The Fruits of the Colombian Caribbean

Colombia is the second most mega-diverse country in the world and its geographical location is a key point of its surprising biodiversity, therefore, we enjoy an immeasurable variety of fruits. Many can be obtained almost all year round and when traveling through the vast terrain – the Amazon Rainforest, the Andes mountains, the great Orinoco plains, the Pacific and Caribbean coasts – we find a unique pantry of fruits with characteristics given by each of these landscapes.

The region of the Colombian Caribbean has an extensive and varied geography that includes: the great Guajira Desert; the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which is the highest coastal mountain system in Colombia reaching 5,700 meters above sea level; the Montes de María; the Magdalena River Delta; the depression Momposina; the Sinú valley; the great savanna of Córdoba and Sucre; the Gulf of Urabá; the islands of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina; and the archipelagos of San Bernardo and Rosario Islands. All this is represented in different thermal floors that house microclimates and unique soils, producing an incredible variety of fruits little known outside the territory but integral for the native peoples of Colombia’s Caribbean. They have utilized them since pre-Columbian times, as well as all of the varieties that entered the territory at the time of the conquest by the African slaves who hid their seeds in their hair, or those who came through the great migrations from the Middle East. These cultures also brought with them diverse techniques that added to those of natives, creating an exhaustive collection of preparations, such as the mongo mongo, a compote of fruits and spices typical of the savanna of Cordoba; the corozo wine of Mompox; the green papaya caballito and the cocoadas of San Basilio de Palenque; the pie de mamey Cartagenero; salpicón, a mixture of fresh fruits and soda; los raspados, a mixture of shaved ice and fruit syrup; the bolis frozen fruit drinks; the banana and coconut mazamorra of Montes de María; the mango paste of Santa Marta; guineo paso from Ciénaga Magdalena; the sweet grapefruit from Valledupar; breadfruit fried in coconut oil from the island of San Andres; the jumbalin sweet from the island of Providencia; and countless other fantastic and invaluable recipes. The diversity of fruits of this beautiful region are revered by its inhabitants with different festivals, such as the mango festival in Malagana Bolívar, the plum festival in Campeche Bolívar, the festival de dulce in Cartagena, and the banana festival in Dibulla La Guajira. among others.

There is an extensive list of popular fruits such as mamey, zapote, níspero, guayaba agria, guanábana, marañón, mamón, chirimoya, anón, corozo, pomarrosa, perita de agua, guama, carambolo, tamarindo, ciruela costeña, varieties of melons, of citrus, banana, and more than ten varieties of mangoes. Yet, there are also many fruits of great value though are lesser known, promising species with great potential, like the coastal or acerola cherry, jumbalin, june plum, uvita de playa, Guásimo, Guaimaro, Matimbá, akee or huevo vegetal, icaco, uva gomosa, pepino morado, breadfruit, pepa pan, cañandonga, and jobo, including the fruits of the Guajira Desert that have been fundamental in the food and survival of the Wayuu indigenous people (such as iruwa, iguaraya, pichiguel, jamüche’e, jiirü, kaimorot, and guamacho).

By looking to the future and taking advantage of this pantry at Celele and the Proyecto Caribe Lab, we have given ourselves to the task of cataloging these fruits, as well as discovering how their seeds, leaves or flowers are edible. Through the techniques of contemporary and ancestral cuisine we have created great dishes and by-products, opening a universe of possibilities of these species, to the benefit of the community and the gastronomic identity of the Colombian Caribbean.

Aceituno

Oily and creamy texture, aceituno has a flavor that resembles plums and olives. The fruit is consumed by the indigenous Wayuu people.
Scientific name: Vitex compressa.
Other names: Irrua
Family: LAMIACEAE.
Origin: Tropical America.
Location: Peninsula of La Guajira / Sabanas. (Wild)
Temporality: JUN / JUL / AGO / SEP / OCT.
Edible parts: Pulp.

Ackee

Ackee has a flavor similar to marrow when cooked. It is highly toxic when it is not mature like its seeds in general. Fruit traditionally consumed in Jamaica, often with saltfish.
Scientific name: Blighia sapida.
Other names: Huevo vegetal
Family: SAPINDACEAE.
Origin: Western Africa.
Location: Valle de Sinu / Delta del Magdalena. (Wild)
Temporality: JAN / FEB / MAR / APR / MAY.
Edible parts: Fruit (seed coating).

 

Caimito

The caimito fruit is very juicy inside, on the outside is covered by a layer of latex which is usually discarded. It has a milky and very fruity taste.
Scientific name: Chrysophyllum cainito.
Other names: Star apple.
Family: SAPOTACEAE.
Origin: Tropical America (Caribbean).
Location: Magdalena River Delta / Depression Momposina. (wild or microcultures).
Temporality: NOV / DEC / JAN / FEB / MAR.
Edible parts: Fruit (pulp, almond seed).

