What Fruits Can You Find in the Cook Islands?
A trip to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands isn’t just about lazying on the beach, drinking cocktails and soaking up the sun. It’s home to an array of foodie experiences, thanks to its ideal climate for tropical produce combined with a rich local culture that knows how to prepare them well. One of the top recommendations we have for foodies and non-foodies alike is to check out the local produce markets, not only to mingle with the locals but to see the array of exotic fruits. Chances are, there are many fruits you will have never seen before along with fruits you know like you’ve never seen before! In this guide to fruits in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands you have to try, we list all of the fruit well worth looking out for (and trying) throughout your travels.
1. Coconut (Uto, Nu or Akari)
Anyone who’s anyone knows that the coconut is not a nut; it’s a fruit! Of which, it is the most important fruit in the Cook Islands coming from the tree known as the “tree of life”. The coconut tree has so many uses that any culture tour on the islands will be eager to tell you all about them, from the oil used to make soap to the fronds used to craft all sorts of hats and jewellery. But, if you’re here for the food, which we suspect you are, you can also enjoy the taste of coconut in its many forms: the drinking coconut known as “nu”, the marshmallow-like coconut known as “uto” and the white flesh of a mature coconut known as “akari”.
2. Soursop (Kataraapa)
This prickly fruit might not look the sexiest, but its flavour packs and punch making it extremely “moreish”. The Cook Islands soursop grows in abundance between June and November, so look out for them at the markets during this time. What’s more, the soursop is rich in anti-oxidants and all that good stuff.
Successfully grown in dense, humid and high temperatures, dragon fruit grows in the Cook Islands during the wet season (summer). It’s another fruit with an odd appearance, usually bright pink with wide spines and white or pink flesh with scattered seeds. This is a common fruit to enjoy raw, scooping out the inner flesh, or you could have it in fruit salads or cocktails. See more fruity drinks to try in the 10 Drinks in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands You HAVE to Try!
4. Starfruit (Raaparaapa)
A common fruit on your breakfast fruit platter at your resort or villa, starfruit (or “raaparaapa”) are, indeed, shaped like a star especially when cut horizontally. You just eat the flesh on the inside, as the skin is tough and waxy.
5. Green Orange (Anani)
Oranges are a little different in the Cook Islands, due to the fact that they are green/tinted yellow rather than “orange”. Back in the day, the Cook Islands tried to make an industry of exporting these fruit to the world, but it didn’t hit off due to the colour not pleasing the international market. The locals still love them though, and we’re sure you will too. Give them a try!
6. Banana (Meika)
Bananas are enjoyed in the Cook Islands when they have ripened, i.e. turned yellow, as well as before they have ripened and are still green. There are so many ways to try this favourite fruit in the Cook Islands: fresh, barbecued, deep-fried for dessert or as chips, or as an ice cream, banana split, banana cheesecake and, finally, either in a local-style curried salad or “poke”, a dessert mixed with arrowroot starch, which you can find out more about in the 10 Foods to Try in the Cook Islands.
7. Mango (Vi)
So it’s highly likely that you are well-versed with the mango, but with mangos growing pretty much everywhere in the Cook Islands, it’s a fruit you have to try! Mangos come in all sorts of shapes and sizes in the Cook Islands, with the mango season being in the summer months between November and January. Because the mango season is so short, locals practically give them away by mid-summer.
8. Pawpaw/Papaya (Ninita)
Admittedly, papaya, commonly known as pawpaw, is not native to the Cook Islands but has become a staple of the Cook Islander diet. The climate here is ideal for growing smooth and sweet pawpaw, which is often served as a breakfast fruit or with dessert.
9. Pineapple (Ara)
Ok, so the pineapple is nothing new to most of you, but wait until you try the pineapples in the Cook Islands! Pineapples in the Cook Islands are usually a lot smaller than pineapples that are exported overseas, allowing a more concentrated flavour and juice. You certainly won’t struggle to find pineapples in the Cook Islands, which are widely available at supermarkets and markets and are often served for breakfast at resorts. Pineapples are grown in abundance across Rarotonga and Mangaia.
10. Passionfruit (Parapotini)
The passionfruit is a must-try in the Cook Islands. While it is gaining popularity outside of the tropics, passionfruit still often confuses people when they see its gooey insides. Yes, you even eat those viscous seeds inside and they’re delicious! The small fruit is also packed with nutrients, like vitamin C, vitamin A, dietary fibre and is high in beta-carotene.
11. Avocado (Apuka)
Yes, avocados are fruit; they’re berries that have become increasingly popular in the Western world. Avocado trees grow very well in the Cook Islands, with the fruit containing healthy fats and vitamins. Its subtle taste and slimy texture are added to many dishes.
12. Watermelon (Mereni)
Watermelon has grown increasingly popular in the Cook Islands. The season the fruit is typically available is in the summer months. It’s a refreshing and watery fruit making a good addition to a healthy breakfast.
13. Guava (Tuava)
While guava is found in many tropical locations across the world, many people try it first in the Cook Islands. The flavour is sweet but subtle, often compared to the taste of apple, pear and strawberries. However, it looks extremely different with dense green skin and a deep pink to light peach flesh. While guava is a great fruit for your dose of vitamin C and folic acid, be warned that the seeds are very hard on the teeth.
14. Noni (Nono)
Noni grows from trees in the coffee family, but they are more famous for their smell than their taste. Admittedly, noni is not a fruit you’ll want to get your face too close to, which is why noni is mostly produced as a superfood having a wide range of health benefits, including antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antitumor, analgesic, hypotensive, anti-inflammatory, and immune-enhancing effects.
15. Breadfruit (Kuru)
Breadfruit is a large dense fruit that is named after its stogey consistency, quite like bread. It is typically served as a starch substitute with savoury dishes, typically turned into fries but you can also find crispy “breadfruit chips” at markets and grocery stores, which you can read more about in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in the Cook Islands.
More About Fruit in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it for our list of the fruits in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands you have to try! For more foodie experience, check out the following:
- The Food Guide to the Cook Islands: Places to Eat, Food Tours & Best Resorts for Food
- 10 Best Foodie Experiences in the Cook Islands
- Traditional Rarotongan Food: 10 Foods to Try in the Cook Islands
Finally, make more of your trip about the food using our foodie itineraries for three days, five days, seven days, 10 days and 14 days.