Tropical Fruits You Can Find in Sri Lanka

Tropical Fruits You Can Find in Sri Lanka

Recently, we were passing by the makeshift stalls covered by piles and piles of rambutan, mangosteen and duriyan on Havelock Road, and wondered why we haven’t written anything about the glorious amount of tropical fruit available in our island. So here we are, writing about fruits. This is not a comprehensive list of fruits in Sri Lanka. We are trying to tell you a little bit about what kind of fruits you can expect to find on this beautiful island.

Bananas

We might actually be renamed as the banana nation (we actually are!!!) due to the vast number of banana varieties available in Sri Lanka. The island actually calls home to 29 varieties of bananas. Out of the 29, you are most likely to see 3-5 types of bananas every day. Ambul is one of my favourite types of bananas, and it has a strong smell. It’s slender, covered in a thin skin, and tastes souvery-sweet. The hints of sourness balance perfectly with the wonderful sweetness. Remember, they are dainty, slender, so you can easily spot them. Although I love ambul, I cannot eat more than 2-3 at once. In Ayurveda, we believe that ambul banana has a ‘cooling’ effect, and thus, you may believe it’s the reason I get sore throat, or phlegm after eating too many ambul bananas.

I’ll admit I dislike seeni bananas. Seeni in Sinhala means sugar, and seeni bananas are the sweetest kind of bananas you’ll find. When ripe, it’s disticnlty sweet. They are as petite as ambul, but has a more round shape compared to ambul bananas. And then there is kolikuttu. It’s my favorute kind of banana. Kolikuttu is the celebs in Sri Lankan banana world – they are the choice for religious offerings, festivals, party desserts and every formal gathering. Think of visiting relatives. No one would buy petite seeni bananas, but would go for the stout, fleshy brothers – kolikuttu. They are also some of the most expensive types of bananas around.

If you see, long, slender bananas, they are probably anamalu. Everyone loves anamalu. Even when they are ripe, they have a green-coloured skin with a light yellow tinge, and the soft flesh inside is blessed with a wonderful sour-sweet taste. There are 25 more types of bananas. Some others are, embon, suvandel, and puwalu.

Rambutan

 

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From May till August, piles of red and yellow rambutan are displayed, neatly stacked one upon another on roadside stalls. When we were schoolchildren, we learnt that rambutan grows abundantly in a region called Malwana in Gampaha District, just north of Colombo. However, rambutan now grows in lower wetlands of Sri Lanka as well. Think of Kegalle District. In school, I had a friend who hailed from Yatiyanthota in Kegalle District, and during the season, the rambutan trees at their backyard were covered with orange-red bulb-like local rambutan.

Malwana rambutan is believed to be a hybrid version of the famous Malaysian rambutan and the skin is pure red in colour. They occupy a higher price in the market. The flesh is thicker, and can easily be removed from the large seed. Rambutan has a beautiful flavour, and I and Nathan could easily finish a bag of rambutan in a few minutes. Nathan says they taste similar to lychee.

This oval-shaped tropical gloriousness has bristles in its skin. Orange-red local cousins are sourer, and does not easily detach from the woody seed. They are also smaller in size. If you spot yellow ones, they are mostly from Malaysia, and street vendors would enthusiastically scream, in words cliched, “Malaysian Rambutan, kaala balala ganna” (try before you buy).

Mangosteen

Mangosteen Fruit Sri Lanka

O Mangosteen! There’s nothing more we love. They originally hail from the tropical land of Southeast Asia, but mangosteen grows in parts of Sri Lanka, particularly in Kalutara Distrcit, south of Colombo. When ripe, the rind is dark purple in colour. Inside, there’s juicy, fresh flesh, pure white, and tastes marvellous – a delightful sweet-sour taste that keeps you coming back for more. Mangosteen, like other tropical fruits, has a number of health benefits. However, in Ayurveda, we also believe it’s a heaty food, and thus, it can develop a sore throat in you if you become too greedy.

