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Colombia is teeming with an array of exotic fruits, as delicious as they are intriguing. To celebrate International Fruit Day and using the inside knowledge of Maria José Caro, a cuisine and local market expert, we’ve crafted a list of Colombia’s 10 most curious and satisfying fruits to try. Maria José is the CEO of 321 Colombia and founder of The Fruit Tour, one of the experiences we are now offering to travelers.
A mere stroll through Bogotá’s Paloquemao Market excites all the senses. However, with the sheer enormity of the selection, many people don’t know where or how to begin picking through the bounty of fruits Colombia has to offer. On The Fruit Tour, Maria José guides you through the process, so that you can taste it all without overdoing it.
Before we get into the most vibrant fruits that you can encounter on The Fruit Tour, we want you to find out a little bit more about Maria José and her gastronomic insights.
During her first experiences living abroad, Maria was confronted with misconceptions regarding Colombia. This inspired a desire to change the perceptions of our nation and share with the world the cultural richness of Colombia: the warmth of our people and the boldness of our gastronomy.
Diversity of diet is not only important in terms of health, but also for the preservation of the ecosystem. Maria’s words ‘the world can only be as diverse as our dishes are’, encourage consumption of a variety of each food to reduce our footprint on the planet.
It is through individualized and personal travel experiences such as The Fruit Tour offered by Maria José, that we are able to better understand the culture and immerse ourselves into the pocket of another’s life in order to truly grow and learn.
In line with our mission of fostering responsible travel, Maria values generating a positive impact in the community. This has been achieved most notably through Hello My Friend, a high impact initiative aimed at providing English lessons to market vendors to garner greater benefits from the tourism boom.
I'm sure all this talk of fruit has you parched, so without further ado, here are 10 unique Colombian fruits and how best to incorporate them into your diet.
What's black, white and yellow all over? The pitaya, of course! You may have encountered some distant relatives of this fruit across the Pacific in the form of the pink dragon fruit. Maria tells us that although the yellow version is not as sexy as its Asian counterpart, it tastes 300 times better.
This sentiment is shared among locals and visitors alike, as it has a sweeter and more concentrated taste. A little prickly and harsh on the exterior, the pitaya is actually a big softy on the inside. Whereas many of the other plants require extraction of the seeds, the pitaya is one fruit where the seeds are edible.
However, make sure to consume in moderation, because although the pitaya is a crowd favorite, the fruit is highly digestive and over indulgence could lead to a day stuck close to the toilet.
A fruit with a twist. The zapote leaves a bit to be desired with its potato-like appearance, leading many to skirt past it for its more brightly colored neighbors. However, you know how the old saying goes, don’t judge a zapote by its potato skin. The inside is a wild shade of bright orange, proving that everything has a ray of sunshine inside, as Maria states.
At first bite, you’ll realize why it has been termed the love child of a mango and a watermelon, having the freshness of a juicy watermelon and the flavorful texture of a succulent summertime mango.
The níspero stands out as one of the most exotic fruits on the list. This fruit is seldom found in a regular market and is a special treat for visitors of Paloquemao. Like a fine wine, the níspero gets better with age. Maria advises against eating it when it’s too green, as it will be crazy ugly.
One of our most potent fruits, it is sure to divide a group. The inside resembles the texture of a purée with an extremely sweet, caramel taste. Many don’t know that this sugary caramel taste could exist naturally in fruit.
The níspero is a stone fruit, and some varieties can be more sour than others, but its general high sweetness means it goes swimmingly in a good ole’ cake or even a fruit salsa.
Sharing the same fruit family with the next guest on our list, the anón is a much sweeter version of the guanábana, with an inside like ice cream or custard. This has led some to coin it the ice cream apple. The anón is characterized by a thick outer rind with a bumpy texture.
While the texture of the fruit’s flesh may seem funny at first, if you take your time around you will find tucked away a creamy delicious center. The green exterior can vary from paler greens to darker, more bluish tones. Pull it apart and take out the white fleshy segments, but remember to discard the seeds. Mix it in with cereal or muesli for breakfast, as it has a great amount of high nutritional values.
