A few weeks ago at a dinner party the conversation turned to my endeavor to buy, dissect and blog all of Brazil’s weirdest fruits and people started suggesting some other strange fruits I haven’t tried yet. None piqued my interest more than “jatobá.” I don’t remember how it was described to me, but it definitely sounded pretty strange. To my amusement, I encountered jatobá in our local supermarket a few days later. It was expensive (R$19 per kilo), but in the name of science I shelled out R$2 and bought one. (I was warned that it didn’t taste all that good, so I figured one would be enough.)
Jatobá is indeed strange, and I am not even sure what to call it – a nut? a bean? It’s definitely not a fruit.
As you can see in the pictures, it looks like a huge brown bean, about the length of my palm. It’s hard as wood. I couldn’t cut it, so I cracked it with the back of a large knife, which required about as much effort as maybe cracking a walnut. (It’s easier though, since jatobá is very grippable.) I was trying to be careful, since I heard it had powder inside, but I still lost about a third to the sink. (Not a great loss, actually.)
Inside I found packed green powder, with about the same texture as flour. I was told that this is what you eat, so after double-checking on Google that it doesn’t contain cyanide like the cashew I put some in my mouth. It didn’t taste particularly bad, though it wasn’t particularly tasty either. Imagine chewing flour that has a slight banana flavor. Just like flour it gets all sticky inside your mouth and clings to the teeth. In the interest of science, however, I ate it all: about a third right away and the rest later in the evening, once I was sure I wasn’t getting sick.
In the middle of the powder I found three oval seeds, about 15mm in diameter. I washed them and took a picture, but decided not to push my luck trying to eat them.
I am still unsure what jatobá is used for. I saw a website that says that jatobá “flour” is very nutritious, so I imagine it could be used as a staple, but not at R$19 a kilo. I saw references to some kind of medicinal powers, so maybe that explains the price. Or maybe they just price it for gringos who are looking for something weird to blog about.