The Tropical Fruit of 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?
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. Pawpaw (Lesi)
Pawpaw, lesi and also known as papaya, this tropical fruit is a low-maintenance fruit that grows well in Tonga. In Tonga, the black seeds of pawpaw are also used as a medicine for stomach problems. They are ready to harvest when the fruit is green and hard. You can find them in markets all year round.
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. Bananas are available in Tonga all year round.
3. Passionfruit (Passion)
In Tonga, this is a different type of passionfruit to what you might have seen before. The difference is that it grows to small/medium watermelon size before it is eaten. Find them for sale at the markets in summer.
4. Breadfruit (Mei)
Breadfruit is a large dense fruit that is named after its stogey consistency, quite like bread. It is typically served as a vegetable with savoury dishes, but can also be cooked with sweet desserts, such as Faikakai Mei which is breadfruit with coconut syrup – see the 5 Unique Foods in Tonga You Have to Try for more information on this Tongan dish and more.
5. Coconut (Niu)
Technically, a coconut is a nut, a seed and a fruit so this iconic food and crafting material of the South Pacific rightfully has a place on this list. The coconut or niu is 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 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, Calcium, Folate, Fiber, Copper, Iron, Potassium, Manganese and Phosphorus. Guava also makes a popular fruit for drinks.
7. Pineapple (Faina)
Also found in abundance in summer is pineapple. Pineapple is a favourite addition to Tongan drinks such as the fruit smoothie, ‘Otai, as well as in Tongan desserts like Pai Faina or “Pineapple Pie”.
Another summer fruit in Tonga is 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 on the island of ‘Eua, which are imported to Tongan stalls across the islands in the cooler months of March, April, May and June.
10. 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.