New world of tastes available at Mexican grocery stores

Mexican groceries are exciting places, with lots of fruits and vegetables we don’t commonly find in U.S. markets. I like to try new things, so I often select something I don’t recognize and ask a local how to prepare it.

Sometimes we like the new dish, and sometimes we wonder how they can eat it. I am sure they would feel the same way about some of our common fruits and vegetables.

I bought some yucca the other day. It’s a root vegetable that makes great chips if you fry it. You can also cook it and mash it, which I did, and serve it like mashed potatoes with gravy. It was well-received.

Mamey is a sweet, rich fruit. Mexicans use it to make smoothies and desserts. I peeled it, removed the seed and sliced it. We liked it, but it was almost too sweet. I think I’ll try using it in a smoothie next time.

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Nopal (cactus) is peeled, cooked and served in small pieces. I have not cooked any but have eaten it at restaurants. Not a lot of flavor, but interesting.

Chayote is a gourd that is prepared like a summer squash. It has been described as a cross between a cucumber and an apple. I tried one a few years ago, and it seemed very bland.

Plantain (looks like a banana, but it’s a vegetable). I peel it, slice it lengthwise then fry it in butter. Delicious with bacon and eggs for breakfast.

Tamarind is a leather pod that’s sweet and sour. Shown in the picture from our grocery with cinnamon and brown sugar cones.

Our grocery has many kinds of chilis, both fresh and dried. Some of the larger chilis like pablano and sweet peppers are not terribly hot. They say the smaller the chili, the hotter it is. We usually stick to the larger ones.

Jamaica is dried hibiscus flowers used to make tea. It is supposed to have many healthy qualities. I brewed some Jamaica tea, and it was very good; but the locals use a lot of sugar to sweeten it. They have bins of Jamaica at our grocery. Tastes a lot like Kool-Aid.

The fish selections on this island are incredible. However, I don’t buy fish at the grocery because I can usually buy it fresh off one of the fishing boats. Red snapper is common and delicious. We can also get grouper. Phil is allergic to shellfish (shrimp, lobster and crabs), so I avoid serving those. I do, however, order shellfish in restaurants here. Ceviche is very popular and very tasty.