The Brit and I love food, eating it, talking about it and watching videos about it. Prior to going to Panama he told me about the ice cream bean aka guaba. I had never heard of this. A bean named after one of my favorite food groups? Tell me more! There’s this youtube channel Weird Explorer where the guy tries different and exotic fruits from around the world and talks about taste, texture etc. It’s sort of weird but fun, we’ve watched a couple when we were curious about something. So we watched his video on the ice cream bean and dreamed about eating ice cream beans while in Panama.
Unfortunately, the ice cream bean, like a lot of the exotic fruits we were looking for were out of season so we couldn’t find them in the shops or anywhere else. So imagine my joy while wandering around Especias Valmar and I look up and see ice cream beans dangling from the tree. I told you, my super power is spotting fruit. Our tour guide didn’t even point out the tree and we were walking towards the entrance when I saw it. I excitedly told Arran to look up and asked Aymeé if it was an ice cream bean tree and it was?!?!?! She asked us if we wanted to try it? Heck yeah! Then she asked her dad and he said the beans wouldn’t be ready until May. We went from jubilation to disappointment but it was understandable, if the fruit wasn’t ready, it wasn’t ready.
Then her dad wandered over to look at the fruit and decided it was ripe enough for us to try. Jubilation again! Arran and Aymeé went to get the bamboo stick that was necessary to pull down the ice cream bean. It’s a pretty big tree and needs lots of sun so it grows tall to grow over other trees to make sure it gets all the sun it needs.
Aymeé’s father showing Arran which specific bean to pull down. See the pepper plants growing in the background?
The following video shows off the ice cream bean hanging from the trees better than the photos I took. This is Arran managing the bamboo stick with a hook to try and pull the bean down.
Below is actually the second ice cream beans harvested. Aymeé’s dad was so kind he offered to let us try more so we ate another and took one home with us to enjoy later on.
Opening the ice cream bean isn’t as snapping it in half. You need to twist and sort of pull at an angle so that you can peel it apart and enjoy the seeds on the inside. Here’s Arran taking his first bite.
So once you open the bean there are a bunch of individual seeds that are covered with a fluffy cloud of yumminess, similar to it being wrapped in cotton candy. You pop the seed in your mouth and suck the pulp off and then spit out the seed.
Taste wise, they say it has a taste similar to vanilla ice cream, hence the name. It’s definitely sweet but it didn’t really taste like ice cream to me but it was yummy. I just read on wikipedia that the seeds are edible when cooked and have a taste similar to garbanzo beans. I wish I had known, we would have cooked up the seeds to try them.
The natives also use this to make an alcoholic drink by chewing and spitting it into a vat and letting it ferment. I think I would skip trying it but I know the Brit would be game.
I really enjoyed the ice cream bean as an experience. Would I go out of my way to search it out again? Probably not. It was sweet and airy but not really a depth of flavor. Unlike say, the cacao bean.
This beauty was the reason for our trip to the farm. They weren’t in season so being able to try one while in Panama was wonderful.
The plot of land next to Especias Valmar had a cacao tree so the owner took us over there to check it out (the cacao pod above was from Aymeé’s yard.
The pods are all dried out so maybe instead of being too early in the season, we were too late?
And here I am, trying to cut open the cacao pod. It was tough to open so Arran’s brother Guy stepped in. The cacao bean doesn’t taste like a chocolate. It’s sweet and tangy and unlike the ice cream bean, I would definitely want to search this out and eat it again. I hate videos of myself but thought this would be fun to share with you. Let me know if you like the videos, if you do, we’ll keep doing them.
Turns out Arran’s aunt’s friend also had some cacao pods so she brought more over. We cut into them but they weren’t as good as the first one we ate but were great for taking additional photos.
If you look at the photo below, there’s the bean with the pulp around it, lots of beans without the pulp and a bean that’s been peeled. If you look closely at the peeled bean, it’s not one solid piece but a bunch of little nibs, hence the term chocolate nibs (I assume, LOL).
To make chocolate, the beans are harvested, with the pulp and left to ferment with the pulp on for days, then it’s dried and then roasted. We didn’t have time to do anything since it’s typically a 2 week process and we were leaving the next day so we skipped to the roasting process. We peeled the beans and threw them in the air fryer and cooked for a long time on a low heat. I would say it tasted like eating a coffee bean so might have been able to make some kind of coffee like drink from it but we just tossed it.
Overall, was thrilled that we got to try a couple of things that were on our list of things to try in Panama. I also really wanted to try a cashew fruit. The next post will be about our search for it.