I’ll put bananas as the first on my list, as it’s the most obvious. Bananas also happen to be one of my absolute favorite fruits, not only because they taste amazing, are super versatile but they also have many health benefits. They’re also available everywhere in Ecuador – you can easily pick up a bunch of bananas for nothing more than 50 cents at neverending roadside spots. They’re basically giving them away.
Banana production in Ecuador is important to the national economy. Ecuador is one of the world’s top banana producers, ranked 5th with an annual production of 8 million tons (6% of world production) as of 2011. The country exports more than 4 million tons annually. The crop is mostly grown on private plantations which sell their crop to national and international companies such as Chiquita, Del Monte, Dole, and Noboa. and others.
This little fruit has a sweet, slightly sour flavor in its clear-white gelatinous flesh. The spiny/leathery skin peels of quite easily, but inside there is a large pit to which the flesh clings, so you kind of have to gnaw at it.
This fruit looks a lot like a papaya on the outside and grows on a tree almost identical to a papaya tree. However, when you split it open the difference is readily apparent.
The babaco plant can produce from 30–60 fruits annually, and has an average life span of about eight years. The small plant is better suited as a container specimen than its cousin the papaya, which needs constant moisture and high temperatures to survive.
This fruit has a more sour flavor than a papaya. In Ecuador, they often blend it up with water and honey or cane sugar to make a refreshing drink.
Ciruelas Amarillas (literally means “yellow plums,” but commonly known as Jocote)
The fruits are usually eaten ripe, with or without the skin. It is sometimes eaten unripe with salt and vinegar or lime juice, commonly sold in the streets in most Central American countries in plastics bags. In Ecuador, it is propagated by planting trunks. Seedlings are green when not ripe but enjoyed by locals by adding sea salt.The ripe fruit is red and is very sweet to the taste.
Granadilla is the Spanish word for passion fruit. The vines produce the most beautiful flowers. These look really gross at first glance—sort of like a slimy batch of frog eggs. But they are sweet and delicious and make an awesome snack. You split the skin apart with your fingers and suck the juicy seeds and flesh from inside, or spoon it out.
Grosella (Star Gooseberry or Otaheite Gooseberry)
These remind me a lot of gooseberries. They have a pit inside, much like a cherry. They’re a crunchy little sour fruit and they ripen with time.
6. Guanábana (Soursop)
This fruit grows to about the size of a cantaloupe melon and has a creamy flesh with black seeds. It has the sweet/sour balance of a strawberry and a bit of creaminess like a banana.
The flavour of the fruit has been described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus flavour notes contrasting with an underlying creamy texture reminiscent of coconut or banana.
Guavas usually have a creamy soft pink or yellow flesh and very sweet flavor. There are lots of rock hard little seeds inside so bite down with care, and just swallow them with the flesh. It’s best if you break them in half before eating because they seem to be a popular house for worms!
A FULL STOMACH SAYS: “A RIPE GUAVA HAS WORMS.”
AN EMPTY STOMACH SAYS: “LET ME SEE.” – Proverb
Naranjilla (literally means, “little orange”)
The fruit has a citrus flavour, sometimes described as a combination of rhubarb and lime. The juice of the naranjilla is green and is often used as a juice or for a drink called lulada.
They’re really tasty to eat on their own, but you’ll commonly find naranjilla flavoured ice cream.
Níspero – also sometimes called Míspero
These are easily grown on shrubs, usually on long hills. They’re commonly found all throughout the region. The fruits have a little bit of fuzz on them, though a lot less than what you see on a peach or apricot.
The loquat has a high sugar, acid, and pectin content. It is eaten as a fresh fruit and mixes well with other fruits in fresh fruit salads. The fruits are also commonly used to make jam, jelly, and chutney, and are often served poached in light syrup. The firm, slightly immature fruits are best for making pies or tarts.
The fruit is sometimes canned. The waste ratio, however, is 30 percent or more, due to the seed size.
The loquat is low in saturated fat and sodium, and is high in vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium, and manganesem.