Known as soursop in English, the guanábana is surprisingly easy to peel, despite its slightly prickly skin. Simply cut slices into the skin and peel them back like a banana. While in the same family as the anón, the guanábana is more acidic.
Although some confuse this fruit for the similar-looking, much smellier durian fruit, the guanábana is not banned in Singapore public transport and has a much more inviting fragrance.
This acidic fruit goes amazingly in a meringue or a refreshing juice. The leaves of the guanábana are a classic staple of herbal medicines to treat various infections or stomach ailments, with a soursop tea being a great way to reap the benefits of this fruit. However, there are debates on how effective the fruit can be for more serious diseases like cancer.
This small fruit packs a punch. Known as the Spanish lime, the mamoncillo is high up on the acidity scale, and Maria has seen many a sour lemon face from first-time tasters. However, mamoncillo never disappoints and its small size means everyone can easily always come back for more.
The mamoncillo contains large amounts of Vitamin C, meaning it’s great to boost immune system. For those with gluten intolerances, the ground seeds can be used as a substitute for cassava flour in baking. The leaves of the plant have even been known as a flea repellent in Panamanian homes.
The pepino dulce is known in English as melon pear but can be literally translated to sweet cucumber or cucumber melon. Sadly the pepino dulce is regularly underloved due to people not knowing of its existence- a group of people of which you will no longer be apart!
This fruit is perfect for smoothies, Maria even enjoys a banana, sweet pepino and apio (celery) smoothie to kick start her day, which is a sure way to get natural energies into your diet.
What is better, apple or guava? Ask this question to a crowd and you’re sure to get a mixed response. Well, the next fruit is here to keep everyone happy. None other than the guayaba manzana (or the apple guava for the English speaking folk).
The guava itself is extremely valuable for a biodiverse world, given the sheer range of variations in existence. Maria’s mission of diversity is based on the consumption of the foods we eat, which prevents the exhaustion of the planet’s resources.
The guava has more Vitamin C than anything else and as such is great for your immune system as a powerful superfood. The apple guava is exactly as it sounds: the shape and texture of a green apple with the taste and seeds of a rich guava; what more could you want?
While hailing from the much-lauded House of Passionfruit, the badea is much sweeter. This fruit is by far the most aromatic on the list, sure to awaken your senses with its refreshing sweetness.
Melon-shaped with thin, delicate skin, the badea’s color varies from light green to deep yellow when matured. Like many others on our list, this fruit has a wide array of health benefits, being great for children in development stages by strengthening the bones and providing loads of energy.
The badea goes great with any sweeter dessert dish or even a fish sauce according to Maria. Badea is best added to a juice when properly aged with a yellowish tinge. All you need is a bit of sugar, water and milk to accompany your beautifully mature badea and you have all the ingredients for a delicious jugo de badea.
Regarded by some as the queen fruit, the mangostino is a close cousin of the lychee and thus goes swimmingly in many cocktails. Unlike a lot of people, the mangostino is straight up and known for its transparency. The number of leaves belonging to a mangostino’s flower indicates how many cloves of flesh are hidden inside.
However, be careful when attempting to open the fruit as it has a tough shell that can be difficult to crack for a first-timer. But we assure you that the taste is worth the extra effort. Some use mangostino peels as natural dyes, which is just a further warning to heed caution when opening the fruit so as not to stain any pristine summertime clothing.
All this talk of fruits got you eager to try them ALL? To take part in The Fruit Tour, all you need is an eagerness to try new flavors and a large enough appetite, which shouldn’t be any kind of hurdle once you see the bounty of fruits in Bogotá’s Paloquemao Market. Additionally, once you’ve indulged in all of these exotic fruits, filled with natural sugars, fiber and a healthy dose of vitamins, you’re sure to have a couple of kicks of energy to power through the rest of your day in the city. Monserrate here we come!
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