into the shape of a Chinese lantern.

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