8 Colombian Fruits to Enjoy During Your Trip (and Where to Find Them)
When you’re planning a trip to Colombia, one of your top anticipated experiences should be the Colombian fruit. Fruits in Colombia are unlike anywhere else in the world. Colombia’s tropical climate means that many fruits are in season year-round, and street vendors give you quick access to fresh nutrition every day. We’ve compiled a list of Colombian fruit for you to try.
Cherimoya fruit comes from the Cherimoya tree, an evergreen with its native home in Peru and Ecuador. A Cherimoya will either be heart-shaped, globe-shaped, or egg shaped. The fruit has a thin skin with a unique velvety texture. Cherimoya fruit begins to ripen in the fall, with its season lasting from late fall through the spring.
Cherimoya’s white pulp has a mild flavor similar to a mix of banana, mango, and coconut. The unusual texture is refreshing and similar to a custard, leading to its English nickname of custard apple. Each fruit’s flesh is embedded with inedible black seeds. There are a few different varieties of Chermoya, some of which have scaly depressions. A high number of depressions means the fruit will yield a high number of seeds.
Guanabana is the common Spanish name for the soursop fruit. This giant green fruit is covered with soft “thorns.” Inside, you’ll find a fleshy white substance, along with black and brown seeds.
The flavor is similar to a blend of pineapple and strawberry. The sour, pineapple-like citrus flavors also combine with a more creamy flavor that resembles banana or coconut.
Guanabana boasts numerous health benefits. It has a number of different vitamins while also being low in calories. The protein in the fruit is also ideal for people eating a plant-based diet. In addition to the nutritional content, guanabana has been used for the following health reasons:
- The fruit seeds are an anti-emetic used to treat vomiting
- The leaves can treat skin disorders when formed into a poultice
- The fruit pulp speeds healing when applied to wounds
- The root bark can be used in poison treatments
- Teas made from guanabana leaves can get rid of head lice when applied to the scalp
Lulo is a fruit similar to citrus. It grows on small trees. Across Colombia, lulo is the traditional name, but the fruit is called naranjilla in Ecuador and Panama. The flavor is particularly distinctive, drawing comparisons to pineapple, or a combination of rhubarb and lime.
Lulo’s flavor is too strong for most people to take on its own, but its juice is used as a popular healthy drink across Colombia. Said juice is an unusual green color that might surprise people.
Lulo is somewhat difficult to find because it’s a nightshade plant. It’s much more susceptible to diseases, discoloration, and bruising than other fruits. Because of this, it cannot be mass cultivated, so the crop has relatively small export levels. You’re unlikely to have access to it outside one of its native countries.
Lulo confers the following health benefits:
- It’s a rich source of vitamin A and vitamin C, so it helps boost your immune system and act as an antioxidant
- The fibrous pepsin in lulo helps aid your digestion and regulate your glucose levels
- Various carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and vitamin A, can improve your vision when you consume lulo
- The fruit reduces your cholesterol level and increases your blood circulation
- The iron, phosphorous, and calcium help improve your bone tissue density for long-lasting strength
Colombian Passion Fruit
Passion fruit, otherwise known as maracuya, is a climbing plant native to Central America. Colombia is one of its main producing countries. Passion fruit has an egg-like shape. The fleshy skin will be orange or yellowish violet, depending on the variety and level of ripeness. When the fruit is ready for consumption, the texture becomes creased.
Maracuya’s pulp has a crimson and white layer. The white layer protects the seeds, which are encased in orange jelly. You can eat this jelly; it tastes similar to pineapple.
The main commercial varieties of this plant are yellow and purple granadillas. Granadillas are the sweetest strain of passion fruit, though the other strains are larger. In most cases, granadilla will be used to create jam. You can look for granadilla jam during your stay in Colombia.
Tomate de Arbol
Tomate de arbol translates directly as “tomato of the tree.” This edible fruit, otherwise known as the tamarillo, is a flowering shrub found throughout South America. Each egg-shaped fruit greatly resembles a tomato, with colors ranging from orange and yellow to deep red. The color depends on the strain.
The most recognizable form of tomate de arbol is the red fruit, which most closely resembles a tomato. Red fruits have a more acidic taste, while orange and yellow fruits tend to be sweeter. The fruit’s skin has a firm texture, and each individual fruit has more seeds than tomatoes.
The fruits contain a great deal of vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, iron, and fiber. As such, they confer a variety of health benefits. For people eating plant-based diets, the proteins are also ideal.
There are a number of ways the fruit is traditionally eaten. The flesh can be lightly sugared and chilled for use as a type of breakfast. You might also find this fruit made into compotes, or as an ingredient added to stews. In Colombia, it’s common to find fresh tamarillos blended with sugar and water to make juice. You can also find it in the form of a puree.
Uchuvas are commonly called “yellow tomatoes” or “cape gooseberries.” They’re popular in many areas of the world, but most uchuvas are exported from Colombia. Traditionally, people will eat uchuvas fresh and raw. However, there are also a number of Colombian dishes made using uchuva as the main ingredient.
Because of the sweet and tangy flavor of the fruit, uchuvas are used in a number of Colombian desserts. You might find them in sweets, cheesecakes, and marmalades. Additionally, they’re often used as a component of spicy sauces or stuffed poultry.
The main nutritional benefit of uchuvas is the unusually high fiber content. One serving of the fruit has three times the fiber of a serving of prunes. In fact, uchuvas have the highest fiber content of any dried fruit you’re familiar with, including raisins, figs, and apricots.
Zapote is a small fruit, usually between one and three inches in diameter when ripe. The exterior rind is tough, but can be peeled away to reveal bright orange fresh. Zapote fruit has a taste similar to a fig’s sweetness, while the texture more closely resembles an avocado. At the center of the fruit, you’ll find a number of inedible black seeds.
In most cases, people will eat zapote fresh from their hands. It is traditional in Colombia to mix the fruit with water, sugar, ice, and milk to create an icy beverage. You might also find smoothies and custards with mashed zapote as a main ingredient. During the Colombian summer, many people will freeze the fruit and use it as a filling for ice cream.
A pitahaya is most commonly known in the United States as a dragon fruit. This fruit is produced by cacti that were originally native to Central America and northern South America. There are three main strains of pitahaya found throughout Colombia, all of which have leathery skin.
The white-fleshed pitahaya’s fruit is pink-skinned, but its flesh is white. This dragon fruit is the most commonly photographed. The red-fleshed pitahaya is red-skinned, with red flesh underneath. The last kind is the yellow pitahaya, which has yellow skin and white flesh.
Most people eat pitahaya by cutting it in half and eating the flesh inside. It has a taste similar to kiwi and melon, and it’s often found in tropical fruit salads. You can also find pitahaya juice, or pureed pitahaya.
Where to Find Colombian Fruit
No matter what area of Colombia you’re staying in, you’re likely to find a local market. The size of these markets will vary depending on how populous the area is. They’re often full of farmers and local harvesters selling different types of fruit. Some fruits, like bananas, will be familiar to you. Others, like the ones on this list, might be new.
If you find yourself in Medellin, the largest fruit market is Miniorista Market. The vendors here sell nearly all fresh fruit found in the city, whether you see it on street corners or in restaurants. Many vendors will give you the opportunity to taste fruit before you buy it. Walking around a Colombian market is one of the best ways to become exposed to tastes you’ve never experienced before.
In Bogota, there’s another lively and large fruit market called Paloquemao where you’ll find street vendors selling all kinds of different fruit. There are some fruits that go in and out of season, but for the most part, Colombia’s tropical climate means fruit is accessible year-round.