I remember traveling to Sri Lanka some years ago and being told that no matter how poor people were, going hungry was very rare as the abundance of fruit the country had to offer ensured there was always something to eat. Now I’m not sure if that’s the same here in Colombia, but certainly there’s an incredible amount of fruit here and, more impressively, a huge amount of diversity. In fact, there’s a book in publication that details 150 commercial Colombian fruits. One hundred and fifty. Commercial! That means there’s even more than that on the underground fruit scene! I wonder which fruit was the latest to sell-out?
Anyway, it’s beyond the scope of this blog to list 150 fruits for you (sorry) but since fruit and food is such a big part of Colombian culture, here’s 10 of the best we at the Colombia Travel Blog have enjoyed in Colombia:
Uchuva / Cape gooseberry fruit
Uchuva (Photo Courtesy of Ignacio Sanz)
I first tried these little, round treats when my housemate came home carrying a bag full of relatively familiar fruit, and then something that looked like pot-pourri. Naturally I was outraged. How dare she spend our food budget on pointless decorations, no matter how pleasant smelling it might make our humble abode?! Of course, upon closer inspection I found a small, marble-shaped orange thing inside. Turned out it was fruit. Turned out it was delicious, very sweet and very more-ish. It’s pretty ideal for a small snack to munch on, or for jams and pies. Humble pie in my case.
Feijoa / Pineapple guava
As with many of the fruits in this list, I first tried feijoa in the form of a smoothie (good tip, if you’re unsure of what flavor smoothie the waiter/waitress just offered you, just accept it, it’s usually delicious). It was less sweet than I expected but then I’m used to smoothies back home, where the fruit is almost always mixed with half a cup of sugar. Still, it was a great accompaniment to my meal and I’ve since tried it on it’s own and, yes, it was lovely.
Lulo / Naranjilla
This is somewhat of a favorite in Colombia and it’s not hard to understand why. Many times when I’m out in a restaurant my Colombian friend will implore me to try a lulo smoothie and so, not wanting to disappoint, I’ve tried it for the first time about a dozen times. Still, it’s easy enough to act surprised when it really does taste that good. It stands alone just fine but the real triumph of the lulo is found in smoothie form. The fruit has a citrus flavor, not a million miles from a lime, but with an extra little something to it. I’d highly recommend giving it a go as a juice, especially if you like your juices hearty, healthy-tasting and green.
Maracuyá / Passion fruit
Another fruit that surprised me with its diversity. Apparently it comes in 3 different species, all of which you can get in Colombia very easily. My personal favorite is the granadilla strain of passion fruit, which you dig your thumb into and then suck out the delectable, sweet seeds you’ll find inside. Of course, the other varieties you can’t go wrong with and I’m sure we’re all fans of passion fruit smoothies since they are out-of-this-world good (especially here in Colombia).
Guayaba / Guava
Guayaba, photo courtesy of saguayo
Unbeknownst to me there’s about an absolute ton of species of guayaba in the world. Although guava is available in some countries, it’s still relatively rare and, as always, tastes much better direct from the source. In Colombia the fruit is utilized in everything from juices and pies to pastry and doughnuts. Yes, it really is that popular here and you’d be a fool not to try it.
Carambola / Star fruit
The truth is even if I didn’t love the taste of carambola it’d still find its way onto this list because it’s shaped like a star! Now, unfortunately I don’t live in Mushroom Kingdom and my name isn’t Mario, so when I eat carambola music doesn’t start playing I you don’t turn invincible, but I do get a tasty punch of a kind of citrus-y, apple-y mixture. The textures also very satisfying, not unlike a grape but slightly crunchier and very juicy. A delightful treat.
Tomate de árbol / Tamarillo
Another smoothie classic. I don’t tend to eat tomate de árbol straight, for no other reason than I have a habit of heading to my local smoothie vendor in the morning and getting myself a delicious, hearty drink. Of course, you can eat it by itself and no doubt you’ll enjoy it, I just believe you can have too much of a good thing, so I limit myself to once-a-day. Tomate de árbol tastes like a mix between kiwis and tomatoes, and is easily sweetened with a little sugar. Like lulo, it’s very popular with locals and so it’s a must-try when visiting Colombia.
Guanábana / Soursop
Texture-wise, the guanábana can take some getting used to. Its exterior is soft and spikey while inside it’s reminiscent of custard, but not the thick, lumpy custard like dad makes. You know, the good, smooth kind, like your mama makes you. The taste is kind of acidic and if the fruit isn’t ripe it can taste pretty weird, but when you get the right guanábana its like a cacophony of fruity goodness, mixing strawberry, banana and citrus with a hint of coconut, just for good measure. And yup, you guessed it, it makes a great smoothie.
Pitaya / Dragon fruit
I first discovered this fruit in Sri Lanka and was thrilled when, on my first Colombia vacation, I discovered it was available here too. I admit my immediate attraction to pitaya is the fact that it’s the most colorful fruit I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Its exterior is bright pink with dashes of green, and when it’s cut open it’s a deep pink with black seeds. Pitaya in South America is slightly different to its Asian cousin (which on the inside looks like cookies & cream ice cream), but still just as nutritious and delicious.
Banano / Banana & Piña / Pineapple
Ok so it’s hardly like you won’t have heard of pineapples or bananas, but they deserve a brief mention because, like any food, they taste so mouth-watering here because you’re eating directly from the source. No 2-3 day delay between being farmed and arriving in your local supermarket, they’re sold out on the street a few hours after being picked. A special mention must go to the smoothie lady in on Playa Grande in Taganga, who made the best banana smoothie this young man has ever tasted. Props to you, smoothie maestra.
Paul is an Englishman with a longstanding love of travel, tea and quality beer. His first trip was to Bosnia & Herzegovina and it was there, wading in some waterfalls near Mostar with just a litre of cheap beer and some bread in his belly, that he was bitten by the travel bug. After many more trips and a spell working in London, Paul relocated to Buenos Aires for some months before moving to Colombia. He's been here, knocking back 'guaro', for about 2 years now.