Durian

Durian Fruit Sri Lanka

To tell you the truth, I’ve never really eaten durian. Found abundantly in Southeast Asia, it was the Portuguese colonizers who introduced durian to Sri Lanka. Durian has a strong odour, which to me, is a very bad smell. The strong smell has, over the years, prevented me from trying this tropical giant. It’s a large fruit, which sort of reminds me of the local jackfruit. The green husk consists of large thorn-like structures. Durian can be considered ‘pricey’ by Sri Lankan standards. During the season from May till August, you can find this tropical giant in roadside stalls.

Uguressa

Uguressa Fruit Sri Lanka

I remember when I was a kid, I would walk to our aunt’s garden after school with my father to pluck uguressa. Uguressa stems have thorns, so you have to be a little careful. This tiny berry-like fruit reminds you of a British plum. When fully ripe, it’s maroon-red in colour. It’s hard, and astringent. But there’s a way to eat uguressa. Massage it with the palms of your hand, so the flesh becomes softer. The flesh then tastes sweet with a hint of sourness. You don’t have to remove the outer skin. Just eat it as it is. In recent years, I have seen uguressa in supermarkets in Colombo. You can also find them in Pettah!

Siyambala (Tamarind)

 

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Tamarinds are bean-like pods. There are seeds inside these pods, and each seed is covered with pulp. When tender, the pulp is green in colour, and distinctly sour. When ripe, the pulp occupies a dark-brown colour and has a sweet-sour taste to it. The seeds are dark brown in colour. It’s rare to see anyone who eats several pods of tamarind at one go. I did, when I was little until the sourness actually crept in, and caused an astringent effect in my tongue. You can make a syrup out of the tamarind pulp for drinking. The syrup is also used in cooking, or sometimes the pulp itself is used for cooking many traditional Sri Lankan curries.

Gal siyambala (velvet tamarind)

 

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Gal siyambala is such a treat to your tongue. It’s small in size and has a soft velvety brown-black skin. During the months of August-November, this pebble-like tropical fruit is sold in small roadside shacks or at weekend pola (fair). Split open the velvety shell, and you will find a brown powdery button! The brown powdery pulp is coated around the inedible, flat seed, and usually, the pulp is sucked or chewed and the seeds are thrown out.

Anoda (Cherimoya, sweetsop or custard apple)

Cherimoya Custard Apple Sri Lanka

This tropical fruit has green, scaly skin. Inside it is white flesh, and you will find several tiny, falt, inedible black seeds. The black seeds are actually believed to be slightly poisonous. The flesh, however, is creamy and has a lovely sweetness to it. In contrast to the rough scaly outer skin, the inner flesh is soft and chewy. It also boasts a number of health benefits as it’s rich in vitamin A, B6, and copper.

Kamaranga (starfuit)

Star Fruit Sri Lanka

The fruit, as its name suggests, resembles a star. I’ve spotted two varieties of starfruit. One is lemon-green in colour, smaller in size and has a strong sour taste. The large cousin, when ripe, is bright yellow in colour and has a more sought-after sweet-sour taste. Starfruit can be eaten on its own or added into salads or curries as well.

Diwul (wood apple)

Wood Apple Sri Lanka

I’ll admit diwul is one of my childhood fabourites. These tamarind-like sweet-sour, mushy deliciousness is wrapped in a hard shell. Usually, woodapples have a strong pungent smell. If the smell is quite strong, it’s time to crack open the outer shell and devour the beautiful deep brown flesh. The inner flesh has a number of seeds, and small bristles, adding a wonderful texture. When I was a kid, I used to slam the woodapple on our concrete floor, or slam it on a rock to remove the hard shell.

