Colombian Fruits

Hola gringos!  Whether you've had a chance to see South America or not, you probably know that there are a wide variety of plants here that don't exist in the United States.  This is particularly true with regard to something very near and dear to my heart: fruit!  I recently meandered through the fruit section of my local Exito in Medellin, with the following question in mind.  What fruits can be purchased here in Colombia that would be unavailable in the typical supermarket in the United States?

David, the Granadilla Tree

I recall from my college botany class that our professor told us that the marketing and sale of fruits in the United States is completely controlled by multinational corporations that choose only a miniscule fraction of available fruits and vegetables in the world in the attempt to cram them down our throats.  For example, just a generation ago the kiwi was unknown in the United States.  Now it's in every supermarket in the country.  Let's start things out by taking a look at my personal favorite...the granadilla.  Here I am in the fruit section pretending to be a grandilla tree!








The grandilla is an interesting fruit in many ways.  For starters, open it up and you will see that it looks like an alien brain.  I'm not joking.  It has a grey pudding-like interior with many small black seeds, all surrounded by a thick and spongy membrane.  Crack the fruit in half, and then eat the alien brain with a spoon...pudding and seeds all together.  You'll love it!









Eating the Alien Brain

As we all know, mothers are important people in our lives.  And, at the behest of my mother, I have included this photo...that displays the uncanny resemblance of the grandilla to an alien brain, for your viewing enjoyment!











The guanabana is a very popular choice for fruit juice here in Colombia.  Known as soursop in English, although I had never heard the word before, it is actually a member of the evergreen family.  Scientists believe it was brought from the Phillipines to Mexico in the days of the Spanish Empire, and from there made its way down throughout South America.









The mangostino, or purple mangosteen, as I've seen the gringo-ized version, is one of the most delicious fruits in Colombia.  Unfortunately, it is typically only available during the short harvest season.  Another problem is that it contains very little edible fruit.  Queen Victoria supposedly loved the mangosteen so much that she offered a bounty of 100 pounds for anyone who could deliver her the tasty treat!












Zapote Costeno

In Colombia, costeno referrs specifically to the Caribbean coast of Colombia, where you'll find such cities as Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta/Taganga.  The zapote can refer to any number of species of fruit, but this grows particularly well in the delicious climate of the Colombian Caribbean coast.









Pitahaya, often spelled pitaya as well, is cactus fruit that is native to Latin America.  In researching fruits here, I've found that Latin America and Southeast Asia share similar climates and are often quite conducive to the same species of fruit.  The pitaya is an example of a fruit that has made its way from Latin America over to Southeast Asia where it is now quite popular.


Brevas are a fruit that comes from the fig tree.  They are typically harvested in South America right around Christmas time.


The carambola, or starfruit, owes its name to its distinctive shape.  While certainly not a household staple in the United States, this is one fruit on this list that is cultivated in the United States, mostly in Florida.  You can eat the entire fruit, which is rich in many vitamins and minerals.


The algarroba is a fruit that after two years in Bogota, I had never seen before.  I've never tried it personally, but it has a sweet and creamy pulp, surrounded by seeds.  It is famous in Argentina for its use in a flour-based cake called patay.


The tuna, another cactus fruit, typically comes in red and green varieties.  Peel off the thick skin, and you'll find one of the tastiest fruits out there.


The curuba is known in English as the banana passionfruit.  It grows in Andean valleys in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela.  It looks like a small, fatter banana, but is more closely related with its cousin the passionfruit, or maracuya.


The guayaba, or guava, is a popular fruit both in Asia, and South America.  It is widely eaten raw, or used for juices, jams, and candies.


The maracuya is known as the passionfruit in English.  It is related to the grandilla, and is one of the most popular juices available throughout South America, but especially in Colombia.  Because it is so sour, it is always consumed with a healthy dose of sugar.


The mora is something in between a blackberry and raspberry, and is widely consumed from Colombia to Chile, usually in juice form.  It is also to sour to eat raw, so sugar is almost always added.


And finally, we have the lulo, which is also typically found in juice form.  The lulo is a fragile and delicate plant, which makes mass agricultural production difficult.  Like the tomato it is typically harvested when unripe and then allowed to ripen.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this tour of Colombian fruit.  Hopefully you will have the pleasure of making it down here to try some of them in person.  Or, perhaps, some of these fruits will become increasingly common in American and European produce sections!


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