Mexican cities usually have supermarkets in them, similar to ones you find in the U.S.A. or Europe. As far as fruits and vegetables go, supermarkets are good for your basics.
All Mexican cities will have an outdoor market or mercado, and that is where all our food fun begins. The wide variety of foods can be overwhelming. Instead of finding one type of banana you will have a choice of three varieties. And then there is that avocado the size of you thumb, what in the world do you do with that? What about the mushy rotting fruit that the old lady is selling? Who in the world ever heard of zapote? And what do we do with all the green leafy things, does everyone here own a rabbit?
After living in Mexico for 30 years I still go out my way find new things to try, waiting to find a new exotic food. I hope to introduce you to a few new veggies and fruits or identify ones you have eaten, and hopefully you will introduce me to few new ones too. There must thousands of new fruits and vegetables for us to discover.
Although this page is about fruits and vegetables, I will include grains, nuts etc... If it does not come from an animal or a bug it goes somewhere within the fruit and vegetable pages. Some plants that are medicinal will also be included as well. I am not going to include fruits and vegetable that are commonly available in the U.S. or Europe, so don't expect photos of cabbage, onions or potatoes.
The photo above is of friend of mine, Lupe, who has been so helpful to me in identifying the names of plants. Muchísimas gracias Lupita!
Almendra (Prunus serotina) is a type of almond native to North America. The fruit around the nut is bitter but can be eaten. Inside the fruit is a large shell that must be broken before one can get to the nut. Almendra trees are common in Mexico as they are hardy, grow fast and produce lots of shade. For a larger image of almendra click here.
Amaranth (Amaranthus) is called amaranto, quelite, quintoniles or alegría in Spanish and huautli in Nahuatl.[amaranth1] There are over sixty varieties of the genus (Amaranthus) with most being native to the Americas.[amaranth2] Amaranth has been consumed as long as 5000 to 7000 years ago.[amaranth3] The leaves are consumed as a vegetable and the seeds, sometimes ground into a flour, are also eaten. Below is an image of amaranth seeds, for a larger image of amaranth click here.
Prior to the Spanish conquest, amaranth was mixed with corn flour and honey or maguey syrup to make edible figurines, often of their gods (particularly Huitzilopochtli, the God of War and of the Sun) called tzoalli. Because of the plants religious significance among the indigenous, the Spaniards severely punished the growing to amaranth.[amaranth4]
Huauzontle is related to amaranth and is commonly eaten.
Annona are part of the flowering plant family Annonaceae. About a half a dozen types of annona produce edible fruits, sometimes called "custard apple" or "sugar apple" in English and "anona" in Spanish. Some types of annona (fruit or plant parts) are used in folk medicine.
Annona (Annona diversifolia) and (Annona squamosa) are native to Central America and southern Mexico. The fruit usually splits open when ripe, it will last in the refrigerator for a few days. The one below has a consistency of custard and has a citric/strawberry flavor. It can sometimes be found year round but is mostly available in rainy season (such as in September). The seeds are not to be eaten. For a larger image of annona click here and here for the image of the opened annona.
Guanábana or guanábano, both are correct in Spanish, (Annona muricata) is guanabana or soursop in English. Guanábana originates from Central and South America and now grows in tropical areas worldwide. The ripe fruit has a texture of a banana and has a slightly acidic taste to it. Guanábana is usually served as a fruit drink, smoothie or in ice cream. For a larger image of guanábana click here.
I have a guanábana tree growing in my backyard. Usually a possum will eat the fruit of my guanábana tree before I get it.
Arnica is spelled as árnica in Spanish. In Mexico there are various species of plants that go by the name of arnica, generally having yellow flowers and having medicinal uses. Arnica is used in liniment and ointment preparations for strains, sprains, and bruises. For a larger image of árnica click here.
Avocados (Persea americana) are called aguacates in Spanish and ahuacatl in Nahuatl.[avocado1] Avocados originate from the Americas and there are numerous varieties.
You never know what you are going to find while wandering around in the market, how about an avocado weighing over a half of a kilo (1 lb)? It tastes the same as normal sized avocados. For a larger image, click here.
Avocado leaves are called hojas de aguacates in Spanish. The leaves can be used either fresh or dried and are used as flavoring in beans and in a variety of salsas. Best to buy these leaves from a herbal store as some avocado leaves, such as Hass avocado leaves, are toxic to a variety of animals. Hojas de aguacates are also believed to have a wide variety of medicinal properties. For a larger image of avocado leaves click here.
