South America is such a rich land, it’s nature is found only here. Exotic fruits play a big part in the cuisine thanks to the huge amount of textures, flavors, and smells that give us a huge diversity of delicious dishes. Many fruits have been eaten for millennia and are rooted in the culture.
The Spondias Mombin is a fairly small fruit native from Central to South America, from Mexico to Brazil. This bright yellow fruit has managed to travel to South East Asia. If you are brave enough you can eat it raw, but it is really acidic and sour, depending on how ripe it is. Inside it’s thick skin you will find a thin layer of yellow pulp, which is attached to a large seed. This fruit is usually used to make very good jams, and juices. In Mexico Spondias Mombin are pickled to make appetizers. It’s properties are still being studied but we know that it is used as diuretic, and febrifuge.
There are over 60 native species of curuba, also called banana passion fruit. It grows in areas of vegetation at high altitudes. This fruit is known for its elongated shape, and it’s texture resembles purple and red passion fruit. Under the thick skin, you’ll find a glut of pulp with a tart and sweet taste with an undertone that reminds you of bananas. The black seeds are edible but bitter. Banana passionfruit is used in many dishes, sauces, jams, and juices. This is the most diverse when it comes to native cuisine. This fruit has many properties, it reduces stress, helps to reduce blood pressure, it is antispasmodic, and it is diuretic.
Known by many names, including custard apple, the Cherimoya is a green heart shaped fruit which has a very sweet taste. It’s peel is scaly and not edible, just like it’s dark seeds which are toxic to humans. Inside the fruit is creamy and soft, and can be scooped with a spoon. Mark Twain was a big fan of this fruit, calling it “the most delicious fruit known to man”. Some say that it’s taste is a mixture between banana, pineapple, and strawberry. This fruit is native to the northern part of South America, in fact it was a big part of the Incan diet. Over time it spread South along the Andes, and as far as Central America. One Cherimoya contains 60 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin c, which supports a healthy immune system. Certain compounds in this marvelous fruit may help reduce chronic inflammation, which helps prevent cancer, heart diseases, arthritis, bowel diseases, and diabetes.
Papayuella, known as mountain papaya, can be found in South America forests at high altitude. This unique fruit is found in the Andes region, spreading from Colombia to Chile. Found at altitudes beyond 1500 meters. The pulp is a mixture of textures. Usually it is firm and has a dry, and sour taste. Around the black seeds the yellow pulp is fleshy and jelly-like, tasting like a combination of pear, peach, and regular papaya. Mountain papaya is used in both sweet and savory dishes, and it’s also used to make juices. This fruit is excellent for digestion.
Acai berry is one of the worlds most sought after super foods today, but this amazing fruit has been on northern South America plates for thousands of years. The acai berry comes from the acai palms, a species of tree that comes from floodplains and wetland areas of all the northern countries of the continent. This fruit is small, purple and grape-like. Their taste has a tarteness to it, similar to raspberries or blackberries, but with an earthy chocolaty undertone. The seed which makes up a great part of this fruit needs to be removed. Usually acai needs to be soaked in water to be able to remove the thick skin. Traditionally eaten in savory dishes, today it is consumed for its marvelous properties, like it’s high quantity of antioxidants and it’s nutrient content. You can easily find it in bowls, but it is also added to a range of salads.
Araza, also known as the Amazonian pear, is a rare fruit found in the Amazon rainforest. We can find it in Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador. It’s color varies from bright yellow to green with a thin peel, and it is the size of an orange. Because the taste is a bit sweet with a great aroma, and really sour, it is mostly used to make jam, ice cream, juices and even beer. This fruit is considered a “super food” and contains a large quantity of vitamin c, twice that of an orange, it also helps prevent cardiac diseases.
There are so so so many more spectacular fruits. I could sit here all day writing about the wide variety of gifts that nature produces everyday, and their properties. Like carambola, guava, higo, mamey,lulo, tamarillo, uchuva, feijoa, maqui berry, jabuticaba, mortinho, and many many more. They play an integral role in this continent’s history, providing the indigenous people a source of food with which they survived for many millennia.