Colombia – At least once a day, my Colombian-born wife will say (usually around breakfast time) “oh what I wouldn’t give for a batido de lulo or curuba” or one of any number of exotic fruits native to her home country.
To someone raised in a northern climate, the fruit selection at Migros pretty well represents my vocabulary of sweet succulents: apples, pears, bananas, oranges, and heaven forbid, pineapples and mangoes when they are “in season,” that is when shipping allows.
But the choice of fruit in Colombia is akin to the cheese selection at a Geneva farmers market; more variety than you can physically sample at one sitting, often including a number of items you may not even be aware of.
During a recent trip to Colombia, I had the chance to sample a smorgasbord in the fruit capital of the country, Mariquita.
Mariquita is situated in a wide river valley, about a four hour drive Northeast of Bogota and on the other side of one spit of the Cordillera. The drive alone from the capital to this large ranching and agricultural town was stunning.
It is impressive to think that this provincial town was founded only 13 years after the country’s capital, Bogota. This was in part due to its navigable location near the mighty Magdalena river.
The Magdalena nearly traverses the length of Colombia from the Southwestern floodplains of the Andean Cordillera to the Caribbean port of Barrinquilla in the Northwest of the country (stay tuned for tales of the Magdalena on this blog). The town was also renowned for the precious metal that was mined there, and for the luscious flora, including fruit trees, that carpeted the valley.
Today, Mariquita and the surrounding area continues to be a rich tapestry of fecund brown earth, intense green leaf, and vibrant hues of multicolored flowers. Corn fields alternate with rice paddies, stands of palm trees and fruit plantations. Fruit offerings range from the basic luxe of mango in several shapes and sizes, to the relatively new and exotic “mangostino,” which resembles something between a pomegranate and a guanabana.
During our brief stay, we did our part to support the local fruit growers and sellers, gorging each morning on piles of fresh picks and making frequent snack stops for star fruit, persimmons and other delicacies we knew we would only dream of upon our return home.