Colombia is a fruit lover’s paradise with many delicious and exotic tropical fruits that can be difficult to find in North America or Europe.
In Colombia, you can find the typical fruits that are easy to find in North America and Europe like apples, bananas, pineapples and strawberries. But one of the benefits of living in Colombia is the tropical fruits, which are delicious, inexpensive and plentiful.
Colombia is the second most bio-diverse country in the world after Brazil. The country benefits from its geographic diversity with two coasts, mountain chains, open savannas and tropical rainforests. So, the country is reportedly home to nearly 10 percent of the world’s species. The country has over 56,000 plant species registered. There are more birds and more orchids found in Colombia than are found in any other country.
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Colombia has a tremendous number of tropical fruits available. During my over seven years living in Medellín, I have been able to try many exotic tropical fruits that I never found while living in the U.S.
Fruits are available for sale throughout Medellín. You will normally a smaller selection of tropical fruits at grocery stores like Exito and Jumbo. In addition, there are countless small local tiendas in the city selling fruits and vegetables typically for lower prices. Also, there are many fruit vendors to be found in El Central and the Plaza Minorista market.
The above photo of fruits for sale was taken at Plaza Minorista in Medellín. At Plaza Minorista it is possible to find many exotic tropical fruits. For example, during a recent trip to Plaza Minorista, I bought 15 different exotic tropical fruits.
I have tried at least 30 exotic tropical fruits while living in Colombia. I found several that were sweet and some that were sour. In addition, many of these fruits typically aren’t eaten whole but are consumed as juice or smoothies. The 30 exotic tropical fruits found in Colombia in this article are in alphabetical order.
Taxonomic Name: Eugenia stipitata
Arazá is yellow fruit about softball size and it has several large seeds. This fruit is very sour. So, it typically is consumed as juice with sugar added or in smoothies with sweet fruits like bananas added. I haven’t seen this fruit for sale very often. But you can find it sold as an exotic jam and I have seen it used in ice cream as well.
Arazá is a native fruit tree found in the Amazon in Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador. Arazá has a high vitamin C content, which is double the amount of an average orange. It also has a high level of protein and potassium, which is a rarity for fruits.
2. Badea (a.k.a. Giant Granadilla)
Taxonomic Name: Passiflora quadrangularis
Badea is the largest fruit in the passionfruit family. The size ranges from 10-30 cm long and 8-16 cm wide. This green fruit has a white pulpy flesh inside, which has a bit of sweetness to it. But it’s also pretty bland. So, this fruit is normally not eaten alone and is mixed with other fruits in desert or is cooked or processed and eaten in other forms.
The pulp from the Badea is reportedly used as a mild sedative. It also is nutritious with high levels of calcium, phosphorous and niacin.
3. Banana Bocadillo (a.k.a. Lady Finger Bananas)
Taxonomic Name: Musa asuminata
Banana Bocadillos, also known as lady finger bananas are smaller than regular Cavendish bananas with thinner skin. Bocadillos taste sweeter than common bananas. Also, they tend to oxidize slower and will keep on the counter for up to a week.
Lady finger bananas are high in potassium and fiber. They are also rich in vitamins C and B5, with lesser quantities of vitamins A, E and K. In addition, they are also high in minerals such as manganese, magnesium, calcium and zinc.
Taxonomic Name: Alibertia patinoi
Borojó is a dark round fruit that has a reputation in Colombia as being a natural Viagra. This fruit is grown primarily in the Chocó region of Colombia. It’s green when unripe but turns brown when mature and falls to the ground for easy collection.
When I tried this fruit, I found it somewhat bitter but pleasant. In juice form, it normally has honey added. It’s also sold in jam form.
This fruit is a natural source of energy due to a high level of B vitamins. In addition, Borojó in an excellent source of protein, vitamin C, calcium and iron plus it’s also high in fiber. Also, it is high in phosphorus and protein, a rarity for fruit.
Taxonomic Name: Chrysophyllum cainito
I haven’t seen this fruit sold in Medellín but found it in Cartagena. It’s a dark purple or green fruit where seeds form a star when it is cut. Caimitos reportedly will not ripen after they are picked, so they must be picked from trees when they are mature. Make sure to look for caimitos that have started to soften to make sure they are mature.
