Gringo in Guate: Food Friday – Paternas

Gringo in Guate is a series about my experience as a Peace Corps trainee living and working in Guatemala’s department of Sacatepéquez. On Food Fridays, this series focuses on my love of eating and trying new foods… all within PC medical rules of course!

Please pardon the tardiness of this post. This week there have been severe thunderstorms in the highlands of Sacatepéquez and I wasn’t able to have reliable internet access last night.

This week in Food Friday, I would like you all to behold the mutant pea pod from hell! This plant is called a paterna and you’d be right to draw a parallel with the comparatively diminutive pea pod that we love to put in pad thai, stir frys, and other such dishes in the States.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The paterna is pretty huge as you can see, about the length of your head. It’s cracked open in a manner very similar to peas and the beans inside are about double the size of an unopened pea pod back home.


Eating a paterna however is substantially different. Once you get over the alien-like appearance inside the fruit, and yes it is a fruit, you should only eat the fleshy, white part encapsulating the giant green seeds. This membrane is succulent and sweet- slightly less moist and less sweet than a lychee- but comparable in flavor and texture. The main difference is the membrane of the paterna has a bit of a crunch to it.

Care should be taken with paternas not to eat the seeds, or even bite the seeds as doing so will result in an acrid, bitter taste that may or may not be hazardous to your health. Not sure about that… But the rest of the fruit is quite succulent, crisp, and refreshing!


6 thoughts on “Gringo in Guate: Food Friday – Paternas

  1. such good food! Although it’s not exactly vintage guatemalan, make sure to eat some pollo campero for me

  2. I ate one of the seeds and got very sick,first with an acrid taste in my mouth, and then with nausea and vomiting. Only after three 30ml dosis of Pepto Bismol did I finally feel better. DON’T EAT THE SEEDS!

  3. Very common fruit in Central America. After eating the white part, which is sweet, the seed is boiled and eaten with salt ans lemon

  4. I’ve eaten paterna seeds many times. They are one of my favorite foods of El Salvador. You must boil the seeds in water and some ashes. We always had the maids cook them properly and then you can eat them with lemon and salt. There is no other seed or taste like it that I’ve experienced. It’s wonderful.

  5. Actually, the seeds are delicious. However, they need to be properly prepared. This usually involves boiling them with ashes. Once properly cooked, they are delicious with lime juice and salt. Also a very rich source of protein and nutrients! 🙂

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