 

Cañandonga

Inside the Cañandonga, a black paste is obtained that covers the seeds and a kind of flesh that is inside. It has a strong cacao flavor with sweet notes and light sweetness very fragrant. It has a strong fruity aroma and another unpleasant fetid aroma.
Scientific name: Cassia Grandis.
Family: LEGUMINOSAE.
Origin: Tropical America (Caribbean).
Location: P. de la Guajira / Sierra Nevada de S.M. / Sabanas and Montes de María / Delta del Magdalena. (Wild).
Temporality: FEB / MAR / APR / MAY / JUN.
Edible parts: Fruit (pulp and seed).

 

Ciruela Costeña

The ciruela costeña, or coastal plum’s, creaminess and juiciness stand out in its sweet and sour taste pulp characteristic of tropical fruit.
Scientific name: Spondias purpurea.
Family: ANACARDIACEAE.
Origin: Tropical America (Caribbean).
Location: Sierra Nevada / Delta del Magdalena. (Wild).
Temporality: MAR / APR / MAY.
Edible parts: Fruit (bark, pulp).

 

Corozo

The corozo has a characteristic palm flavor (earthy) and fruity, with high acidity. Bark and hard seed, with little amount of pulp. Palm almost threatened.
Scientific name: Bactris guineensis.
Family: ARECACEAE.
Origin: Tropical America.
Location: Magdalena Delta / Sabanas and Montes de María / Valle del Sinú / Depresión Momposina / Sierra Nevada. (Wild or microcultures).
Temporality: JAN / FEB / MAR / APR (available all year)
Useful parts: Fruit (pulp).

Fruta de Pan

The protein rich breadfruit is a staple food throughout the Caribbean, especially on the islands of San Andrés and Providencia, where it was introduced by British colonists. It is usually prepared deep fried or parboiled , often served alongside fish or another animal protein. It can be made into a flour and cooked a s a porridge.
Scientific name: Artocarpus altilis.
Other names: Breadfruit, jackfruit.
Family: MORACEAE.
Origin: South Pacific
Location: San Andrés and Providencia.
Temporality: MAY / JUN / JUL / AGO
Edible parts: Fruit (pulp), seeds.

Jobo

Jobo has both acidic and sweet notes. It has a thin layer of bark and a large seed in the center with little amount of pulp that covers it. It is consumed whole and the seed is discarded.
Scientific name: Spondias mombin
Family: ANACARDIACEAE.
Origin: Tropical America.
Location: Sierra Nevada / Montes de María.
Temporality: JUN / JUL / AGO / SEP / OCT.
Edible parts: Fruit (pulp).

Pomarossa

The strong aroma of the pomarossa’s, bright pink flowers stand out. Inside the fruit is very juicy like a pear, it has a point of astringency in its pulp. Your flower has a high level of acidity.
Scientific name: Syzygium jambos.
Other names: Rose apple, jambu.
Family: MYRTACEAE.
Origin: Southeast Asia (Malaysia).
Location: Sierra Nevada / Montes de María. (Wild).
Temporality: JAN / FEB / MAR / APR.
Edible parts: Flower / Fruit (Bark and pulp).

Toco Naranjito

The toco naranjito has a high level of sweetness and sometimes spicy. Characteristic flavor that is similar to that of the guanabana.
Scientific name: Crataevia tapia.
Other names: Jiiru.
Family: CAPPARACEAE.
Origin: Central America. (Mexico)
Location: Peninsula of La Guajira. (Wild).
Temporality: MAY / DEC.
Edible parts: Fruit (pulp and seeds).

 

Uvita de Playa

Uvita de Playa has a ripe grape flavor and a touch of saline. It also has a good amount of tannins and acidity.
Scientific name: Coccoloba uvifera.
Family: POLYGONACEAE.
Origin: Central America / Caribbean.
Location: Magdalena Delta / San Andrés y Providencia. (Wild).
Temporality: JAN / FEB / MAR / APR.
Edible parts: Fruit (pulp).

Iguaraya

The spiky fruit of the wild dagger cactus is found in the Guajira Desert, where it is used by the indigenous Wayuu to make juice or chicha. It has just a touch of acidity and sweetness.
Scientific name: Stenocereus griseus.
Family: CACTACEAE.
Origin: Central / South America (Guajira Desert).
Location: Peninsula of La Guajira.
Temporality: JUN / – AGO / SEP / OCT.
Useful parts: Fruit (pulp and seeds) / Stem (fleshy interior).

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