This fruit is also known as a star apple. The filling is white with a mild grape flavor that I thought was tasty. This fruit contains moderate amounts of calcium, phosphorus and ascorbic Acid. And it’s considered a good source of anti-oxidants.
6. Carambolo (a.k.a. Starfruit)
Taxonomic Name: Averrhoa carambola
Carambolo is also known as starfruit, which got its name from the five-pointed star shape when cut across the middle. Carambolo is a small, bushy evergreen tree that grows well under hot, humid, tropical conditions.
To me, the flavor is kind of a mix of plums, pineapples and lemons. Others say the flavor is a mix of apples and grapes. The flesh of this fruit is juicy and crunchy, and it may be eaten with the skin and seeds. Carambolo is low in calories but high in fiber and vitamin C.
Warning, don’t eat carambolo if you have kidney problems. This fruit contains a neurotoxin that healthy kidneys can filter out, but damaged kidneys are unable to do so.
7. Cherimoya (a.k.a. Sugar Apple)
Taxonomic Name: Annona cherimola
The cherimoya, also known as the sugar apple, is irregularly oval or heart shaped. Ripe cherimoyas have a sweet, fragrant aroma. A cherimoya has a creamy pulp that can been eaten straight from the fruit. In my experience, it has the consistency of ice cream. The large black seeds and skin are inedible.
This fruit is also used in smoothies and pie fillings. A single cherimoya provides 7 grams of fiber and is also high in vitamin C and potassium.
Taxonomic Name: Bactris gasipaes
Chontaduro is a fruit that grows in a cluster on a palm tree that is common from the Pacific region of Colombia. These fruits have very hard flesh, so they are normally cooked for 3-5 hours. This fruit is tasty after being cooked and to me tastes like a sweet potato. I have seen it sold with salt and honey spread on top.
You can find chontaduro in Medellín in El Centro and also in Plaza Minorista. This fruit has as much protein as eggs and is also rich in vitamin A, zinc, cooper, calcium, iron and beta-carotene. It also has high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Taxonomic Name: Spondius purpurea
Ciruelas are also known as Spanish plums. It has a sweet and juicy flavorful skin and flesh. In addition, it has a big seed inside. Don’t eat the seed as it’s toxic. Ciruelas are like plums but taste to me kind of like a mix of a tomato and apple. They are eaten fresh, squeezed for juice or preserved.
This fruit is rich in in vitamin C and serves as an antioxidant. Also, Ciruelas are boiled and used as an antiseptic for preventing infection of wounds.
Taxonomic Name: Bactris guineensis
Corozo is a small red fruit that grows on palm trees. I have only seen this fruit along the coast. This acidic fruit is collected and boiled in water sweetened with panela to obtain burgundy colored syrup. This syrup is used to make a tasty juice as well as jam, jelly and ice cream.
In my experience, it tastes somewhat like cranberry. In addition, the syrup can be fermented to make a wine. Sucre even holds a festival in honor of corozo.
Taxonomic Name: Passiflora tarminania
Curuba is a fruit with a yellow pulp and black seeds that is sometimes called the “banana passionfruit”. Furthermore, Curuba is usually eaten raw and is better in my experience when mixed with some sugar and milk. It has a high pectin content so this fruit is used in jams and also as a pie filling.
In addition, Curuba is full of proanthocyanidins, which are powerful antioxidants, and this fruit is reportedly is being used by some to prevent damage caused by pollution.
Taxonomic Name: Acca sellowiana
The feijoa is an egg-shaped, lime-green fruit that is sometimes known as the “pineapple guava”. The skin sometimes has a red or orange blush. And the texture of the skin ranges from smooth to rough. The creamy white flesh inside is somewhat sweet and tastes kind of like a combination of pineapple and strawberry with possibly some spearmint thrown in.
Feijoas are low in calories and are also a rich source of fiber. 100 grams of fruit is only about 55 calories but 6.5 grams of dietary fiber. In addition, they are a good source of vitamin C. Feijoas also contain small portions of B-complex vitamins and vitamin E and K as well as minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
Taxonomic Name: Passiflora ligularis
Granadilla is a round fruit with a hard and shiny orange skin. It is easy to find, as it’s a popular fruit in Colombia. This fruit is considered a cousin to maracuyá. Both have a similar texture and color. But the granadilla is sweeter compared to the acidic maracuyá.
