If you’ve been bored enough to browse through my travels in Colombia, then you’ve most likely noticed that I’m infatuated with the cheap and plentiful jugos on tap most everywhere around here. I figured that it might be a fun and perhaps useful exercise to detail the various frutas that abound, both in jugo and non-jugo form, here in Colombia:
Guayaba – Ah yes, guayaba. Known as ‘guava’ to us estadounidenses, generally the only form we regularly find it in is a canned juice. Down here, they’ve got guayaba pie, various forms of guayaba pasteles, guayaba doughnuts, and guayaba paste. And of course, jugo de guayaba. The quintessential sabor tropicál.
Guanábana – If you live near some Latin American neighborhoods, you may come across this fruit, at least in juice form. It’s a giant green thing with little spikes on it, and it’s exterior is as soft as dough. On the inside is this slimy, white custardy fruit filled with medium-sized black seeds. The taste is pretty unique, sometimes a little bit weird depending on the state of ripeness. It’s probably best in juice form, but I can tell you from personal experience that picking out all the damn seeds from the fruit is a time-consuming and quite messy endeavor. The juice is reputedly very nutritious, so if you come across the stuff and are malnourished, go ahead and treat yourself.
Piñas – The lovely pineapple, these are pretty much everywhere in Colombia in juice form or sold in carts by street vendors, but for some reason not many of the folk have caught onto using it in their cookery. Gourmands most Colombians are not—but if you stray into a higher-end restaurant somewhere in Cartagena, you may find some entrada with a piña based sauce, such as salchicha en salsa de piña (sausage in pineapple sauce: interesting and tasty, if a bit strange).
Chirimoya – This fruit is the more delicious and voluptuous cousin of the guanábana. It has the same custardy, white interior dotted with thick black seeds, but the taste is much closer to that of a postre than that of a medicine. I fell in love with this fruit in Perú, but unfortunately have not seen too much of it in Colombia. If you ever spot one of these babies, rip it open and commence slurping.
Curuba – You’ll find this in juice form all over the place here. In leche, it tastes kind of like strawberry/banana, but there’s some other strange flavor floating around in it that complicates it, and a grittiness to it sometimes as well. I don’t really like this one very much myself, as that “other flavor” reminds me too much of the wet, muddy smell in the jungle.
Níspero – You’ll find this juice more commonly up around the Costa Caribe. Try this shit in leche. It tastes remarkably like a chocolate malt. No shit. It’s good. One of my favorite jugo treats. It still tastes reminiscent of chocolate en agua tambien. There’s a chalkiness to it that can be disconcerting, perhaps, at first, but just think of it like a malt and concentrate on it’s sweet caramel undertones.
Zapote – This seems to be a favorite up on the coast as well, also common in Medellín, usually mixed with milk. It’s got a subtle berryish flavor, but its taste seems to differ a bit depending where you get it. To me, it kind of has a strange taste that reminds me of the smell of new plastic toys, and so it’s not one I usually order. It’s definitely worth a try, however, as the locals certainly seem to dig it.
Lulo – Ah, lulo. This is another one of my favorites in juice form, and you will pretty much find it everywhere. I generally like it mixed with water, as it has a unique taste that doesn’t require sweetening, and it foams up quite nicely. It has a kind of citrusy, limey kind of taste, with some tropical tartness thrown in that makes it unique and tasty. You’ll also find a beverage made from lulo in the Valle de Cauca region called lulada, and I recommend giving that a try as well; it’s got whole fruit chunks in it, and you get to spoon them out and eat them in-between slurping up its seedy juicy goodness out of a straw.
Maracuyá – This is another favorite, and a regular on the scene in Colombian fruit circles, much like the guayaba. We know maracuyá as passionfruit here in the States. You will regularly find maracuyá jam, maracuyá doughnuts, maracuyá ice cream, etc—and of course, the delicious juice, mixed in water. You can also eat the fruit directly out of the rind with a spoon and some sugar, as it is rather tart. Make sure you try this requisite tropical treat. The taste kinda of reminds me of one of those Big Stick popsicles, which I suppose means that there must be hints of cherry and pineapple in there.
Tomate de Árbol – This fruit has an interesting taste that is reminiscent, as the name suggests, of tomato, but is wilder and tarter. You can scoop the fruit out with a spoon and eat it with some sugar sprinkled on it, or in juice form. I’m not a huge fan of the juice myself, but it’s not bad.
Granadilla – This is a close cousin of the maracuyá, and looks the same, with the same gloopy clump of seeds on the inside. This is another fruit that I’d fallen in love with in Peru. I definitely recommend giving this one a try, just for the experience of eating it alone. You won’t find this one in juice form, but it is plenty sweet all on its lonesome straight out the shell.
Pitahaya – This little weird yellow, spiky football-shaped fruit is a tasty little snack. As I mentioned earlier, it tastes pretty much like a watermelon, but it has a completely different type of fruit—it has this clear, white tinted fleshy fruit with little black seeds in it. I think it is supposedly a diarrhetic as well, so restrain yourself from consuming too many at one time.
Borojó – This is an interesting little fruit. Supposedly it’s got some viagra-like properties when mixed up properly. Otherwise, it’s a zesty and strange little juice that is packed with nutritious vitamins and what not. Try it both in agua and leche and see which you like best. There’s an interesting spiciness underlying its berry flavors that comes to the fore in water, but the berriness come out more in the milk.
Feijoa – Another interesting juice, if you can find it. It’s pretty weird tasting; about the closest way I can describe the juice is that if you took a bunch of the green, leafy tops of strawberries and blended them up together, then you would have a taste similar to feijoa. It’s a kind of tart, woody, grassy flavor.
Limonada, naranja, mandarina, manzana (apple), fresa (strawberry) – These are all pretty self-explanatory, but just a quick word on the jugo de naranja—it’s not the type of oranges that we’re accustomed to in the states (or it may just be that they use them when they are green, I’m not quite sure). Here the juice is much more tart, but I think it’s kind of refreshing in the morning to have that little wake up punch in the mouth.
Papaya, Banano, and Mango – I won’t even bother going into these fruits, as we are already quite familiar with them in the States. Suffice to say that they are everywhere, in the form of fruit, juice, and otherwise.
Coco – Coconut. On the Caribbean coast, you can buy them from street vendors, who will chop off the top and stick a straw into it and viola! You’ve got yerself some fresh coco juice. Nice refreshing snack on a hot day. Also ubiquitous in candies and cakes and such, as it should be. You will also find it mixed in with rice on the Caribbean coast, which is one of the few little tasty variations that the typical cuisine will indulge in.
Fruits which I did not get to try, because I either did not spot them anywhere, or were out of season or something, because the juice places would never have them even though they were listed on the menu (¡Que triste!) – mamuncillo, chontaduro, piñuela, uchuva, caimon, trombolo, and some “p”-word fruit that I can’t recall the name of.