One of the projects that Ellen and I embarked on in Colombia, while we had access to a market and had full use of a kitchen, was to try as many new kinds of fruit as possible. All through Latin America, fruit juices and smoothies are served with meals and as snacks or refreshments, so of course Ellen and I had to try our hands at making them ourselves.

A market stall in Popayan

A market stall in Popayan

It’s a fun but intimidating experience to walk into a market and buy something you’ve never tried before. Luckily, Ellen and I had a vendor at the market who took us under his wing, showing us all kinds of new fruits and explaining how to prepare them. We often had trouble understanding the names as he pronounced them, so when we got home we’d have to google them to see what we were having for lunch.

Grocery store fruits are more expensive and lower quality, but they have labels so we can learn the names.

Grocery store fruits are more expensive and lower quality, but they have labels so we can learn the names.

As far as adventures go, this was a rewarding one! I don’t think there was one fruit or juice we didn’t like, and we must have tried a dozen kinds. Guayabana, lulo, tomato de arbol, maracuya (passionfruit), araza, mango, guava, papaya… not only did we learn how to prepare them, but we also learned how to pick out ripe ones. I had never liked papayas before, as I found they were too sweet and had a funny, bitter aftertaste like bile. However, papayas didn’t get an exception to the “try everything” rule, so I picked out a small, just ripe one and it was incredible! I think I bought three before we made juice from one, because Ellen and I kept eating them.

Mmm, papaya! The smaller ones taste better to me, and have no seeds

Mmm, papaya! The smaller ones taste better to me, and have no seeds

Making juice in a blender - I think this is araza.

Making juice in a blender – I think this is araza.

Now that Ellen and I are in Ecuador, I look forward to finding out if there are new fruits here that we haven’t tried yet. Already, on the side of the road, we’ve seen sandia (watermelon) as well as large, round, green fruits growing on the trunks of trees, which we couldn’t identify for sure and which we’ve never seen sold. I think they might actually be a vine fruit, like a melon, which have grown up trees. A second possibility is an overgrown aguacate (avocado, but much larger and waterier, rather than creamy like avocado at home) but I’m not convinced. Certainly, according to our friendly army officer guide, Ecuador has many foods to try including morcilla (blood sausage, which we tried in Colombia but he assures us is superior in Ecuardor), cuy (I think that’s a kind of guinea pig), and ceviche (fresh seafood “cooked” in lemon juice, which we’ve had in Costa Rica and Colombia as well). If the local food is anything like what we’ve eaten in Latin America so far, I’m sure we’ll love it.

Ellen and I can't resist the fresh fruits

Ellen and I can’t resist the fresh fruits

A market stand in Santa Rosa

A market stand in Santa Rosa

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