Travel tip #4: Eat ice cream beans

Guatemala ice cream bean

Ice cream beans in Guatemala can be bought for around Q1 ($0.13) per pod. It's possible to find a better price if you're purchasing many pods, but it can be difficult to find them in quantity. Ice cream beans (called paterna in Guatemala) aren't generally mass-cultivated for consumption. Women and children collect and sell them as a minor income supplement.

Ice cream beans in Guatemala are big, but not as big as in some other countries. Pods are around 8" to 12" (length of your forearm), sometimes more. Each "bean" in the pod is surrounded with a white, pulpy flesh with a sweet, refreshing taste and soft texture. Some people say the flavor is similar to vanilla ice cream -- hence the name.

You can eat the green beans, too, but the beans themselves must be thoroughly cooked before eating them. The beans have a woody flavor and texture like water-chestnuts, and are high in protein. When raw they contain a mild toxin that prevents proper digestion; it can be deactivated by cooking.

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