Aguacate Criollo de Negrito are the smallest of the avocados I have seen, about three times the size of an american quarter as you can see in the photo. The skin is soft and can be eaten, kind of like an apple. For a larger image of aguacate criollo de negrito click here.
Hass avocados are the most common type of avocados. The thicker bumpier skin of the Hass avocado protects the fruit from bruising making it more profitable when being shipped. They are available year round. For a larger image of Hass avocados click here.
Aguacate de Mantequilla also known locally as Aguacate de San Gabriel (a town near Puerto Escondido Oaxaca) and sometimes as Aguacate de Chiapas, where this type of avocado is commonly grown. Aguacate de Mantequilla are know for their oily or butter like content (mantequilla is Spanish for butter.) For a larger image of Aguacate de Mantequilla click here.
Bananas and plantains are called plátanos in Spanish. Bananas originate from Southeast Asia and were introduced into Mexico during the colonial period. The most common type of bananas are Cavendish bananas however in Mexico there other varieties commonly to be found in markets.
Plátanos cavendish are the most common type of banana in Mexico and they are what you typically find in grocery stores in America, Europe and in Mexico. Click here for a larger image of plátano cavendish.
Plátanos dominicos are the size of a chubby finger and have a sweet flavor. The smaller size of plátanos dominicos makes it popular with those watching their weight. Click here for a larger image of plátano dominico.
Plátanos machos acquire their name from their long length which seems to remind some of a male penis. Plátanos machos are usually fried in Mexico. Click here for a larger image of plátano macho.
Plátanos manzanos are sweet and have an apple flavor. Click here for a larger image of plátano manzano.
Plátanos morados are sweeter and plumper than the cavendish bananas. Sadly they are harder to find, probably because they ripen faster giving the farmer less time to sell it before it spoils.
Plátanos peron has five sides andis a bit wider and less sweet than a cavendish banana. Plátanos peron bruise easily and have a short shelf life. Click here for a larger image of plátano peron.
Banana leaves are sold in the market and are used for cooking tamales. The leaves are not intended to be eaten. Click here for a larger image
Biznaga (Mamillaria spp.), Ferocactus in English, is used to make candy called biznaga dulce. Biznaga is mostly water, to make the candy, the water is squeezed out and replaced with concentrated sugar water. Biznaga dulce is used in the Three Kings cake or la rosca de reyes and in los chiles en nogada. Click here for a larger image of biznaga.
Cacao (Theobroma cacao) is cacaocuáhuitl in Nahuatl[cacao1] and cocoa in English, originates from Central and South America. Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards and into the colonial period the cacao bean was used as currency in Mexico and Central America. The fruit of the cacao can be eaten although it rarely is. Cacao beans are used to make chocolate and in making moles.
The first image below is of cacao beans just removed from their pod. Click here for a larger image. The second image is of roasted cacao. A kilo or 2.2 lbs of these beans will cost a little less than U.S. $5. Click here for a larger image.
The little white flower of cacao is known as rosita and is used in making tejate, a non-alcoholic drink made of maize, cacao, mamey seeds and cacao's little flower. Click here for a larger image.
Carambola (Averrhoa carambola) is spelled the same in Spanish and English. It also goes by the name fruta estrella in Spanish as will as "star fruit" in English. Carambola originates from Southeast Asia and now prospers throughout Central America. It has a sweet and citric flavor. For a larger image of carambola click here.[Carambola1]
Chayote (Sechium edule) is called chayotl in Nahuatl[chayote1] and chayote in Spanish and English. Chayote is a type of gourd native to North and South America. Usually chayote grows to the size of a baseball but they can grow to be over 2 kilos or roughly 2 lbs. In Mexico this bland tasting vegetable is often found in stews and soups. The first image is of chayote and the second image is of the less common chayote con espinas, chayote with spines, often the spiny variety can be found roasted in the market which is the really the best way to buy them, saves a lot of pain and trouble. For a larger image of chayote click here. For a larger image of chayote with spines click here.
The root of the chayote is tuberous and edible.
Chía (Salvia hispanica) is chia in English. Chia originates from Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua. It was cultivated from as early as 3,500 BCE.[chia1] Before the arrival of the Spaniards, chia was a basic part of the indigenous diet in Mesoamerica along with corn, beans and amaranth.[chia2] The oil of chia was also used as a paint (light brown) prior to the arrival of the Spanish.[chia3] For a larger image of chia click here.
