Going to a grocery store or market in the Tropics is like going on a safari. While the particular grocery store I frequented in Medellín could easily pass for any market in North America (fans of Oreos and Doritos would not be left wanting), the produce section drew me in every time with it’s captivating colors, smells and shapes.
Unlike here in the States, Colombians are not so much into eating their veggies. You don’t see aisles of assorted greens, placed between the cucumbers and tomatoes for easy salad-making. You’ll find lots of potatoes and some other root vegetables – but they keep to their own corner of the produce section. It’s the fruits that sit in the spotlight. Everyone loves their fruit – and fresh squeezed fruit juices are sold everywhere. Every street corner seems to have a vendor with a pile of… well, some sort of fruit… and a juicer.
At the market, you see the bananas and citrus first, then you recognize the papayas and pineapple (because you occasionally see those back home in the market). And then, you are just left to wonder.There’s a fruit that looks like a potato, but has a strongly floral scent. Another that looks like a pear, but feels weightless when you pick it up. There’s something else that looks like a miniature lime – but you’re supposed crack it open with your teeth.
I don’t have too many photos of exotic fruits from this trip, but I figure this is just the introduction. I plan to explore them all in depth when I’m in Ecuador next year. For now, here’s what I have to start us off:
The Guava: Apparently, there are many, many varieties. I bought two of them. I’ve had guava juice before. It’s always pink. These guavas were not pink inside – one was orange, the other white. Without utensils in my hotel room, I had to tear them open and try to eat them with my fingers. Not recommended. Anyway, the mess prevented me from taking another picture. They were mildly sweet. A little too mushy for my taste. But that could have been these particular guavas.
The Hidalgo: I learned after returning home that this fruit comes from a cactus. Again, I pried it open with my fingers to find a mushy orange flesh protecting lots of little round black seeds. I guess you eat the seeds – there was no way to easily separate them from the flesh. But they were so hard, I couldn’t even crunch them. I was not particularly happy with this fruit.
The Granadilla: I found these when I went to have breakfast in my hotel one morning. I thought they were some kind of deformed Asian pear. I actually had to watch someone at another table eat one of these things before I knew what to do. You tear it open with your fingers (after my experiences with the hidalgo and guavas, I used a knife). Inside, there is about half an inch of white, spongy material holding a clear, gelatinous goo full of little black seeds. The idea is to use a spoon to eat the goo and the seeds. It was better than the hidalgo. The goo was slightly sweet. The seeds had no taste – just a lot of crunch. This is one I might try again.
The Lulo: I didn’t actually try the fruit. But the fruit juice was offered to us (in cute little drink boxes) during one of the coffee breaks at the conference. Slightly citrus flavor, without any acidity. I’ll make it a point to try to find this fruit when I return to South America next year. I probably passed it in the produce aisle, without knowing what it was.