Seasonal produce: voazato

Still life with voazato, zavoka (avocado), and fontsy (banana)

Still life with voazato, zavoka (avocado), and fontsy (banana)

Although it is avocado season again in Madagascar (thank the heavens), there is another seasonal treat making a reappearance in the market these days. What I would have once classified as another “bizarre tropical mystery food” is now a welcomed addition to my diet. Allow me to share the wonders of the voazato. The direct translation of this name is “100 seeds” and it comes from two Malagasy words: voa meaning “seed” and zato meaning “100”. I’ve never seen this fruit before coming to Madagascar, but I’ve been told the most common English names for this fruit can be either custard apple or sugar-apple. Whatever you want to call it, the voazato can be a delicious addition to any breakfast or a midday snack.

The voazato

The voazato

The jagged exterior and strange shape of the voazato might be a little intimidating at first, but the taste buds are quickly rewarded for exploring their curiosity. The outside of the fruit should be a nice golden yellow with no major bruising. Much like an avocado, a good voazato is neither completely firm or too soft.

The edible flesh of the voazato has a smooth viscous texture. It tastes similar to custard (probably where one of the English names is derived from) or plain yogurt. This is why I prefer to eat this fruit in the mornings as part of breakfast.

The edible part of the voazato

The edible part of the voazato

Eating a voazato is fairly simple. First, cut the fruit into quarters to reveal the delicious milky white flesh. Next, use a spoon to scoop out bite sized portions and enjoy. The fruit does live up to it’s name and every bite includes a few inedible brown seeds that should be discarded.

The aftermath of a delicious voazato (but this one only had 43 seeds)

The aftermath of a delicious voazato (but this one only had 43 seeds)

The voazato season is just starting here in Madagascar, so hopefully we can enjoy this special fruit for a while longer. This season, potentially my last in this beautiful country, will be particularly special. Mazotoa mihinana! (Enjoy eating!)

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Seasonal produce: pibasy

In the central highlands of Madagascar, one of the most delectable and celebrated fruits of the region is a type of loquat called pibasy. The characteristically colder climate of the highlands is ideal for growing pibasy and the fruit becomes available in the region during the winter months (April through July). Pibasy grows in clusters on a tree and ripens into a golden-yellow or orange fruit that can be oval or pear-shaped. The skin is smooth, sometimes furry, and can easily be removed to expose the edible flesh within. The fruit tastes like a tangy combination of peach and mango. Truly a special treat!

Pibasy growing on a tree (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pibasy growing on a tree (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because pibasy grows only in the highlands of Madagascar and is rarely exported to other parts of the island, it is extremely unusual for me to see it in my own community on the north-east coast. When I travel to the highlands, like I have recently to help train the newest group of Education Trainees, I make sure to seek out pibasy in the markets.

The inside of a pibasy with inner seeds visible

The inside of a pibasy with inner seeds visible

When I first arrived in Madagascar, more than one year ago, my host family had many pibasy trees around the house and this is where I was first introduced to the fruit. It was a common dessert that we enjoyed after meals. My host mother also made a sweet jam from the pibasy fruit, which was among one of my favorite parts of eating breakfast with the family. I also remember sitting in the yard and spitting out the pibasy seeds with my host siblings to see who could launch them the farthest. Clearly, my infatuation with pibasy is rooted in the fond memories I share around the fruit.

As my current visit in the highlands comes to an end, so does the season for pibasy in Madagascar. My friends and I have enjoyed this year’s harvest and I know many of us look forward to it again next year.

A fellow PCV and I enjoying pibasy

A fellow PCV and I enjoying pibasy

Seasonal produce: zavoka

One of my favorite things about Madagascar is the ability to eat fresh seasonal foods throughout the year. The island is so agriculturally diverse that the options for seasonal produce are almost endless. Every few months, the markets are overflowing with a new feature item that I’ve never seen before. 

Now it’s zavoka (avocado) season! As a native Californian, avocados already rank pretty high on my list of favorite foods. So to have access to perfectly ripe and affordable avocados every day is truly a dietary blessing. 

A fresh zavoka


The zavoka in Madagascar is slightly different than the Hass avocados I am used to eating in America. At first glance, they are noticeably much larger and greener than the varieties found in America. When I first saw an avocado in this country, I had a hard time believing it was actually an avocado! Despite this, they can still be just as ripe and delicious. The zavoka is a little sweeter than a Hass avocado and it has a creamy texture when it’s masaka tsara (perfectly ripe). The pit of a zavoka is also much larger, which probably explains why the overall size of the avocado is generally larger. 

In Madagascar, I’ve been able to try new ways of eating avocados. For example, following the advice of one of my neighbors, I often make a kind of avocado yogurt. I simply cube a very ripe zavoka, add a splash of water and a teaspoon of sugar, then mix it up with a spoon until it has a smooth texture similar to yogurt. The small amount of sugar only helps to bring out the natural sweetness of the zavoka. I find this to be a delicious breakfast or dessert! I’ve also been experimenting with different types of avocado salads, combining vinegar, onion, garlic, tomato, and sometimes carrot. Of course, I love to make guacamole as often as I can and share it with some of my Malagasy friends. They seem to enjoy trying this new “foreign” food. Sometimes when people see me buying a bunch of avocados in the market, they ask me if I’m making guacamole again. I also enjoy eating a zavoka, with just a little bit of salt and pepper, as a quick and easy snack. 

I fear that zavoka season will soon be coming to an end in Andapa. But until then, I am enjoying the bountiful harvest. 

Posing with a relatively smaller zavoka