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Click to enlargeSumatra is a heaven for fruit lovers. It is a must to visit a traditional fruit market. Don't forget to bargain, it is a part of the culture. There is an enormous variety in fruits available and all is fresh and very tasty. Availability and price depends on season, but there is always something in the stands. Some of the fruits are describe below, but there is so much more to discover.

Mango (mangga), papaya (papaya), and banana (pisang) are very common and extremely cheap. Almost every home has a couple of trees of each in the backyard. Bananas come in many different shapes, sizes, and tastes. There are even bananas with black seeds in them. Mangos also come in several versions. The small mango from the shores of Danau Toba is very sweet. One version, Kuini, has a very distinct odor and tastes differently. Mango fruit is messy to peel and very slippery when the peel has come off. Use a knife to peel and to cut small pieces for eating. Papaya normally comes in two versions, the smaller with yellow fruit meat and the longer one with red fruit meat. The red one is sweeter. Papaya seeds can be used as malaria medicine.

Passion fruit (markisa) is a popular fruit, especially the yellow version that has made Berastagi famous in Indonesia. The peel is hard, but cracks easy. Crack it open in two halves and slurp in the contents. The seeds are edible.

Mangosteen (manggis) has a sweet and slightly acidic taste, a bit different than most other fruits. Split the thick dark purple peel open with your fingers and the delicious inside will be easy accessible.

Rambutan (rambutan) is very common all over Indonesia. The English word is even borrowed from the Malay/Indonesian language. The brightly red and “hairy” peel is easy to open. It contains a juicy fruit with one big peel.

The lanseh (duku) is a small fruit with a brown and smooth skin that is easy to peel. The taste reminds of Lychee.

The cross section of a Starfruit or carmabola (belimbing) looks like a star. This fruit has also many varieties and the taste varies between sweet and sour. It can be eaten with its skin and is very refreshing in the form of juice.

The water apple (jambu air) is brightly red and looks more like a Christmas tree decoration than a fruit. The taste and texture reminds of an apple and it is sometimes called "the Indonesian apple". It is so common and cheap that one hardly finds it in the traditional market. One tree can produce "thousands" of fruits in one season.

Soursop (Sirsak) is another must. It exists only in the tropics and doesn’t resemble any fruit in America or Europe. It can weigh up to 7 kilo. The flesh is white and interspersed with many small black seeds. The taste is sweet and unique. Try it!

Jackfruit (nangka) is a cousin of the breadfruit. It is extremely big and can weigh up to 25 kilo. Jackfruit is normally used in cooking as a salad, especially in the Minangkabau kitchen. Street vendors often sell jackfruit in the form of roasted thin slices. It can also be eaten as a normal fruit. The taste is unique and sweet and the odor very pleasant. The peel has a resin that feels sticky.

The fruit of the Zalacca palm (salak) is often called “snake skin fruit” by travelers due to its strange skin. It is a drop shaped fruit with a thin peel looking like scales of a snake. It is easy to peel. The fruit is divided in a few separate parts each with a thin almost invisible peel that can be scrubbed away with a finger. The taste is unique and cannot be described. The area around Padang Sidempuan is a big producer of Salak.

Durian (durian) is the King – the king of fruits. It comes in different sizes, but on an average as big as a bowling boll. It is heavy and has sharp spikes, making it almost impossible to carry directly in the hands. The smell is for an unaccustomed overwhelming and terrible. In Singapore it is forbidden to bring durian on public transportation. The fruit is hard to open. Normally a crack is made in its end with a machete and then the thick peel is pulled apart, using all the strength one has. The fruit meat is white and creamy and is hidden in separate compartments. The taste is very special and cannot be described. First time eaters normally say it is awful, but already the second time they like it. Next time again they are addicted! There is a lot of fuss around the selling and eating of Durian. The fruit grows on huge trees. Anyone lucky to own a durian tree once planted by the parents or grandparents, guard it when the season comes. It is a special feeling to sit in the forest in the middle night waiting for the fruits to fall down with heavy thumps. The fruits are valuable and popular, not only amongst humans. The durian is often sold along major roads. The buyer inspects every individual fruit and sniffs the odor like a wine connoisseur. In season one fruit cost a few thousand Rupiah, but off season many times more. Do not eat durian when drinking alcohol. It can be fatal.




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