Sunday, March 13, 2011
Níspero - Another Crazy Fruit
That looks like a ball of dirt, right? Well, it is not. It is a delicious fruit called a níspero. Some of you might remember my efforts to fall in love with the decidedly ugly zapote …twice.
I really, really wanted to give the zapote a chance, but our love was just not meant to be. Fortunately, the DR is one of those places where wild, delicious, tropical fruit literally falls out of the sky, lands at our feet and says, “Go ahead, enjoy!”
That’s how I learned about the níspero. There is a níspero tree at my office. Every day one of my colleagues will try to collect up the fallen ones before they get squished by the vehicles coming in for the day. Then, at lunch, we cut them open and enjoy.
I really thought that these must be related to a zapote. Despite the difference in size and shape, they both have a light brown, sandpaper-like exterior. And the seeds are also very similar. The níspero has more seeds and, of course, they’re smaller, but they look a lot alike.
However, where the differ is the taste. Níspero taste like cinnamon and vanilla and almost just like an oatmeal cookie. I promise! The texture is a bit like a cross between a pear and a plum. They’re super sweet and almost remind me of a fig in their richness – like one of those fruits that makes you feel like you’re indulging in a delectable dessert.
A bit of wikipedia research reveals that they are indeed related to the zapote. And, they’re also common in India and other parts of Latin America. In other Spanish speaking countries there are also called Sapodilla. The scientific name is Manilkara zapote.
Of course, I have been getting my fill of níspero for free up until this point, but I was on a work-related trip on Friday and decided to stop at a roadside stand and pick up some to take home. I really had (and have) no idea how much they should cost. A banana is 5 pesos at a fruit stand – I figure that price is pretty constant and can serve as a my guide. When I asked the guy how much for the níspero he said 150 pesos per dozen. That seemed a bit high for me. Bargaining is the norm here so I counter-offered. I thought maybe 10 pesos would be more reasonable – the fruit are seasonal and rarer than bananas and the poor guy was the last stand after several and probably wasn’t going to get much business. “120 for a dozen,” I said. He agreed. I did my bargaining. I got my níspero. That all felt pretty good.
But, today I saw this article in the New York Times. For those of you who travel – or live – abroad, this has some good tips on how to bargain and still help the poor fruit seller, trinket hawker or odds-and-ends dealer when you’re in an economically struggling country. Although I try to keep these things in mind anyway and, of course, you can’t expect to ever do this perfectly (there’s always a grey area), it’s good to have someone else’s perspective and a bit of a reminder about where our dollars, pesos and rupees go. Next time I’ll pay the 150 and ask him to give me 15 of these tasty níspero.