THE BEST EXOTIC PERUVIAN FRUITS
Peruvian fruits are the result of some of Peru’s blessings – it’s amazing biodiversity and variety of climates and regions. The wide range of exotic fruits and vegetables in Peru along with other factors such as cultural fusion is the reason for the success and international recognition that Peruvian food has nowadays. A couple of our previous blogs have talked about food, so today we take a closer look at 5 Peruvian fruits you should definitely try during your visit to Peru.
Some exotic fruits found in Peru are what experts call “super foods” for the amount of nutrients present in them. Such fruits have also been said to cure diseases and ailments. It is no surprise then that many Peruvians pay regular visits to their nearest “juguería” (juice bar) where they get freshly made shakes of their favorite fruit or fruit combination.
Did you know that tomato is actually a fruit? Even more, it was unknown to Europeans until it was first introduced to the Spaniards in Mexico, but its origins are traced back to Andean regions where there are some more varieties of tomatoes as well.
Pacay (Inga Feuilleei)
Also known as pa´qay, pacae, is an evergreen, very branched tree, native to the tropical and subtropical areas of Bolivia and Peru from where it has spread to countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador , Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica.
This tree, which adapts to heights ranging from 0 to 1,800 meters above sea level and develops best in humid or very humid climates and temperatures equal to or greater than 20 ° C, can reach a height of up to 20 meters, it has a dense and wide glass, large dark green leaves and white flowers of medium size. It has elongated and green fruits, with black and green seeds wrapped in a white, juicy, sweet and edible pulp with a texture similar to cotton and a taste similar to vanilla.
Cultivated since ancient times, this fruit was used by pre-Columbian Indians for its properties and its sweet taste, which even today uses seeds and leaves with fine medicinal, and the gum of the fruit to fix colors in their crafts. The pulp can be consumed fresh or as an ingredient in soft drinks, desserts or sweets.
It is rich in proteins and vitamins A, B and C. It also contains antioxidants, is used to prevent vomiting and has healing, digestive and anti-inflammatory properties. It improves eyesight, reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels, helps maintain the health of the circulatory system, prevents diabetes and heart disease, strengthens bones and improves the immune system. It has a high fiber content, so it has detoxifying properties and helps maintain proper functioning of the digestive system. The seeds, which are edible when cooked, contain micronutrients and minerals, have phenolic phytochemical compounds such as gallic acid, which has anticancer properties.
Pepino dulce (Solanum muricatum)
Pepino dulce, referred to as sweet cucumber in English, is a tomato cousin which is quite versatile and can be served with any meal. It is low in carbs and has a number of health benefits. For example, its large number of antioxidants such as beta-carotene helps slow down the aging process. Its diuretics properties benefit its daily consumers by reducing high blood pressure which also helps avoid cardiovascular disorders and even heart attacks. Moreover, sweet cucumbers have a decent amount of vitamin A, that improves vision, strengthens the density of bones and teeth, promotes skin health and prevents urinary stones. It is also abundant on soluble fiber which greatly helps the body to avoid constipation.
Inside, they look a bit like honey dew melons and they can grow about as big as goose eggs. Their watery interior is somewhat sweet, pleasantly flavored, and you could actually eat the whole thing without getting rid of the seeds because they are soft, tiny and edible.
Aguaymanto (Physalis peruviana)
This fruit had a privileged spot in the house gardens of the Inca nobles. These “little golden spheres” are bittersweet and come wrapped in a light brown inedible peel of paper-like texture. It contains vitamin A, vitamin B complex (thiamine, niacin and vitamin B12) and large amounts of vitamin C. In particular, large concentrations of vitamin C will help enhance your immune system so that you, for example, will be less likely to suffer from colds, flu and other related illnesses. Additionally, studies indicate that aguaymanto lowers the amount of cholesterol and stabilizes the level of glucose in the blood, which makes it a great fruit to have in the diet of diabetic people. Other benefits include; combating mental fatigue, promoting healing of wounds, reducing the symptoms of menopause, and so on.
Aguaymantos in Peru are consumed in many ways including jams, yogurts, sweets, ice creams, cakes, and liqueurs. However, we recommend you consume it fresh out of the crops to take advantage of their full benefits.
Chirimoya (Annona cherimola)
Its name is derived from quechua, a native Peruvian language, and is composed of two words: chiri «cold» and muya «seeds». As its name suggests, it is quite a relentless fruit that grows at cool temperatures and high altitudes. It is known as custard apple in English and was once referred to as “the most delicious fruit known to man” by writer Mark Twain.
It is a highly nutritious fruit with a number of benefits. For example, it contains hair-friendly nutrients like magnesium, zinc iron and vitamin C which combined promote hair growth and also contribute to collagen formation. There is also Vitamin B6 present in chirimoyas which is necessary for the normal functioning of our metabolism and immune system. Moreover, Vitamin B6 regulates neuron chemical levels to help get rid of stress and depression while offering protection from Parkinson’s disease.
Lucuma (Pouteria lucuma)
Lucuma is probably the most versatile of all Peruvian fruits. At times when field crops are out of season or stressed by drought, lucuma remains as a year-round crop.
Its flavor is unique and incredible, thus making it popular in smoothies, cakes, ice-cream and so on. It has a pumpkin-like texture and is very filling. An unusual advantage of the fruit is that when ripe, it can be dried and milled into a flour. Moreover, fresh undried lucuma pulp can also be frozen and stored safely for long periods of time.
Lucumas are a good source of minerals, including iron, as well as of vitamins, especially carotene (provitamin A) and niacin (vitamin B3). It can be used as a sweetener and safely consumed by diabetic people. Lactose intolerant folks looking to supplement calcium in their diet by means other than milk will be glad to know that lucuma is indeed calcium rich. Additionally, lucumas are full of healthy carbohydrates that are a wonderful fuel for the body and the brain.
Camu Camu (Myrciaria dubia)
It grows wild in the swampy or flooded areas of the amazon rainforest. Surprisingly, camu camu is one of the world’s richest sources of vitamin C: up to 60 times more per serving than an orange. Due to their strong sour flavor, the berries are not usually eaten whole, they are rather crushed into a powder or pulp making them very convenient to add to many recipes.
It possesses astringent, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and nutritional properties. Camu camu berries also contain important levels of beta carotene, potassium, calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, riboflavin, thiamin and more. In particular, the extraordinary antioxidant power of camu camu has anti-depressant properties which help to fight anxiety and panic attacks.
Some of the above fruits have made their way to foreign and cosmopolitan markets with increasing demand for exotic foods and flavors. Other fruits have been attempted to be harvested in foreign lands with similar climatic conditions without much success. And, many more remain known to Peruvians only. Whatever the case is, you can sample them all in Peru.