Ecuador produces bananas, pineapple, coconut, mango, watermelon, and papaya, but it also features a world of more exotic fruit. Try some of these wonderfully diverse sweet treats the next time you visit.
Pitaya / Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit is the fruit of a kind of cactus that grows in dry areas of South America. Usually, the skin of the dragon fruit is red, and the pulp is red or white. The fruit is also popular as a food.
Dragon fruit is sometimes used as medicine, is used for diabetes, prediabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
Dragon fruit can be eaten raw or made into wine, juice, spreads, or desserts. The flowers are sometimes eaten as a vegetable or made into tea. They tend to have a delightful taste and are freely available, predominantly yellow and pink, in markets and street vendors around Ecuador.
Custard Apple / Cherimoya
The Cherimoya (Annona cherimola) probably originated in the Andes of South America and is very readily available from markets and street sellers around Ecuador. Many names, including custard apple the cherimoya (Annona cherimola), are heart-shaped, green fruit from South America.
The unusual fruit’s inedible peel is scaly and similar in appearance to an artichoke. The flesh inside is creamy and soft like custard. When eating cherimoya, be careful to remove the dark brown seeds, which are toxic to humans.
Cherimoya has a robust and sweet flavor. Even Mark Twain was a fan of the fruit, calling it “the most delicious fruit known to man,” thanks to its delightful taste. Some people say that cherimoya tastes like a mix of pineapple, strawberry, and banana.
In addition to tasting great, cherimoya also boasts a variety of nutritional and health benefits. For this reason, many people choose to make this unique fruit a part of their diet whenever it’s in season, from fall to spring.
Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)
Is Jackfruit the Next Big Meat Substitute?
Grown in most tropical regions around the world, Jackfruit is originally native to India. It is part of the Moraceae plant family, which also includes figs, mulberry, and breadfruit. Jackfruit has spiky outer skin and is green or yellow. It is well known to be the largest fruit in the world, growing up to 35kg in weight.
Jackfruit has an intensely sweet flavor and is arguably the origin of the Juicy Fruit Chewing gum flavor. It a natural latex produced when cutting the skin is the origin of chewing gum itself. Vegans and vegetarians often use the Jackfruit fruit as a meat alternative, pulled pork imitation, for its meaty texture.
Granadilla (Passiflora ligularis)
The granadilla is native to Ecuador and the Andes Mountains of South America. Very commonly available in Ecuador, being sold at markets and by street vendors at 6+ for a $1. It has a hard yellow/orange outer shell, and the inside is of a tapioca pudding consistency. Sweet in taste, the interior is eaten with a spoon.
Native to Central America, this is also widely available in Ecuador, and visitors may be unaware of its existence. It is often eaten straight from the shell, cut in half, with a spoon. Some describe it to have the taste and sensation of chocolate cake!
The sweet, mild-flavored Pepino is a member of the nightshade plant family, related to the tomato, potato, and eggplant. It has a thin skin you can bite into, and a mild sweet taste said to be somewhere in between cucumber and melon. Often served raw in salsas and salads and cooked alongside meats as a vegetable.
Durian is nicknamed “the king of fruits.” Durian is very high in nutrients, containing more than most other fruits. Durian is used in sweet and savory dishes. Both the creamy flesh and seeds are edible, though the seeds need to be cooked. The flavor is described as tasting like cheese, almonds, garlic, and caramel all at once.
Common food preparations of durian fruit include:
- seeds, boiled or roasted
- candy, ice cream, and other desserts
- side dish
It’s also used in traditional medicine and has some medicinal properties that are being studied.
However, it also gets a bad rap due to its strong smell.
Naranjilla (Solanum quitoense)
Naranjilla in Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Panama, and as Lulo in Colombia, is a tropical perennial plant from northwestern Colombia. The specific name for this species of nightshade means “from Quito.” The lulo plant has large elongated heart- or oval-shaped leaves up to 45 cm in length. The leaves and stems of the plant are covered in short purple hairs. Naranjillas are delicate plants and must be protected from strong winds and direct sunlight. They grow best in partial shade. The fruit has a citrus flavor, 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, which we serve at CoCo Bongo.
This has nothing to do with the fish, being that the Spanish word for the latter is atún. Instead, this cactus-fruit, also known to travelers as prickly pear, can make your hands sting if you don’t remove the peel with caution, but it is deliciously sweet, juicy, and with its tiny seeds, crunchy.
Uvilla (Physalis peruviana)
Pronounced ooh-vee-yah, uvilla shares the same Latin root for the word grape – which is uva in Spanish – but only because your typical uvilla is about the same size as your typical grape. Foreigners are more inclined to call it a gooseberry, and this yellow-to-orange colored fruit is a very tart berry.