Delum (Pomegranate)

Pomegranate Fruit Sri Lanka

I love pomegranates. They are always expensive in Sri Lankan market as one fruit costs about 400 LKR. My earliest memories of Delum has to be the times when my dad went to neighbouring houses looking for barks and leaves of the Delum tree. When I was diagnosed with eye problems, he’d boil them and wash my face with Delum water. The next day, everything is fine. The fruit too is a treat to the tastebuds.

Veralu (Ceylon Olive)

 

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Veralu has a beautifully soft, incredibly sour-sweet flesh when it’s ripe. Mildly-ripe veralu is best enjoyed as an achcharu (pickle). We slice them, add salt, pepper and some chili and it’s a popular snack in Sri Lanka. It’s also widely used in Ayurveda as the fruit is packed with a number of nutrients from minerals to vitamins and anti-oxidants.

Thambili (king coconut)

King Coconut Sri Lanka

It’s hard to survive a hot tropical day or two without this amazing palm nut. Naturally-sweet, king coconut juice is perfect to beat the island heat. It’s packed with nutrients so it’s always a healthy alternative to packaged juices available in the stores. Walk for a few minutes on the roads in Sri Lanka and you will come across piles and piles of orange stacked upon one another. And that’s king coconut. Vendors usually make a temporary spoon from the husk to carve out the inner flesh. I do not personally love it much but Nathan’s a huge fan!

Lovi (batoko plum)

 

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Lovi is (not) love! Some love it, but it’s too sour for me. It’s a tiny berry-like plum. It’s green and turns into shiny-red when ripe. Since it’s too acidic to enjoy raw, lovi is often turned into juices, jams and syrups. It’s also called lovi-lovi and the native land is the Philippines. Pictured here on your right is lovi. We found them once in Pettah.

Jambu (Java apple)

 

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My earliest memories of jambu were on the way to school and back. We were in primary classes and we would pluck fresh jambu from a tree along the way. I know two types of jambu. The small red one and pini jambu. Former is bright red in color and tastes more sugary. Latter appears in soft-red, pink, white or glossy brownish red. It’s more juicy as you bite into the sponge-like flesh.

Nelli (Indian gooseberry)

Nelli Fruit Sri Lanka

In Ayurveda, there are six tastes sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter astringent. Nelli contains five of them–except salty. The fruit has a high nutritional value and is rich in vitamin C. Young fruits are extremely sour but when ripe, there are subtle notes of sweetness. We love it as a pickle, chopped and mixed with red chilli and salt. Pictured here on the left is nelli. We found them in the fruit market in Nuwara Eliya.

This is only a small list of what the island has to offer. We also want to include the rare varieties of fruits such as palu and ever but we do not have any photos of them. If you want to contribute to this post with photos and information, email us at info@natnzin.com. We’d be happy to include your contributions with credits. Until then, happy eating!

Nathan & Zinara

xx

 

 

 

 

 



11 thoughts on “Tropical Fruits You Can Find in Sri Lanka”

    • I’m not a huge fan of Durian because of the smell but some of my friends love it! There are so many others as well. Hoping to update the post as we get new pics.

  • Oh my, you made me crave for Mangosteen and Custard Apple so bad. It is not yet in season here in my country. We are waiting for the harvest season for mangoes. Another favorite tropical fruit of mine.

  • I love fruits. I live in a tropical country, so we have most of the fruits here. But we don’t have a lot of berries. We just have strawberries. Mangosteens are one of my favorites. I also love coconut water… and sometimes there are special ones with such sweet water. Oh, delicious.

  • Thank you so much for this beautiful, colorful and informative overview of Sri Lanka fruits. You made me hungry and I’d like to try them all. So far I’ve only had bananas, pomegranate and starfruit.

  • Those fruits are calling my name and bring back memories. When I was in my native country I used to enjoy fresh fruit. I have eaten apple custard since I moved to the USA>

  • Most of the fruits you mentioned are also available in my county, Philippines. We call the Anoda – Atis. Java Apple is Makopa. Among them, my favorite is Rambutan!

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