Chia seeds come in a variety of colors, brown, gray, black, and white; the size of the seeds are 1.5 to 2 mm in length. They can be eaten raw or cooked, whole or ground up into a flour. When soaked in water they form a gel; a chia seed can absorb up to 12 times its weight in water.
Chia is used is fruit drinks, particulally with lime and chía and in some granola bars. It can be used to thicken soups, make puddings and also as a whole egg substitute in baking.
Ever wonder what the indigenous peoples used to wash their clothes before the arrival of the Spanish? If you are like me, I am sure you have pondered over this matter for countless hours. Along the coast of Oaxaca the indigenous used the berries of this vine, called chícayote de bejuco, the dried berries are slightly grounded up when used. I used some of the mixture on my hands and they did get a soapy feeling to them. Click here for a larger image of chícayote de bejuco.
Chipilín (Crotalaria longirostrata) also known as chepil and chepilin is native to Mexico. It is known to be rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, and beta carotene. Chipilín is usually served in soups and most commonly in tamales. Click here for a larger image of the chipilín plant. Click here for a larger image of chipilín flowers. Click here for a larger image of chipilín leaves.
Chamomile (American English) or Camomile (British English) or manzanilla in Spanish is usually used to make tea that helps relieve stress and and help one fall asleep. Camomile tea also is helps settle an upset stomach and treat moderate diarrhea. Camomile tea has a flavor similar to apples. Click here for a larger image.
Cilantro or coriander is cilantro in Spanish. Cilantro is used as garnish on many Mexican foods, it is also used in guacamole and in many salsas. Cilantro seeds are also ground up and used as a spice. 4 to 14% of people find that cilantro tastes like soap, it is a genetic.[cilantro1] For a larger image of cilantro click here.
Sometimes cilantro criollo can be found in the market. These were found in February. Most of the leaves are a different shape but there a few leaves that look similar to the standard type of cilantro. For a larger image of cilantro criollo click here. For a larger image of close-up view of cilantro criollo click here.
Cilantro espinos also known as cilantro de monte or culantro is sometimes found in the markets. The leaves feel like they have spines but they are just points on the leaf that will cook down without a problem. Four of these leaves will do when cooking beans. Cilantro espinos are also used when making chicken or beef soups. You might want to remove the leaves when done cooking, the leaves are thicker than normal cilantro leaves and easily get stuck between the teeth.
Cola de caballo (Equisetum sp.) is known as Horsetail in English. It is almost always available in our markets in Oaxaca. Cola de caballo, when used as a tea, can treat kidney infections.[cola1] In the Spanish colonial period it was used to clean pots and pans. Cola de caballo will cost you around 10 pesos or U.S. .50 cents. For a larger image of cola de caballo click here.
Cuajilote (Parmentiera aculeata) is also known as huachilote, platanillo and cuaxilotl in Nahuatl.[cuajilote1] Cuajilote is native to Mexico and Central America. The fruit and flowers of the tree are boiled or roasted for traditional medicines to treat kidney and respiratory problems.[cuajilote2] For a larger image of cuajilote click here. For a larger image of cuajilote in the graveyard click here. Cemeteries are a great place to look for medicinal plants, especially medicinal trees.
There are many types of cucumbers including this yellow cucumber which is called pepino amarillo or just pepino in Spanish. Cucumbers originate from South Asia. Pepino amarillo range is size from a large cucumber to a nerf football to football size and tastes like a cross between a pear and an apple. Pepino amarillo can be found in the markets in April, May and September. Sometimes cucumbers are blended into a fruit drink. For a larger image of pepino amarillo click here.
Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus undatus) is also known as pitahaya in English. In Spanish it is called pitahaya or fruta del dragón. Dragon Fruit originates from the Americas. The fruit can be found in July and August. It is not widely available and is expensive. One Dragon Fruit will cost 50 pesos or roughly U.S. $3.50 (July 2018). The colorful Dragon Fruit has a bland taste similar to that of a watermelon. The seeds are edible, the skin of the fruit is meant to be thrown away. Dragon Fruit comes in two colors, red or yellow. The fruit inside can either be ivory colored or red. The only ones I have found in Oaxaca are red with a ivory colored fruit inside. For a larger image click here.
Photos taken by Marc Wilkinson. I, the copyright holder, hereby publish these photos under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0).