Fruit.The fleshy part of the flowering plant. Flower tissue. Plant ovary. Oh yes, our sugary friend goes by many names… In Kigali we are blessed with an abundance of these nature-made seed-dispersing devices. And rather than going into more biological details on these magnificent sources of nutrition, joy, and pleasure, I will present the method through which to optimize your fruit-consumption experience. Parental Advisory:
Passion Fruit (Maracuja)
Puncture the leathery surface with your nail, and raise the maracuja — now quivering with delicious sourness — to your parted lips. You don’t need a knife, a spoon, or any other kind of tool to aid you as you devour it: as you suck out the content, simply tear the skin further apart with your face. For complete consumption, use your teeth to scrape off the last bits of brilliant yellow goo stuck to the inner surface. On those creative days, squirt the content into a bowl of plain yogurt and drizzle some droplets of golden Rwandan honey over it.
Take the round fruit in your hands and massage it; gently at first, then with more force, though be careful not to rip the smooth skin. When the fruit flesh inside is sufficiently mushy, penetrate the mango-skin with your teeth, and suck out the velvety content. Keep pushing the fruit flesh up through the hole with your fingers as you suck. When the mango is almost slurped up, finish it off by tearing apart the skin, and scraping the oval pit with your teeth. For days when mango in cube form seems more appropriate, try it with some pepper. It sounds weird, but so do a lot of other surprisingly satisfying things.
Lightly remove the peel, and hold the pale yellow fruit between your index finger and thumb. With your free hand break off a mouth-sized piece. Mash it between your tongue and pallet. Gently chew. Swallow. Continue this procedure until the entire banana is consumed. Feeling tired of plain bananas? Sprinkle some brown sugar and honey over them, wrap them in aluminum foil, and bake them in the oven until a crispy coating of crackling sweetness surrounds them. Best with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top of them.
Tree Tomato (Japanese Prune)
Ideally eaten without white clothes on (as the juice is darker than red wine), this burgundy oval-shaped fruit is one of my favorites. Similar to the passion fruit in terms of shape and content, this too can be eaten simply by sucking out the insides. For an invigorating sense of vampirism, however, scoop out the innards over some vanilla yogurt. Watch the blood-red juices trail across the dairy surface, forming puddles of glistening liquid. Then attack. Feel the black, slimy seeds pass your uvula; let the smooth yogurt mix with the sharp fruit juice on your tongue. When finished, lick the spoon.
As I am passionately against the English name for this fruit – pine-apple… ah, horrendously unimaginative, is it not? – I shall abstain from using it. The process of eating this bundle of invigorating delightfulness is of course the same regardless of what you call it. Take your longest, strongest knife and start cutting. Cut off the green spikes and the prickly skin; get rid of the hard black spots and the sinewy core. Off with it all! What you are left with is succulent pieces of pleasingly sour fruit. Eat with your fingers: that way, you still have a taste readily obtainable once the fruit itself gone. For an added sensation of sweetness, drizzle some salt over the moist fruit. Trust me.
The most satisfying part of eating a guava is in fact the process of getting your hands on it. It is a light-green colored little sphere hidden among the emerald leaves of the guava tree. Once located, forcefully pull them off their branch, and wash them in some water. Now, they are best once given some time to ripen on your kitchen counter, preferably until they are yellow, soft and ready to burst. …but who can wait for that long?!! If you, like me, have accepted your ineptitude for patience, and would rather give into your curiosity and hunger immediately, guavas still taste good unripe. Simply insert your thumb into the hard surface until you are able to rip the fruit in half, revealing the pale pink seeds in its interior. The unripe fruit can be quite dry, but fear not. Leave the seeds in our mouth, and simply spit them out once the taste has vanished.
Cut in half to facilitate the removal of the slimy black seeds in its interior. Papaya is virtually inedible without added acid. I can’t do it. Thus, squeeze a lime over the exposed fruit flesh before eating it. Bite off small portions of the indulgent epithelium while sucking in lightly to avoid spillage of the citrus juices. Have you tried papaya with lime and coriander (cilantro to you Americans)? Well, the next time you’re feeling experimental, please do.
Avoid the imported oranges, and try instead the green versions they grow locally. You might even have a tree in your garden. For a bitter tangy sensation, use your teeth to bite through the thick rind. Cautiously remove small sections of the rind at a time, biting into the tart fruit as you go. Alternate between biting, licking, sucking, and slurping. Before you know it, you are left with nothing but a spiral of orange rind (and a sticky face region).
Physalis (Cape Gooseberries)
not much depends
a yellow physalis berry
guarded from rain
beside the scrawny
…so why not just eat them without giving it further thought? In the markets they lay in yellow heaps, already freed from their paper-looking lantern protection. In nature, they are concealed, and so you must tear apart the brittle covering to reveal the glory within. On lonely nights, stab the little berries with a toothpick, dip them in melted chocolate, and feast upon them as though they were iron supplements.
…are hard, sour, and glossy. They look fake. They might give you cancer. Don’t eat them.
What the f*****ck… ? No, really. The lady at the market told me it was called Paw Paw, but after flicking through Google Images of this, I am uncertain of this. I shall refer to it as Cloud Fruit, I invite you to join me. Cloud Fruit. With a strong, sickly sweet smell it does put some off, and the milky white slime inside is most likely not a turn-on either. To add insult to injury, it tastes like…clouds. Oh! And before you go all: “Oh, and how would YOU know how a damned cloud tastes, you fruit-eating freak?!”, hear me out…: I KNOW, OK?!!! And until you’ve eaten a cloud, please refer from questioning my inexplicable wisdom. Eat it.