But, it’s not just that! The paw paw is also a native American fruit. Native to the eastern United States and related to the custard apple, soursop, and cherimoya, the American papaw (or paw paw, pawpaw, or paw-paw) is a fruit that looks like a mango but is slightly custardy. It supposedly tastes like a banana-mango-pineapple. The paw paw was also called the prairie banana.
Apparently, the paw paw is the largest native American fruit (0ther than gourds which are classed as vegetables). There are efforts to harvest the paw paw has no known pests. But, the fruit ripens quickly to fermentation so it is best used for jam and in other prepared foods.
Ohio botanist William B. Werthner noted that:
“The fruit … has a tangy wild-wood flavor peculiarly its own. It is sweet, yet rather cloying to the taste and a wee bit puckery.”
I am not a very adventurous eater, but, for the sake of my fruit-ologist friend, I was willing to try it. It didn’t taste like much.
Once I get to Italy, I wonder what fruits will be new to me? I certainly didn’t expect to find a new fruit in the United States, so I hope I will be equally surprised.
Uchuva (cape gooseberry/yellow berry): These cherry-sized yellow fruit inside a paper cover (they look like small yellow tomatillos) have an aroma that I can’t describe (a subtle tomato-ish aroma), are slightly sour, and have a tomato-like texture.
Lulo: This fruit is unique to this part of the world (grows in Ecuador and Peru as well). The Colombians have really made it part of their daily juice selection (fresh juice is a part of daily life here). The lulo looks like a tomato but is super sour so only used for juice. The juice is greenish in color even though the fruit is orange.
Pitaya (yellow dragon fruit): This fruit could change the world. I call it the “110-minute fruit”… as in, you know where you will be 110 minutes after you’ve eaten it. I like to scoop out the insides sort of like eating a kiwi. It is part of the cactus family.
Maracuya (passion fruit): When I went on the fruit tour, I learned that the passion fruit sold in the U.S. is the brown version created by mixing a “mom” and a “dad” fruit. In the photo, the big round greenish one on the right is the “mom” and the long narrow one on the left is the “dad” (called a “caruba”) and the one in the center is the one I think of as a passion fruit.
Tree tomato: I tried three different kinds of tree tomato in Colombia. They don’t have much flavor and look like long narrow tomatoes.
Chirimoya (custard apple): This green pear shaped fruit that looks a bit like an artichoke is a surprise.
Kumquat: Looks like a grape-sized orange. Supposedly you can eat it, rind and all. I find it very bitter.
Papayuela. The only fruit that must be boiled with sugar before consumption.
Orange: The oranges used for Colombia are often green on the outside and orange on the inside. And sweet.
Mandarin: I mention these because the juice is great. Most of the mandarins I tried in Colombia were in juice form. When I would go to my favorite market, Paloquemao, the vendors would often give me a free mandarin. I appreciate the freebie but really I don’t like the mandarins because they are too papery and fibrous. But, great as juice! And so incredibly orange colored (the green juice in the back is feijoa – mentioned later)!
Zapote: Baseball size and dirt-colored. Inside is the texture of a pumpkin and it is bright orange. This is just one of the fruits you can try on the fruit tour in Bogota.
Obos: It looks like an olive and one chews around the hard seed inside. It seems like a lot of work for what you get.
Mamoncillo: Little round hard fruit a bit like lychee but without the same aroma.
Curuba zanahoria: The fruit from a palm tree. It’s a bit like a pumpkin. It needs salt, sugar, and lime juice… is it worth it?
Feijoa (pineapple guava/guavasteen): It tastes like kiwi with a soapy aroma. Not so good for those who don’t like cilantro. Used mostly for juice. Named for a Brazilian explorer.
Guayaba araca (wild acidic guava): These are yellowish and the size of an apple. The aroma of these led me to them in the produce section. Inside the flesh is pale custard color with flesh like a peach. But, they are super sour. Once I read about it, I found out that it needs to have sugar added and it needs to be diluted to 1 part juice to 10 parts water.
Granadilla: This was the go-to fruit for Colombian school kids because this is a sturdy fruit (and apparently the kids would smash it against their forehead to crack it open).
Guamas: looks like a mega green bean pod but you just eat the inside white fluff that surrounds the beans.
Carambola (starfruit): You have seen them on many a cocktail. I assume.
Papaya: This is a meat tenderizer and the Colombians eat this for breakfast — like they are trying to tenderize the night.
Pepino melon: a long attractive melon.
Agraz (blackberries, but like a small bitter acai): This small berries are so bitter that they must be good for your health.
Higos: The fruit of the cactus fruit.
Cashew fruit: The fruit of the cashew tree is great if you can get it. The nut hangs off the end of the fruit. It’s much better as a juice.
Mango: There are many sorts of mangoes. Colombia has the larger reddish kind.
Mangosteeno (mangosteen): Not from Colombia but they are very proud to grow them here. This is my favorite fruit.
Piñuela: This was a small shallot-shaped fruit. To eat it, one peels the leaves it like a banana. Inside is a white floss around a large black seed. Eat the floss.
Yacon: I first heard of this in the U.S. as it was being used in dried form as a diet tea. It’s sold on the streets of Bogota. On the outside, this fruit looks like a dirty potato. On the inside, it looks like a pear. Sort of.
Plantain: It is a fruit. It’s eaten like a starch. It is. But, it looks like a banana. A word about bananas in Colombia. Most of them are spotty. There are many different kinds. If you want unblemished Dole bananas, you need to buy “export” bananas. And good luck finding them.
Breva: This fruit looked like a styrofoam. I had lots of discussions with my Colombian colleagues about what it’s actually called. I believe it has to be boiled with sugar for ten hours.
Noni: And then there were these “noni”… so ugly. Apparently, they also have to be boiled for 24 hours with sugar. I couldn’t find anyone who had ever had these.
Actually, the rarest fruit to find in Colombia are lemons.
While researching the names of the fruits, I found this photo contest. It’s amazing to see what fruits are out there for us to try: Some links to other fruit adventurers: A blog about all kinds of things.
I did not find 100 new fruits to try, but these are a sample of the ones that I tried. Many of the new fruits were variations of other fruits. And frankly, a lot of the fruits were not very tasty and had to be boiled with sugar for 24 hours to be edible… stick with the pitaya, lulo juice, and mangosteeno.
Don’t be afraid. Go for the goods. Bogota’s street food is very easy to try. There’s is everything from fresh juice, fruit salad, bunuelos, empanadas, arepas, hotdogs, sandwiches, coconut, and even breakfast carts where they will fry up an egg and put it in a sliced arepa, sandwich style. Because the tap water in Bogota is drinkable, the street carts are also fairly clean.
I enjoy the luxury of being able to find, on almost any street corner, a fresh pressed glass of orange juice, or carrot and orange juice, or mandarin juice, or sliced pineapple, or a watermelon slice, or a deep fried yucca dumpling.
During Ciclovia, there are lots of stalls offering all kinds of food, though most of it is fruit.