Traveling in Colombia we loved exploring colonial towns, learning some history, appreciating architecture and getting out into nature. Then there was the fruit! We spent a fair amount of time near the coast, from a short stop on the Guajira peninsula and beach time in Santa Marta to a week in Cartagena. One benefit of being in a fertile, coastal area is access to some wonderful tropical fruits. We did what we could to sample every Colombian fruit we could! Donny found some favorites he kept going back to. I always went for what I didn’t recognize. We had many new discoveries, and also reacquainted ourselves with some fruits we’d tried before but that have a different name in Colombia. (As if it’s not hard enough to keep track of all of these wonderful fruits we never see at home, each country and region seems to have a different name for each fruit.)
No matter where we were, it seemed fruit was available everywhere and at all times. Even in larger towns and cities there are carts full of fruit every few blocks. Many offer cut, prepared fruit in a plastic cup or baggie. It was great to have a cheap, healthy snack so readily available as we explored. In Bucaramanga we went for pineapple and mango most often. In Cartagena, Caribbean palenqueras carry massive bowls of fruit on their heads. There, we had an amazing fruit salad prepared on the spot with mango, pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe and strawberries. Another popular choice all over the country is a mix of fruits called salpicon. Salpicon is essentially a sweet fruit salad snack in a glass. Everywhere, you can get fresh, natural juice. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a day we didn’t have at least one glass. Below are some of our favorites!
Feijoa also known as pineapple guava or guavasteen. The fruit grows on a shrub/small tree and is native to southern Brazil, northern Argentina, western Paraguay and Uruguay where it is common growing wild in the mountains. The skin is green and bumpy, about the size of an egg. The fruit is sweet but earthy, with many edible seeds. The texture is kind of like guava. You can eat it raw, but it’s more often used in desserts, candies and other treats. We’ve seen it as an ice cream and gelato flavor as well as juice/drinks. We all had a different opinion of the flavor, but I thought it was pretty similar to guava.
Tomate de Arbol
Tomate de arbol, also known as tamarillo. This egg-shaped “tree tomato” is native to the Andes of South America including Colombia. It’s orangy-red in color, and about the size of a plum tomato. The easiest way to eat them is to cut the tomato in half and scoop out the fruit. We found it to be on the tart side. Juiced with sugar added it was a delicious treat. The flavor is like a mix of passion fruit and tomato. I think this was our new overall favorite! Now to figure out where we can get these at home.
Chontaduro, also known as Peach Palm tasted more like a vegetable or starch to us than a fruit, but I thought it was delicious! The outside is bright red, about the size of a large walnut (in the shell). The chontaduro must be peeled to eat. When boiled, the texture is like a sweet potato, and the taste isn’t far off from that . . . sort of smoky. They are most often served with salt, honey, or a combination of the two. It’s also said they are a natural aphrodisiac. The best I had (because Donny wasn’t so fond) was served with honey and salt in Medellin.
Lulo, also known as naranjilla or little orange, is a citrus fruit. The outside is orange, but the juice is greenish. It tastes similar to a tangerine or lime, with small, white edible seeds. This was one of Donny’s go-to juice choices.
Maracuyá is passion fruit. The skin outside is leathery and greenish or yellow. The fruit consists of an orange pulp with some black edible seeds. This one we’d had before, but it’s a goodie, and very popular here in Colombia.
Granadilla is related to maracuyá (passion fruit). The granadilla has an orange or yellowish shell that is easily broken. Inside are many edible black seeds coated in a slimy, transparent coating. It’s a bit messy, but worth it. The flavor is light and sweet, and very much like passion fruit in taste. We had these every morning at breakfast in Medellin, and always grabbed one for the snack later in the day.
This Colombian fruit is sometimes called Banana Passion Fruit. Flavor-wise, it’s another to add to the passion fruit group. Curuba is great juiced, and that’s how we had it most often. The flesh inside is orange with small, black edible seeds. The outside is long-ish, fatter than a banana and not as long.
Uchuva is known in English as Cape Gooseberry. I chose uchuva one day because it was the one gelato flavor I had never heard of before. I was hooked immediately. They are small, yellow and round, and look much like a yellow cherry tomato. They have a citrus flavor that I thought was pretty similar to an orange, but with a smoother consistency. They grow with a papery, thin sheet around them.
Mamoncillo grow in bunches (like grapes) and are about the size of a cherry tomato. The skin is thin, but hard and rigid. It is easily broken with your teeth (you don’t eat it). The fruit of the mamoncillo is similar to that of a lychee. Mamoncillo always remind me of the beach. I remember eating them in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic where they are called quenepa or canepa. It also reminded us of the longan we ate so much of in Southeast Asia.