Despite popular opinion, you actually can eat Caribbean sea grapes. However, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you want to or not.
Large, green, roundish-leaves, and clusters of tiny pear-shaped fruit. This is the coccoloba uvifera, otherwise known as the sea grape. If you’ve ever been to the Caribbean, you’ve probably seen them somewhere near the ocean–maybe even right on the beach! However, you may have heard that they’re inedible, or even that they’re poisonous. Actually, neither of those things is true. Here are the real facts about Caribbean sea grapes.
What are sea grapes?
Not to be confused with this type of algae that grows in Japan, the sea grape plant is a tropical tree often found near the ocean in Caribbean countries. It’s also used in landscaping, since it can be easily pruned and trained. It likes sandy soil, and produces tiny grape-like clusters of fruit.
Sea grape plants in the wild that are never pruned can grow up to 25-30 feet tall! They are quite hardy, and love direct sunlight. In addition, they are very tolerant of salt, which explains their presence on and near Caribbean beaches. Sea grape plants are native to the Caribbean, and are used to harsh coastal environments.
Surprisingly, sea grape trees aren’t in the same family as regular grapes. They’re actually members of the buckwheat family (which also includes rhubarb).
Can you eat sea grapes?
The short answer is, yes! You can eat sea grapes. However, you may not find them to be particularly tasty. Once they turn from green to a dark burgundy color, you can pick and eat them. They don’t taste anything like regular grapes. The flavor is somewhat sweet, somewhat acidic. Some people eat them raw, others use the grapes to make jam or wine. However, don’t expect to find a lot of “fruit” around the seed– the seed takes up almost the entire grape.
Are these plants useful?
Are sea grape plants useful for anything? Or are they just a nuisance? These plants are, in fact, useful for landscaping, as mentioned above. After about 10 years of pruning and training, they only need minimal care.
In addition, they provide shade from the blinding Caribbean sun. Their rounded leaves can grow to be up to 11 inches wide. The plants can survive the harshest droughts, and their roots reduce sand erosion.
Thanks to their hardiness, sea grape plants can create windbreaks and hedges. They can even grow in urban settings, along highways and boulevards.
The next time you visit the Caribbean between August and October, look for ripe sea grapes on beaches and around town. Go ahead and try a few!
Here are some other awesome Caribbean foods to try:
- 7 Weird But Wonderful Caribbean Foods
- Can You Handle Caribbean Food?
- The Top 10 Caribbean Restaurants for 2020
Main image source: DIRDPKC