Saturday, November 18, 2017

Dominican super fruits - 5th edition

Dominican super fruits - 5th editionContinuing with our series on Dominican super fruits, these two entries are amazing for its multiple uses. Enjoy popping some sea grapes in your mouth while lingering in the languid shade of the sea grape tree with the sea lapping at your feet. Or drink a refreshing tamarind juice, a popular drink in the Dominican Republic.




Sea Grape or Uva de Playa
Sea grape tree close to shoreOn beaches around the Dominican Republic you will often see short stubby trees with dark green big leaves that have a reddish-colored primary vein extending from the base. Often they will also have clusters of grape-like fruit. This is the sea grape tree, which is extremely hardy, wind resistant, tolerant of salt and loves being in the full sun. They help prevent erosion and provide much welcome shade on coastlines. They are also great trees to climb in when you are a kid.

The fruit
The fruit itself is mostly seed. When ripe at the end of summer they tend to be of a mauve color and despite the fact that they have little flesh they are still a refreshing and nutritious beach snack.

The good stuff inside
The nutritional value of sea grapes is thought to be similar to other purple grapes, being rich in copper, iron, potassium and manganese. They are also a good source of vitamins A, B, C, K and beta carotene.

Other uses
The fruit can also be used to make jelly or wine. Bees love the flowers of this tree, which yield abundant nectar. The honey made with these flowers tends to be of good quality, light amber in color, and spicy. A gum or resin from the bark has been used for throat ailments and the roots used to treat dysentery. Boiling the wood yields a red dye. The tree also seems to lend itself well to bonsai growing.

Tamarind hanging from the tamarind treeTamarind
The tamarind tree originates from East Africa but can now be found in much of tropical Asia and Latin America, including the Dominican Republic. This very large evergreen tree has long, heavy drooping branches and dense foliage. It often grows along roads. Each season the tree bears an abundant amount of curved partially dried fruit pods. These basically look like huge, brown, overly mature green beans.

The fruit
Inside the fruit pods are eight to ten seeds covered in a sticky, fleshy, juicy pulp. This is where the nutrition and taste reside! It is both sweet and sour in taste, and people tend to either immediately like it or have a natural disposition against it.

How to eat it
It can be consumed as a raw fruit, added to desserts once it is fully ripe, or it can be dried and ground into a spice. It is often used in jams and sauces, and is even dried and processed into candy in some parts of the world. It is a normal ingredient in soups and various dishes throughout Asia and South America, owing to the wealth of health benefits this unassuming little seed pod contains.

The good stuff inside
Tamarind has significant levels of vitamin C, as well as vitamin E, B vitamins, calcium, iron, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. There are also a number of organic compounds that make tamarind a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. In foods and beverages, tamarind is used as flavoring, with most famously giving the distinct taste in Asian chutneys and curries.

Medicinal uses
As with most ancient foods, tamarind has a long history of medicinal uses. Most commonly, people take tamarind to deal with constipation, liver and gallbladder problems, as well as stomach disorders. It is also used to treat colds and fever. Women sometimes use tamarind to treat pregnancy-related nausea. It is also given to children to treat intestinal worms. When nothing else is available a thick paste of tamarind seeds can be used as a cast for broken bones.

A word of caution
Tamarind is known to lower blood pressure and is a blood thinner, so it can be difficult to reduce bleeding in case something happens. If you are taking aspirin or other blood thinners, be careful if you ingest an excessive amount of tamarind.

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