Fruits in Panama

Hi,

After visiting Panama for a few weeks, I did not get too many surprises, including thanks to the information provided on this forum. The country is fine in many aspects. I enjoyed it, but I will be negative here regarding the fruits. I was really disappointed on that topic. The quality is bad to excellent, and usually at least good, but the variety is really low. This is amazing, considering what could grow here.

Here is what can be found anywhere: pineapple (good to excellent, depending on the region), banana, orange, mandarin orange, grapefruit, lemon, passion fruit, papaya, avocado. Note that orange, mandarin orange and grapefruit are local versions, with low sugar but still tasty. They are cheap, also.

Once in a while, you will find naranjilla (mainly for juice) or tree tomato (excellent). Sometimes also mangos, but this is not the season and they do not taste well.

The following are available in supermarkets as imported fruits: grape, apple (from USA), pear and sometimes plum. Pretty expensive and of medium quality. In the supermarkets, you may sometimes find strawberries from Chiriqui.

Also, watermelon can be found, but not so good and pricy, because this is not the season. In just one place, I found soursop, which was very good even though this is not the season.

I think this is about it. And it seems that in another season, like in 6 months, it will not be that much better, with mangos and watermelons available, but probably some of the previously mentioned fruit unavailable. Can anyone from Panama confirm or not?

The good point is that many fruits come from a small, local producer. Many fruits must be organic.

Some people explained me that Panamanians are not fruit eaters, hence the low supply of fruits. This is true that the popular restaurants and part of the local cuisine do seem unhealthy, and it shows with the people--as a side note, it is incredible to see how essentially all women are overweight after say 30, and many men are; quite a shock compared to Europe.

What do you think about all this? Is it better in Costa Rica? or in Colombia? or in Ecuador?

P.S.: Thanks to kristc99 and her blog post blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2015/05/05/buying-fruits-and-vegetables/ I went there on my quest for fruits!

Oh cool, you visited my fruit guy friends down the road! Yes, it is true Panamanians eat a lot of beans, rice and root vegetables but not a lot of fruits and other vegetables. We are lucky here in Chiriqui that most of the produce is grown nearby and is available all the time. Fruits are definitely very seasonal. Bananas, pineapple, and papaya are always available but other things, depends on when you look. Mangoes, citrus (including a variety of types of "limons" lemons), momonchinos (can't remember the name in English, fruit similar to lychee), guaba (long bean pods with brown seeds and sweet white fruit), mangosteens, soursop, passion fruit and many other things that won't come to mind at the moment, or I don't know their names.... but if there is an abundance of something seasonal you'll see it for sale around town and at the local markets. Watermelons are becoming available in rainy season but they are definitely a whole other level of deliciousness in late summer which is their season. Mangoes also, much better in season when if you know where to look, you can just pick them up below trees. Oh, and also cashew apples (mariñon) in summer, and another fruit called mariñon corizon which is a totally different thing and fruits at various times, and nance, yellow fruit that looks like cherries but IMO strange flavor. It's like a quest of discovery here, finding fruit at markets, on trees as you travel around the area, or gifted by friends who give you something you've never seen before. Today I have dark green grapefruits that are supposed to be much sweeter than regular ones, a gift. We shall see... :D

Melon! Can’t forget them. I just cut up a really nice one. The grapefruits were as tart as any yellow ones but really really good, and seedless.

If you have a Riba Smith nearby, the Panama Organics brand may be available for limes, mangos, melons, cucumbers and some new crops coming from Simply Natural Farms located in Cocle province.  They are exporting a lot, but also dedicated to expanding their produce choices and supplying locally.

No RIba Smith in David or Chiriqui. I have heard rumors that one might be in the planning stages. Aren’t they more expensive though? I find produce is less expensive and fresher at the local markets unless you want something imported that they won’t have.

Just coming back from Riba Smith! This supermarket seems to be more expensive than the others I have seen (for the exact same products). But they also seem to have some products of a bit higher quality than in the other supermarkets I have seen so far. Compared to Romero/Rey/SuperBaru/..., it feels like a small step toward American/European standards. But the prices are so high for their original products!

Kristc99 is right that it is better to go to local markets for fruits, but in Panama City, it does not seem to be easy. The "best" is probably the huge Abastos market (primarily for professionals, but open to all), but it takes a lot of time to find the products and the variety (again!) is fairly low--the latter is always true, anywhere in Panama. I went there once and spent about 2 hours to look everywhere.

Back to Riba Smith. Regarding the vegetables, it looked pretty good, but I did not study in details. Regarding the fruits, it is not impressive as you will not find all the types of fruits you can find in Panama (which is already not impressive). For example, they had no watermelons or (I believe) local melons. I noticed they had many tree tomatoes, cacao pods and some very expansive grenadias (probably not local? I have never ever found local grenadias so far in Panama). Also, less original, they have a lot of imported grapes, fairly expansive.

I have seen rumors of Riba Smith coming to David. It would seem logical for them to wait until the new mall is built. Maybe then?

What are Grenadias? What does one do with cacao pods? They are grown here, mostly in Cuestra de Piedra area I am told, but I’ve never seen them for sale.

It will be interesting to see what goes on with the new David mall, and a Riba Smith would make sense. I read recently that 40 bus loads of people and numerous private cars were coming in from Nicaragua and Costa Rica to shop here this weekend (causing a pile up at the border) so maybe it will be well supported. Still though... it’s huge!