Noni (aka Cheese Fruit)
Among some 100 names for the fruit across different regions are the more common English names, great morinda, Indian mulberry, noni, beach mulberry, and cheese fruit. Some people call it the “vomit fruit,” and I can kind of see why. It sits on your counter like a giant slug, emitting a very pungent rotten cheese-like odor as it ripens. It supposedly has some amazing health benefits, but I’d probably only eat it if I had cancer or something…
Years ago, I remember seeing the ‘magic’ bottles of Noni juice, being advertised. it’s healing powers being extreme.
Web sites selling noni claim it cures everything from colds to cancer—well, at least the ones that haven’t been shut down by the Federal Trade Commission. Noni juice, it seems, has all the markings of bad medicine: outrageous health claims, little evidence for these claims, and questionable marketing.
Since then, there has been no scientific proof that Noni has incredible healing powers, but I’ll leave that for another blog entry!
This fruit is common in North America, so many of you may already be familiar with it. In North American grocery stores, you can papayas in different sizes, including some really small ones which I don’t think taste quite as good. In Ecuador, you’ll find really huge ones, almost the size of a watermelon! The flesh is soft and sweet and it’s perfect for smoothies.
Deliciously sweet with musky undertones and a soft, butter-like consistency, it is no wonder the papaya was reputably called the “fruit of the angels” by Christopher Columbus.
Papayas are spherical or pear-shaped fruits that can be as long as 20 inches. The ones commonly found in the market usually average about 7 inches and weigh about one pound. Their flesh is a rich orange color with either yellow or pink hues. Inside the inner cavity of the fruit are black, round seeds encased in a gelatinous-like substance. Papaya’s seeds are edible, although their peppery flavor is somewhat bitter. The fruit, as well as the other parts of the papaya tree, contain papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins.
This enzyme is especially concentrated in the fruit when it is unripe. Papain is extracted to make digestive enzyme dietary supplements and is also used as an ingredient in some chewing gums.
I don’t know a lot about this one …
Taxo (Banana Passionfruit) one of many members of the passionfruit family in Ecuador, but it’s apparently much more tart than the regular passionfruit but otherwise very similar in consistency inside, with crunchy seeds covered by a juicy-gelatinous flesh.
Banana passionfruit is the fruit of several plants in the genus Passiflora, and is therefore related to the passion fruit. They look somewhat like a straight, small banana with rounded ends.
Pitahaya (Dragon Fruit)
These guys can grow in a red or yellow variety. Inside the leathery skin is a white, pear-like flesh that’s sweet, juicy and slightly gritty. It is a type of cactus fruit.
Tomate Dulce or Tomate de Arbol (literally, “sweet tomato” or “tree tomato,” known as Tamarillo in English)
These have a resemblance to Roma tomatoes, both inside and out. However, they taste very different! Unlike true tomatoes, these fruits grow on a tree. They are extremely common. Their main use seemed to be in sweetened smoothies, served with breakfast. Most people don’t eat them plain since they tend to be on the sour side.
Tuna (Cactus Fruit)
The cactus fruit is a common fruit throughout Latin America. I’ve even seen it in supermarkets in Canada. They’re also called prickly pears. The leather, spiny skin must be removed with care (you can soak it in water for a little while, then pick it up carefully, cutting off the skin and peeling it off). It’s juicy, and sweet with very hard seeds.
Chirimoya (Custard Apple)
The chirimoya has a soft, creamy white flesh. You’ll often find chirimoya trees growing in the wild.
Different varieties have different flavors, textures, and shapes. Shapes can range from imprint areoles, flat areoles, a slight bump or point areoles, full areoles, and combinations of these shapes. The flavor of the flesh ranges from mellow sweet to tangy or acidic sweet, with variable suggestions of pineapple, banana, pear, papaya, strawberry or another berry, and apple, depending on the variety. The usual characterization of flavor is “pineapple/banana” flavor
When the fruit is soft-ripe/fresh-ripe and still has the fresh, fully mature greenish/greenish-yellowish skin color, the texture is like that of a soft ripe pear and papaya. If the skin is allowed to turn fully brown, yet the flesh has not fermented or gone rotten, then the texture can be custard-like. Often, when the skin turns brown at room temperature, the fruit is no longer good for human consumption. Also, the skin turns brown if it has been under normal refrigeration for too long – a day or two maybe.