Balata is a yellow berry that is sweet, soft, and juicy. Beyond its great taste, it's a source of antioxidants like vitamin C, and, in large amounts, may help to lower inflammation.
January 30th, 2024
Alternate names: bulletwood, ausubo, gooseberry
I first remember eating balata in my early twenties during various hiking trips—I was not a "country girl" growing up so I admit that I was introduced to it later in life.
However, I looked forward to picking balata off the forest floor and indulging in its sweetness, almost as a reward for being in nature.
Nowadays, you can purchase balata in-season from roadside vendors or in the farmer's market—kudos for bringing this local delight to the city!
The term 'balata' often refers to the fruit produced by the Manilkara bidentata tree, but also to the rubber-like material that's made industrially from the latex of the tree.
The balata tree can grow to an impressive 45 meters tall, starts bearing fruit 4 years after it is planted, and bears 2-3 times annually.
Balata is a yellow berry that's soft and jelly-like, is naturally sweet and has a single black seed (sometimes two) at its center.
To eat it: wash the outside of the fruit, crack the shell with your teeth (or with your hands), remove the seed and scoop out (or slurp) the flesh. Discard the hard shell.
You can add the flesh of the balata fruit to your fruit smoothies and as a topping for yogurt or even pancakes in place of syrup.
The fruit is small—just 3-5 cm—so you may find that it's easier to just eat it raw than to try and muster a heaping of its sweet flesh.
Industrially, the latex and wood from the balata tree are used to make furniture and other wooden products, and sometimes as a substitute material in the manufacture of gulf balls and machine belting.
Nutrition & health benefits
Currently, there is very little information available on the nutritional content of balata, beyond that it is a source of the antioxidant vitamin C.
However, an older 2013 study found that the balata plant contains a variety of antioxidant compounds that—in lab-based studies—reduced markers of inflammation.
They also found that these compounds may play a role in the production of collagen, a protein found in skin, and thus, balata may have an anti-aging effect.
Likewise, a 2018 study that examined the seeds of balata obtained from Trinidad determined that they contain bioactive compounds, which are compounds with potential health benefits in humans.
It's important to note that both studies looked at the extracts of balata—not just the fruit—in concentrated amounts for the development of supplements. More research in humans is needed before we "take the information and run with it".
Nonetheless, the fruit provides some dietary fiber and is a great addition to your seasonal foods list.
Purchasing & Storage
When purchasing, inspect that the surroundings of the vendor are clean and well-lit, and that the fruit is free of holes and other damage that may pose a health risk.
Wash the fruit to remove any loose dirt or insects, or any of the pulp that may be on the outside that will attract flies.
To store, you can leave the balata on your counter-top for 5-7 days, or sealed in an airtight container and refrigerated for 1-2 weeks.
Balata is a yellow berry that is soft and sweet, and its latex is used industrially to manufacture golf balls and belts.
While nutrition information is limited, there is some evidence that balata contains antioxidant compounds that may reduce inflammation, but human research is needed.
The Caribbean Market is a blog that highlights the nutritional facts and health benefits of fruits and vegetables commonly found in the Caribbean, with the goals of improving knowledge, promoting local eating and instilling pride and ownership among the Caribbean diaspora.