I have been here for 71 whole days, and I have yet to really write about the fruit. I am the worst Colombia blogger ever. A million apologies. But let me make it up to you, right now, with a smorgasbord of fruit-related musings and photos. Hope you ate a good breakfast this morning, because otherwise your salivary glands may not be able to handle this.
So. If you know anything about Colombia, besides the crap you see in movies — if you know anything real about Colombia — you’ve probably heard about the fruit. When the Great Gods of Biodiversity were designing the world, they were obviously feeling particularly benevolent toward Colombia, because the variety of fruit available here is just out of control. There are fruits here I’ve never seen or even heard of before in my life, much less tasted. They have names like granadilla, lulo, maracuyá and guanabana — not only are they delicious, but they’re fun to say, too!
You can find your usual suspects here, of course: ripe yellow mangoes, papayas that could double as free weights and little tart apples. Most neighborhoods have at least one fruit store every three blocks or so, packed with crates piled high with almost every source of vitamins you could ever want. And did I mention how cheap they are? At my friendly local frutería, I can pick up two mangoes, four mandarinas (located somewhere between oranges and clementines in the International Citrus Registry), and a nectarine for about US$3. This is a habit I have no intention of kicking anytime soon.
I’m sure I’ll end up writing more about fruit in the future, as I acquire more photos of them (especially granadilla. I just can’t write about granadilla without a picture of it. Visual evidence is integral to understanding it). Honestly, I could write about fruit every week until I leave and still have neglected a ton of them, but I’ll do the best I can in the oh-so-brief time we have. Let’s start with the Ms, shall we?
Mango: Okay, most of you have probably eaten mangoes before in your lives. It’s not novel for the flavor so much as the amazing availability — you can buy them at pretty much any grocery or fruit stand, and good holy lord are they cheap. And SO delicious: juicy and ripe and native enough to make the strictest locavores happy. I think at this point I’m averaging about two mangoes a week, and I feel damn good about it.
Mangostina: Here’s where we get to the exotic, fun part. I had never seen a mangostina (mangosteen in English) before coming to Colombia. This is understandable, since Wikipedia has informed me that the U.S. had a ban on mangosteen imports up until 2007. Why they want to deprive the American public of something so delicious, I can’t say, but there you go. Trade relations!
In any case, you can buy them here, and buy them I do! Mangostina is a somewhat peculiar-looking fruit: about the size of my fist, with a hard dark purple rind. They kind of look like the tougher cousins of eggplants. Before they’re really ripe, they’re also near-impossible to open without some tool at roughly the intensity level of a machete. Once you do manage to get one open, though, the inside is made up of small, soft, white wedges that appear to be the squishiest clove of garlic you’ve ever seen. Fortunately, mangostina tastes nothing like garlic (I love garlic as much as the next non-vampiric creature, but I do prefer that it stay out of my fruit). The flesh is sweet and juicy and so soft it practically dissolves on your tongue, at which point you immediately want to open another one.
They seem to be somewhat of a delicacy here, as they’re the one fruit I haven’t been able to find in any frutería. I’m sure some stores do sell them, but generally the best place to find them is at weekend markets in places like La Candelaria or Usaquén. I’m particularly partial to the ones at Usaquén, which has less to do with their relative flavor than the fact that the guy at the fruit stand there gave me an extra one for free last time. And there’s nothing I love more than free stuff. Especially free stuff I can eat.