We discovered a lot of new fruit in Peru. Visiting markets, seeing people eat it on the street, even keeping our eyes peeled in the mountains, there were many new treats to be had, some unique to this country, some not.
We start with the soursop, a relative of the custard apple. It’s the same general idea – soft white flesh with a black stone in the middle, though a little less custardy in the middle than the custard apple. The taste was sharper and tarter. I found a farm growing these on my hike to Choquequirao. They were ripening while we were there, so there was a couple of occasions where one would just fall from the tree and splatter on the ground below.
In a market in Cuzco, we found the pepino, the grenadilla, and the lúcuma. The pepino, which can now be found in the United States in some grocery stores, is yellow with purple streaks. It has the consistency of a cantaloupe and tastes like a mix between a cantaloupe and a cucumber. It’s cooling and rather nice. Incidentally, pepino means cucumber in most other countries. Here, pepinillo means cucumber. You know, to avoid confusion.
The grenadilla is a type of passionfruit and is one of Chris’s favourites. It tastes similar to other kinds of passionfruit, though – and this was key for her – much less tart. The crunchy seeds are still there. The flesh that you eat is grey, which is a little off-putting, but they are quite tasty. Many people tear a corner off and use them as a cup, eating the innards with a little spoon.
We were alerted to the lúcuma by Dan when I read of his experiences here a couple of years ago. It’s a fruit that we didn’t see anywhere else on the continent – I believe it’s only eaten in Peru, mostly in juices and ice cream. It’s kind of mealy with an orange flesh and it tastes just like maple syrup. With a slight touch of fruitiness. Strange and interesting.
The noni (or ñoni, I can’t remember) is a weird, ugly fruit that we started encountering here in Peru. You don’t eat it – it’s way too hard. Rather, it is usually made into a juice or into a powder (which can later be used for teas or other drinks). It’s supposedly one of the healthy, solve-any-health problem fruits one hears about. There are some benefits to it – when used to make a juice, it has 10x your daily recommended Vitamin C dosage – though I think more research is needed. These are originally from Asia and Hawai’i, and now that I know that, I remember seeing them in Thailand. Strange where you meet fruit these days!
Heading out of the mountains and up towards Ecuador, we encountered the yacón, the tomate de arbol, the camu camu and the persimmon. The persimmon (yellowish-orange fruit at the top left), known as kaki here, is definitely not unique to here, but neither of us had had one before, so it was new to us. Nice and sweet and simple. The camu camu (small reddish fruit at the bottom) was called a plum by the local woman who sold it to us, though we later found that plum seems to be a common word for otherwise unidentifiable fruit (we saw many different ‘plums’ later on). They had a yellow flesh and were quite sweet and juicy with a stone in the middle.
The tomate de arbol (on the ride side, a dusky red) started here and continued right up into Colombia. It’s not usually eaten as a fruit, as the skin is inedible. It’s like leather, I tried it. The inside has the consistency of a tomato and tastes like a mix between tomato and a kiwi. Kind of. I grew to love the juice, though Chris thought it tasted like vomit and avoided it like the plague.
The yacón was another surprise. We found this in a market in Trujillo in the north. I can’t remember if we saw it much more beyond that, however. A sweet, crisp tuber, it’s mostly water an indigestible sugars, but it’s tasty and refreshing. It looks like a potato with a finger when you buy it (the finger has been cut off in this picture), then you peel it and it looks like an Asian pear (or apple pear, as I used to call them as a kid). They’re cool and crunchy and tasty and one of my favourites.
Of course, there was lots of regular fruit in Peru. We had fruit juice as much as possible, as everything was fresh and delicious. Stay tuned for more fruit!