The Land of Tropical Fruits: Vol. 2
Ecuador, the Land of Tropical Fruits
Following our “The Land of Tropical Fruits: Vol. 1” post, we would like to introduce three new tropical fruits native to the Andes region. They might be very common in Ecuador, but perhaps a little unknown to visitors coming from seasonal countries. Ecuador, being a season-less country with a tropical weather, is able to grow a unique and wide variety of fruits all year long. You will find many of the Ecuadorian fruits in the form of juices, smoothies and jams, but they are also good to eat raw. While visiting Quito, stay at the conveniently located and colonial downtown hotel, Casa Gangotena, and visit any of the nearby markets and small fruit stores. Ask the fruit vendor for their names. They will be happy to give you a little feedback on the fruits’ characteristics and benefits. Just remember to wash the fruit before you eat it, and enjoy this new range of flavours that will certainly surprise even the most audacious palate.
This particular fruit has no English translation, though in Spanish it means “little orange.” Called Solanum quitoense by its scientific name, its second name in latin literally translates to “from Quito”. It also goes by the name lulo, in Colombia. Naranjillas belong to the Solanaceae family (nightshade family), it needs partial exposure to sunlight in order to grow. It has round shape and a hard shell that turns from a bright green to a bright orange when ripe. It has a pulpy interior with small, edible seeds, similar to the ones in a tomato. It is usually enjoyed in juices, which tends to be a local favourite, especially in Quito and the Andes region. It is also used in desserts, ice cream and in the sauce of a delicious local delicacy called “seco de chivo” (lamb stew). It’s not often that people eat it raw, due to its very high acidity and its tangy and citrusy flavour, which is why when cooked and prepared, is commonly served with a lot of sugar, and it has a bright and light green colour. It is naturally rich in vitamin C and A, calcium and iron.
Tamarillo is called “tomate de árbol” in Spanish, which translates to “tomato from the tree” or simply “tree tomato”. Like its cousin the naranjilla, it belongs to the Solanaceae family. It is native to the Andes regions of Ecuador, Colombia, Perú, all the way down to Bolivia and Chile. The fruit is egg-shaped and its colours vary from yellow and orange, to red and purple. It has a juicy interior filled with medium-sized edible seeds. Its flavour changes with the colour of its shell. Yellow and orange tamarillos tend to be sweeter, while red and purple ones are more acidic. In the highlands, people like to eat it raw, even though its very acidic. It’s more commonly used in juices, desserts, ice cream and jam, much like the naranjilla. It has a high content of vitamin C, A, calcium iron and magnesium.
This species of the genus Physalis, also a member of the Solanaceae family, is originally from Peru. However, it’s also a beloved and traditional Ecuadorian fruit, especially in the Andes region. Despite its name, it’s more a closer relative to the eggplant than the cherry. It has a small spherical shape, and it grows inside a leaf cocoon, which makes it look like it came right out of a fairy tale. Its colour is bright yellow when ripe, as is its firm pulp filled with many tiny and edible seeds. It has a very sweet and slightly acidic taste. It can be dried and eaten as a snack, but tastes amazing in desserts, jams, pies and salads. Eating it ripe and raw is also a treat! The golden berry has many benefits. It’s a natural source of antioxidants and it also has anti-inflammatory properties. It is also high in Vitamin C, a booster for the body’s immune system.