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Bogotá’s Ciclovía is the weekly event when dozens of city streets are closed off and people take over mile upon mile of open roads for biking, skating, jogging and walking. It's a rare and amazing event which many cities have tried to copy. Why wouldn’t they? It’s such a good idea and without a doubt one of the best ways to get to know and enjoy a city like Bogotá that is normally overrun with cars and traffic. Plus, you can eat everything along the way and get a taste of some of Colombia’s healthiest street food. Here is just a sampling of some of the fruit and food you might see and taste along the way.
We begin with guanabana (soursop). The pulp of this gigantic fruit is sweet and sour which some compare to a combination of pineapple and banana. Whatever you think it tastes like, I’m sure you’ll agree that it tastes great. Enjoy it straight from the fruit, in juice or in the popular Colombian dessert called merengón (layered meringue, cream and fruit – much like a pavlova). Aside from being delicious, guanabana is loaded with vitamin C and some studies even suggest that the fruit can be used in alternative cancer treatments.
Next up is one of my favorites – chontaduro (peach palm fruit), the fruit of a palm tree that grows in the coastal regions of South and Central America. To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with chontaduro. I’ve spent 4 years wanting to love it wholeheartedly but it’s a taste that I am still in the process of acquiring. I always thought it should be fruity but instead it kind of reminds me of a sweet potato. I keep eating it because I think it’s interesting and it’s also really good for you. The National Academy of Sciences says it’s probably one of the most balanced foods in the tropics. The best advice I can give you is to ask for your chontaduro sweet and sour – topped with honey and vinegar. It’s been the best combination I’ve had so far and I like it more every time I try it.
Mazorca, or local corn on the cob, is a street food staple but for some reason it’s a little harder to come across. The corn that is used is not your typical sweet corn. Instead it has starchier, bigger, and not as sweet, but just as delicious, kernels. They are set over a charcoal grill until it gets that charcoaly grilled flavor, then it’s brushed with butter and sprinkled with salt. Mazorca is not as easy to find during the week but it’s easier to track down on Sundays during ciclovía and definitely worth looking for.
And last but not least are Bogotá’s ubiquitous, unmissable fruit carts. I mean, they are everywhere. All the time, every day, selling cups full of papaya, mango, green mango, pineapple, bananas, assorted fruit cups with toppings like coconut, cream, and condensed milk, and freshly pressed orange or tangerine juice – it’s a fruit lover’s paradise.
My all-time favorite item from these fruit carts is the salpicón. This is what gets me out of bed on a lazy Sunday morning: the promise of a cup of fruit swimming in fruit juice. It's the perfect ratio of fruit and juice that you can either drink or eat with a spoon. And don’t forget to ask for your ñapa. This word has been tracked back to the Andean.
Quechua language and it basically translates to a little extra for good measure; in this case, you get an extra ladle after you've finished your first serving because more salpicón is always a good thing.
So, no matter what direction you head in during Ciclovía, north, south, east or west, you’re sure to find an overwhelming assortment of fruit and street food to please practically any taste. Ciclovía runs from 7am to 2pm every Sunday and holiday and covers more than 120 km of the city’s streets.