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Colombian Fruit: A Tropical Odyssey

January 20, 2011
Colombian Fruits at the Market
When it comes down to it, my favorite thing to eat is fruit.  I love fruits of all sizes and shapes, grown in their natural habitat, and eaten in their simplest form possible.  Some fruits must be cooked down with sugar before you can eat them, such as quince, while others can be eaten right out of hand, like the apple.  One of my greatest pleasures in life is discovering a new fruit that I have never tried before, and learning about how it is eaten and when.  I think that my travel experiences are heightened by new fruits, and I openly admit that I plan some trips to Mexico around the mamey and mango season.   
I was in Colombia for a friend’s wedding recently, where I tried so many new fruits that I cannot even remember them all.  The wedding took place in Cartagena, where corozo was everywhere.  Corozo is a small red fruit that looks like a cherry and has a large seed.  It is special in the region around Cartagena, and it graced the menus of restaurants and bars in both fruit juice and cocktail form.  It reminded me a little of a cranberry, only for its slightly sour and acidic taste, but I don’t want to make too much of a comparison, because it is truly unique.  When asked about corozo, my friends from the nearby city of Barranquilla described the fruit with regional pride, and at the end summed it up with a simple, “Es delicioso.”  

When I arrived in Bogota, I not only fell in love with the city, but also with the juice of lulo.  Lulo is not exclusive to Bogota, but it was when I first started paying attention to it. The fruit is orange and has a smooth skin, similar to a persimmon, but when you cut it open, it reveals a center with a combination of liquid and seeds, like an orangey- greenish tomato.  The fruit is slightly acidic, very refreshing, and light.  Lulos have a lot of little seeds, but you don’t notice them while you drink them down.  The first day I got there, I had a lulada in the flea market of Usaquen, which is a chunky juice that you eat with a spoon.  After that, I sat down to lulo juice at almost every lunch, and one night we made a Rum and Lulo Cocktail with ginger.  Lulo goes great with vodka as well, in case you were wondering.  

Another favorite juice of mine was Guanabana, which is that large giant green fruit with a smooth white flesh, which is creamier in texture and much more subtle than Corozo and Lulo, yet no less delicious.  I always had mine mixed with water, but I was told it was better with milk.  I loved to drink guanabana juice in the morning with breakfast.  I was left wondering how many combinations I could make with guanabana, using its creaminess to my advantage in smoothies.    

The crowning glory of my Colombian fruit experience was going to Paloquemao on the last day.  It is a central market with everything from around the country.  There were so many fruits and vegetables that I had never seen before, and my friend bought a bunch to take home with her.  One of the fruits that she purchased was the Gulupa, a small purple potato-like little thing, which she believes to be part of the passion-fruit family.  There were grenadillas, chirimoyas, strawberries, blackberries, pears, apples, oranges, papayas, mangoes of all sizes, feijoas, plums, avocadoes, ground cherries, tree tomatoes, and a few more that I cannot remember the names of.  I think the next time I go to Colombia, it will be on a fruit - eating mission, and I will cover all of the fruits slowly.
Now that I am back in New York in the snow, where the crispiness of Fall’s apples has given way to that mid-Winter mealiness, I will spend my days dreaming of the bright punch of maracuya.