What Fruits Can You Find in Tonga?
A top foodie experience in the islands of Tonga is checking out the produce markets and roadside stalls. You’ll see an array of tropical fruit and vegetables that not only make for good photos as you see them piled in pyramids and bunches, but are also worth sampling! So what types of fruit in Tonga can you try? Find out in our tasty list!
Note that many Tongan fruits are seasonal, so it’s likely that you’ll only see a handful of these fruits at the market stalls at one time.
1. Papaya (Lesi)
Papaya, lesi and also known as pawpaw is a tropical low-maintenance fruit that grows well in Tonga. Not only that but the black seeds of papayas are also used as a medicine for stomach problems. They are available in Tonga all year round and are ready to harvest when the fruit starts to turn yellow.
Papaya can be found at produce markets and roadside stalls and is typically served with breakfast at your accommodation.
2. Bananas (Siane)
Bananas are enjoyed in Tonga when they have ripened, i.e. turned yellow, as well as before they have ripened and are still green. For the latter, they are eaten by boiling in water and had as a side dish – like a vegetable. On the other hand, the better bananas for eating raw are the small sweet ones locally known as “misi peka“.
Bananas are available in Tonga all year round and are a favourite sold at markets and roadside stalls. Check out the typical cost for a bunch of bananas in Tonga Travel Budget: How Much Does a Trip to Tonga Cost?
3. Passionfruit (Passion i Vaine)
In Tonga, there are two types of passionfruit. The first is the most common type of passionfruit seen all over the world, which is locally known as “vaine“. The second is a different type of passionfruit in that it grows to small/medium watermelon size before it is eaten, which is locally known as “passion“. Find passionfruit for sale at the markets in summer.
4. Breadfruit (Mei)
Breadfruit is a large dense fruit named after its stogey consistency, quite like bread. It is typically served as a vegetable with savoury dishes and is a favourite to fry similar to potato fries. On the other hand, they can also be cooked with sweet desserts, such as faikakai mei which is breadfruit with coconut syrup – see the 10 Unique Foods in Tonga You Have to Try for more information on this Tongan dish and more.
5. Coconut (Niu)
Anyone who’s anyone knows that the coconut is not a nut; it’s a fruit! As an iconic food and crafting material of the South Pacific niu rightfully has a place on this list. They are available all year round in Tonga and can be eaten (or drunk) in three ways. The first way is fresh from the tree, drinking the juice and scraping out the soft flesh. The second way is when the coconut has fallen from the tree and has started to dry up, making the flesh inside drier and crunchier. The third way is when the coconut has started to root and the juice has completely disappeared to leave the flesh with a strong coconut flavour.
6. Guava (Kuava)
Visit Tonga in summer and you might see stalls of guava or kuava. The fruit is known for its health benefits being a good source of vitamins A, B2, C, E and K, as well as calcium, folate, fibre, copper, iron, potassium, manganese and phosphorus. Guava also makes a popular fruit for drinks.
7. Pineapple (Faina)
Also found in abundance in summer across Tonga is the pineapple. Pineapple is a favourite addition to Tongan drinks such as the fruit smoothie, ‘otai, as well as in Tongan desserts like pai faina, in other words, “pineapple pie”.
8. Mango (Mango)
Another summer fruit in Tonga is the mango. Also known in Tongan as “mango”, this fruit makes for a popular ingredient to put in drinks like ‘otai. They are usually ready and ripe in December.
9. Mandarin (Moli Vai Keli)
Citrus fruit like mandarins used to grow in abundance in Tonga but was wiped out by the Tisteza Virus in the 1970s. Today, there is a revival of mandarins grown across the islands especially on ‘Eua, which are imported to Tongan stalls across the islands in the cooler months of March, April, May and June.
10. Watermelon (Meleni)
Watermelon might not be native to Tonga (as is the case for many fruits on this list), but it’s a tropical fruit that Tongans notoriously love! Meleni is the staple of the country’s famous fruit drink, ‘otai, and it also makes for a refreshing and sugary snack! Although you can find watermelon sold most of the year in Tonga, the main season is during the summer – see Tonga’s seasons in Tonga Weather by Month: What is the Weather Like in Tonga?
11. Ambarella (Vi)
A backyard favourite in Tonga, vi, known as “ambarella” in English, is a fruit that ripens in time for summer. The small fruit similar in size to a guava is suitable for eating raw and cooking. It has become a favourite in recent years for adding to ‘otai fruit drinks.
12. Avocado (Avoka)
Finally, avocados are also grown in Tonga, particularly in the islands of Vava’u. They are a more challenging fruit to grow due to regular watering and not producing fruit for the first three to four years. Nevertheless, look out for avoka at the markets between October and December.
More About Exotic Fruits in Tonga
That’s it for our list of the fruits in Tonga you have to try! For more food-related goodness, check out more of our insightful guides:
- 10 Unique Foods in Tonga You Have to Try
- 10 Drinks in Tonga You Have to Try
- The Guide to the Food in Tonga