Ask a Volunteer
Q: What are some of the unique fruits and vegetables available in your country of service that are not commonly seen in the United States?
A: Both Nicaragua and Ecuador are tropical climate areas and have a wide variety of fruits, many of which I have never seen nor know what they are called. The locals always have a fun time telling me the names of these new fruit. Most are very tasty and only a few look slightly odd with soft spines or a bright pink scaly skin. The interesting part about living in 2 different countries while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I have found that both countries have the same fruits but a whole different set of names for them. I do really enjoy trying all the good eats they have here in Ecuador.
Olenka Langen, Elementary Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Ecuador and Nicaragua
A: Ukraine's climate is much like Canada's or Northern America's and similar fruits and vegetables grow in its rich soil. However, one vegetable that is a staple of the springtime Ukrainian diet—but is uncommon in the U.S.—is sorrel (shchavel, in Ukrainian). Sorrel is a leafy-green vegetable that looks like spinach but has a much sharper taste. When chopped up and added to a soup of potatoes, onion, and rice garnished with hard-boiled egg and sour cream it makes green borshch. Ukraine is famous for its red, beet-based borshch, but green borshch is just as important to the cuisine. I just ate my first green borshch of 2011 in mid-April; it was a sign that spring had finally arrived.
Rebecca Bruening, English Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Ukraine
A: During mango season from December to March, I can get free, fresh mangos in 2 different varieties from trees right outside my house. Then March to June is guava season, and they are everywhere! Avocados are readily available and much cheaper than in the United States, about 20 cents for a big one.
Rebecca Commissaris, General Health Peace Corps Volunteer, Zambia
A: Beets! As I child I never liked them. Before coming to Ukraine I was indifferent. Now I am eating them in salads and soups. The national dish "borscht" is made from beets. If you have never had it, look up a borscht recipe online and try it out. You'll be surprised at how tasty beets can be.
Ricardo Ramirez, English Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Ukraine
A: As a health volunteer in Zambia, I have seen numerous exotic fruits and vegetables that are rarely seen in the U.S. For fruits, we have one called ngaingai in the local language—they grow on trees and resemble plums. There are fruits that grow inside large casings found on Baobab trees here that the locals are fond of; mangoes and papaya are also very common here in Zambia, but these can be easily found in the U.S. Several of the more common vegetables that are found here include rape which is in the mustard family, sweet potato leaves (known as kalembla in the local language called Nyanja), pumpkin leaves and Chinese cabbage. Okra, or dalele, is also very common here in Zambia.
Drew Woodward, General Health Peace Corps Volunteer, Zambia
A: Just about now in northern Benin, shea fruit is ready. Shea fruit come from the shea tree. The skin is green and not eaten; the inside is orange and is sweet. The nut in the fruit is used to make shea butter for soaps or can be eaten; it is also made into an oil that can be used in chocolates!
Kimberly Pfirrmann-Powell, Community Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Benin
A: In Nicaragua there is a wide variety of tropical fruits that are not commonly, or ever, seen in the United States. This can be attributed mostly to the difference in climates. It is much hotter in Nicaragua than in the U.S. and there is also a rainy season which lasts for six months the other six months being completely dry with no rain at all. Some common fruits are pithaya, calala and jocote. Pithaya is a bright magenta-colored fruit that grows off of a cactus-like plant. It is liquefied in a blender and drank as a juice with lime and lots of sugar. Calala is passion fruit. Jocote is small and yellow and its insides and seeds are very tart. They are also made into a juice with lots of sugar added. Jocotes are like small plums when they are ripe but they are also eaten with salt if they are not yet ripe. In Nicaragua, plantains, mangoes and avocadoes are also very common.
Carla Pellegrini, English Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Nicaragua
A: Pomegranate, or arruman (as it is known in Morocco), season is my favorite time of the year. With its ruby exterior and yellow skin (which incidentally is an excellent natural dye), it is a delight to behold but it's the tangy ruby seeds that capture my devotion. Safely cushioned in its spongy shell, these ruby gems are difficult to pry loose to devour and often times eating pomegranates leave me with yellow nails in the process, but this alien fruit is incomparable!
Peggy Chen, Business Management Peace Corps Volunteer, Morocco
A: Georgians like to say that when God delegated lands to the people of the world, they were too late and there was no land left. But, because they told God they were feasting in God's honor, they received a piece of Paradise. Across the country you can see not only familiar fruit trees like apples, grapes, mandarin oranges, and lemons, but also persimmons, pomegranates, figs, walnuts, and hazelnuts. And there is not a Georgian garden without tomatoes and cucumbers, served together with onions and parsley as a salad all summer. For the winter, those two are cooked and conserved with eggplant, peppers, and potatoes to make a hearty casserole-type dish called ajapsandali. These harvests create plentiful opportunities for Georgians to feast!
Paula Schmid, English Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Georgia
A: Some of the unique fruits and vegetables available here in Mali that are not commonly seen in the US are mangoes (7 different varieties), cashew fruits, guava, Baobab fruit, tamarind, papaya, shea fruit, bitter tomato, okra, cassava, and many, many more, but I don't know the names in English for any of them!
Owen Fitzgerald, Public Health & Sanitation Peace Corps Volunteer, Mali
A: I've been dialoguing and photographing this throughout my service, so thanks for asking! My home for the past 2 years has been the 4th largest island of Madagasikara, which is off the south-east coast of the African continent, and situated along the Tropic of Capricorn. This beautiful place has to be up there in varieties of fruits! Some of the more interesting include: vanilla, litchi, passion fruit, jackfruit, soursop, Chinese litchi, mangosteen, breadfruit, sugar apple/sweet sop, star fruit, cocoa, kola nut, loquat, guava, persimmon, longan, physalis, tamarind and a fruit called makoba Malagasy; I’m not sure of its name in English, but it is like an apple and a radish combined. More well-known tropical fruits that are available include coconut, avocado, mango, papaya, pineapple, oranges, mandarins, and 10 different types of bananas, all year long! I admit, I'm not sure how I will deal with the lack of fresh fruit when I return State-side this summer!
Jessica Cummings, General Health Peace Corps Volunteer, Madagascar
A: Macedonia has a similar climate to many states in the USA. Therefore, most of the fruits and vegetables found in Macedonia are also grown in the United States. The big difference is that produce in Macedonia is typically locally grown and sold immediately to consumers in open markets. There are a few unique fruits in Macedonia that Americans usually don't see, such as quince, used in homemade jams; medlar, a fruit that tastes best when it is overripe; and a white berry that looks like a raspberry but is much sweeter in taste. All the produce grown in Macedonia is delicious and ideal for cooking healthy, fresh meals!
Kerry Plath, Elementary Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Macedonia
Return to newsletter