Regarding cacao pods, I am not sure. At least, you can eat the raw seeds, which are sold in European organic store nowadays.

Grenadias are like maracuyas (passion fruits), but sweeter. There are excellent and really should be grown and sold everywhere ! This is an illustration of my point that many fruits could grow and yet the variety is so low in practice...

I wonder if I have seen grenadias but didn’t realize what they were? The most interesting and unique fruits I have seen have usually been grown by individuals and shared. I guess I love the commonly available fruits enough that I’m easily pleased.

What you say about the Mercado de abastos in Panama city is almost true. It is huge. But they do have variety. It changes with the season and I've found veggies there that are nowhere to be found in the supermarkets. Kale for example. 1 $ for a huge amount. And this goes for a lot of vegetables and fruit.  But again: it depends on the season. Most of it is grown by small farmers and most of it is free of insecticides. Which cannot be said of the imported stuff. The farmers don't even have the money to spend on expensive chemical products.

I agree with Do65 that the fruits have the advantage to be local and probably organic or close. Regarding vegetables, I was not impressed by the variety, but I did not look for them.

Regarding the fruits, let us be objective. I made a list with every fruit I could find. It is possible I missed a few, but i really looked everywhere. Here is the list: pineapple, watermelon, melon, avocado, soursop (one or two shops only), coconut, banana, mango, papaya, mandarin orange, local orange, local grapefruit, lemon, guava (just in one or two shops), cashew apple (just in one shop), passion fruit, granadilla de Nicaragua (one shop; for juices only), tree tomato (one shop; and rotten).

Note that a few of these fruits are out of season, so not of good quality. The fruits in season are of good quality, no objection there. It is less variety than what you find a medium-size supermarket in Europe. If you consider quality and variety together, it might be arguable that this huge market could compare with the medium-size supermarket in Europe (because besides orange, mandarin orange, clementine, lemon, kiwi and maybe apple, pear and banana, the quality drops, in January--but you have 15 or 20 other fruits available), but this is not even clear!

Look what I found in one of our local markets today! A granadilla. It’s bigger than I thought it would be (husband’s hand for reference, and this was the smallest one). I am told to wait until it is ripe/yellow, and then it will make a wonderful drink. I’m also told seeds can be planted here, and it grows on a vine like passion fruit. The iguanas keep eating my passion fruit flowers so I may have the same problem with this, but we shall see.
You may not find all the fruits all the time, but if you keep your eyes open you can often find interesting new things. Now let’s see if this picture sharing feature works....

https://thepanamaadventure.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/a74fea97-ae58-4c27-894b-677c841e69d3.jpeg

Could anyone share information as to when Panamanian crops ripen?

I am intetested in developing a diet of locally grown foods.

Obviously, some items will be needed to supplement locally grown fruits, vegetables, and  grains; however, every time we "live locally", we do our part towards the environment and help to sustain local economies.

Best to all,
Robert

@kristc99 This is not exactly what is usually called granadilla in most parts of the world. Granadilla is smaller, can be opened just the one hand, and it is very good raw (it is like passion fruit, but sweeter; it is so good!). See https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passiflora_ligularis

What you show (thanks for the picture) is granadilla de Nicaragua (which must have other names too). I also was told the name "granadilla" for this fruit, but simplifying the name leads to confusion with the common granadilla. I tried to eat a granadilla de Nicaragua raw. It was too acidic. I was told it was used in juices, mixed with sweet fruits.

Thank you! I learn the most from talking with others. The link you shared is really helpful to see the fruit and how it is a bit different from the passion fruit that seems common here. Nicaragua ha! I had a time there since almost everything seems to have different names from what I’m used to. Thankfully pointing worked as well there as anywhere.

That depends on what crops and where you are. Down here in David, watermelon is the thing at the moment. Watch along the side of the roads and you’ll get an idea of what is ready at the time. A lot of people grow food so make friends with your neighbors and they can help you with what grows well in your area.

RT46 :

Could anyone share information as to when Panamanian crops ripen?

I am intetested in developing a diet of locally grown foods.

Obviously, some items will be needed to supplement locally grown fruits, vegetables, and  grains; however, every time we "live locally", we do our part towards the environment and help to sustain local economies.

Best to all,
Robert

Thanks Kris,

For months before my arrival (in mid-December), I always found your forum entries to be very helpful.

After I get settled in my new home east of the city, I would like to visit David and get a chance to meet you and your family.

I rented a fabulous house in Cerro Azul last Saturday.  Although I have not found the closest farmer's market yet, I want to discover everything I can about Panamanian agriculture.

The weather and temperatures up here in Cerro Azul are similar to Boquete; however, I do not see any farming here... only Melo, with their chicken houses.  The area will soon be served by Line 2 of the Metro and property values will displace what limited farming there is.

Again, I thank you for your reply to my forum question.

Best,
Robert

It would be fun to meet if you are in the area 😊
Boquete weather? You should be able to grow a lot, citrus, bananas, coffee? Probably most vegetables. I don’t remember pineapples and papayas,  it that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. And flowers, tons of gorgeous flowers. If you are in Facebook maybe search for the Boquete groups and I believe there is one for Panama gardening too.

there are many great fruits grown here like bananas i have 3 or 4 different types growing at my finca in cerro cama which has perfect weather for pretty much all fruit grown in panama .. i have 5 or 6 different lemon and lime trees as well so much that i have them year round

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