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Like most things in Colombia, fruits tend to be regional--that is, they are traditionally found in one region of Colombia more so than in any other or, sometimes, they are truly only found in one region of the country. That being said, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, there are many fruits juices that may be found in other parts of the country, but are native to and most often associated with the Caribbean coast. In this post, I'd like to introduce you to a few of the traditional fruits here on the Caribbean coast that are used to make juices.
Níspero is a “dry” fruit, somewhat comparable in texture to an higo (cactus fruit), but with a very different taste. Its outer skin is thick, rough and tan and gives way to a light dusty orange flesh with large dark colored seeds. You’ll see níspero trees growing wild all over the Caribbean coast, and may even see fallen and ruptured nísperos scattered on the ground.
I have to be honest about níspero, though--it´s one of those fruits that you either love or hate—there’s definitely no middle ground here. I, personally, hate níspero, but I know many people who love it and have it in juice form on a daily basis. I’ve never seen anyone eat a níspero, so I am going to assume it’s best to try it in juice form. And, when you order níspero juice, make sure you ask for it in milk—not water! I've never seen nípsero juice offered in a restaurant, but many juice bars offer it. So, if you want to try this unique juice, try to find a local juice bar.
Zapote looks similar to a níspero from the outside, but has small “cap” on top that will easily distinguish it. Even so, once cut open, there’s not mistaking a zapote for a níspero. The flesh of a zapote is bright orange and a bit stringy—very similar to that of a Halloween pumpkin.
Zapotes also have a distinct taste—one that is a mix between a sweet pumpkin and a melon. It’s a unique taste, but one that most people tend to enjoy, both in whole fruit as well as juice form. Like níspero, zapote juice is most commonly made with milk instead of water, and tends to be a bit thicker than a normal juice—think milkshake thickness. It's definitely a fruit and juice you'll want to try while you're on the Caribbean coast.
Perhaps the most characteristic juice on the Caribbean Coast is that of corozo, a small crimson-maroon fruit produced by the alphanes horrida (a variety of palm tree). Corozo juice is easy to come in Barranquilla, but may be harder to find in cities like Santa Marta and Riohacha. It’s also a hard and tedious juice to make. The actual amount of fruit on the corozo is very little—most of the “fruit” is actually a seed. So, this is not a juice you’d want to make at home; rather, like most costeños, you’d prefer to buy a glass of it around town.
Unlike zapote and nispero juice, corozo juice is more acidic and typically made with water. The color of corozo juice is actually very similar to that of red grape juice—but, it tastes nothing like grape juice! If you’d like, you can also eat corozos in fruit form with a bit of lime juice, as the locals do. You can often find them in supermarkets as well as any local fruit and veggie market.
(bag of corozo)
Like corozo, guayaba agria (sour guayaba) is also a delicious acidic fruit. Guayaba agria is basically the albino cousin of the guayaba dulce (sweet guayaba). It’s outer skin is a light khaki or beige color and it’s flesh, in stark contrast to the sweet guayaba, is a pale to off-white color.
Guayaba agria can be a tough fruit to find, and, sometimes, even harder to find in juice form. It’s not often sold in supermarkets; instead, you’ll find it sold on the street and in local fruit markets when it’s in season. Maybe the easiest place to find it in juice form is in Ciénaga at roadside restaurants on the road to Santa Marta. If you do happen to find it being sold in fruit form in other areas, this is not a hard juice to make. Simply peel the fruit, put it in a blender, add water, and strain to remove the seeds! You'll also want to add a little sugar, as it's pretty acidic.
Thanks to the famous Colombian singer, Joe Arroyo and his song “Tamarindo Seco,” tamarindo will always be a symbol of the Caribbean coast. The tamarind, as it’s translated into English, is a tangy and acidic fruit. In its natural state, the molasses colored pulp is contained in a dark tan or brown pod. Extracting the pulp from the pod and separating the seeds can be a tedious process (as with the corozo), so many people now buy the pulp pre-separated, and you’ll rarely see tamarind sold in its natural state in supermarkets—if you're really interested in finding tamarind in its fruit form, hit up local fruit and veggie markets.
While new ways of using tamarind are on the rise, you’ll still most commonly find it in juice form or as a sweet where the pulp is rolled into a ball coated in cane sugar. Tamarind juice is made with water, not milk, and normally has a good deal of sugar in it to lower the sourness a bit. Regardless, it’s a superbly delicious and refreshing juice. It’s not always on restaurant menus, but you are sure to find it offered on a menu somewhere—even if you have to seek out a local juice bar.
Happy juicing and until next time,