We all have fond memories of simpler times. For some of us, it’s the smell of freshly baked cookies, the sounds of Christmas carols filling the air, or even the feel of the warm summer sun on our faces. For many Belizeans, it’s the aroma of fresh, ripe sea grapes. Something about its fragrance conjures up pleasant recollections of spending an afternoon in the sun exploring the beach and eating freshly picked sea grapes.
Sea grapes are native to tropical countries, so they are often considered a local delicacy in Belize. Because of its high salt tolerance and love for direct sunlight, sea grape trees are usually strewn across beaches and coastal areas. The height and uniquely large, oval-shaped leaves of these trees provide an abundance of shade to beachgoers who are often found lounging beneath its foliage. However, mid to late summer is when these trees genuinely make their presence known, producing some of the most distinctive fruits to be found near the seaside, and you can indeed find these delicious treats lining the property at Naia Resort and Spa. Sea grapes grow in clusters similar to grapes, starting green and slowly changing their color to a deep, rich purple as they become ripe. Each sea grape is roughly the same size as a grape but with a rather large plum pit for the actual fruit size. The taste of sea grapes is slightly hard to describe but think of the juicy, sweet taste of a grape paired with the slight acidic tang of peaches. A mashup of a grape and a peach is also an excellent description of the texture and smell.
When it comes to the use of sea grapes in Belize, we don’t do that much with it. As larger trees often produce an overabundance of fruit, some people prefer to make jam or wine instead of seeing the fruits go to waste on the ground. This isn’t a widespread practice, though, as the large pit and limited fleshy, edible parts of the fruit make this process cumbersome. We would even venture to say that for many locals, having sea grapes spoiling on the ground might be a good thing as it fills the air with a sweet, pungent smell that creates a perfect backdrop for picking and eating sea grapes while enjoying the salty sea breeze. This is the highlight of sea grapes in Belize, especially among young children. Imagine frolicking along the beach with fresh sea grapes in your hands, enjoying an easy, carefree beach day all set to the smell of salt air mixed with the aroma of overripe sea grapes littering the ground.
So, if you’re ever in Belize and staying with us during the summer, be sure to add a sea grape beach day to your to-do list. You’d not only be engaging in a local tradition, but you’d also be creating memories that are always going to take you back to one of the best, most carefree vacations of your life.