The granadilla fruit contains a jelly-like pulp with seeds that are edible. This fruit can be eaten fresh and to me tastes like a mild maracuyá. The tart and sweet pulp is also used to make juice, jam, ice cream and a number of desserts.
Granadilla is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and vitamin A. In addition, it’s a good source of potassium, copper, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.
14. Guama (or Guaba)
Taxonomic Name: Inga edulis
Guama is a delicious fruit that is also known as the ice cream bean. It can be more difficult to find in my experience. I’ve occasionally seen guama being sold in El Centro in Medellín. This is a unique and very unusual pod fruit.
The dark green pods can be a long as your forearm. Inside the pods are found what looks like white cotton candy wrapped around seeds. The seeds are inedible unless cooked. And the white pulp is stretchy and a bit sticky. It has the sweetness of a banana but a taste that is quite different.
Guama is a good source of dietary fiber and anti-oxidants. Furthermore, reportedly this fruit is anti-inflammatory and can help lower blood pressure.
Taxonomic Name: Annona muricata
Guanabana is an exotic-looking, large green spiky fruit. This sizable fruit can be sizable and weigh up to nine pounds. The juicy, white flesh of this fruit tastes to me kind of like a combination of pineapple and strawberry while also being somewhat creamy. But I didn’t really like the texture, which was kind of slimy. In addition, this fruit is frequently used in juices, smoothies and ice cream.
Guanabana is a good source of vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, phosphorous and even some iron. Furthermore, guanabana is popular for its supposed cancer-fighting properties, which haven’t been proven scientifically.
16. Guava (Guayaba)
Taxonomic Name: Psidium guajava
Guava is a round or pear-shaped fruit that is green in color. It’s one of my favorite fruits found in Colombia. They are typically soft, sweet and fragrant when ripe. Inside is a pink interior that has tiny seeds that are also edible. Guava can be eaten raw or consumed as juice, jams and jellies. Also, guava is the base for bocadillo, the gelatinous bricks sold in Colombia.
Guava is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, folate, thiamine and riboflavin. In addition, it has calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and potassium.
Taxonomic Name: Passiflora edulis
The gulupa belongs in the passionfruits family. The shell of the fruit is a smooth, thick and dark purple. You can tell when a gulupa is ripe as the purple skin becomes wrinkled. The yellow and juicy pulp inside covers dark seeds that are edible.
A gulupa has a pretty unique flavor, mildly sweet and also sour. If you cut a gulupa in half you can scoop out the pulp with a spoon to eat. But it’s normally used in juices and smoothies. In addition, gulupa is an excellent source of vitamin C and is believed to also help control tension.
Taxonomic Name: Opuntia ficus-indica
Higo is available in both reddish-orange and green varieties. This fruit looks like a cactus and it does actually grow on a cactus. So, be careful of the thorns. The flesh inside is a deep-orange color with small hard seeds. To me the flavor of the higo is similar to a non-sour kiwi.
Higo is a good source of dietary fiber as well as vitamin A and several minerals including copper, iron and magnesium.
Taxonomic Name: Solanum quitoense
Lulo looks like an orange from the outside and more like a translucent tomato on the inside. The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked. But Lulo for most people is too tart to eat alone. So, it’s most common use is for juices. Lulos are also used in jams, jellies and ice cream.
Lulo fruit has high levels of vitamin C, vitamin A, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. It also has calcium, iron, phosphorous and dietary fiber.
Taxonomic Name: Garcinia mangostana
Mangosteen is a fruit that grows on an evergreen tree. In Southeast Asia, the mangosteen is known as the “fruit of the gods”. The hard rind of the mangosteen is reddish-purple when ripe. Inside is a white flesh with a milk-like juice.
The taste of the mangosteen to me is a sweet and tangy combination that is pretty unique. Others have said it has a taste that is a combination of several other fruits like strawberries, kiwis, plums, peaches and mangos. It’s one of my favorite fruits in Colombia.
Mangosteen is a good source of vitamin C and vitamin A. In addition, they are low in calories with only 63 calories per 100 grams of fruit. Furthermore, different parts of the mangosteen and plant are reportedly used in the treatment of various diseases and disorders, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, tuberculosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
21. Mamoncillo (a.k.a. Spanish Lime)
Taxonomic Name: Melicocus bijugatus
Mamoncillo is a small green fruit that grow on branches. And they are a little larger than olives. They are also known as chenet, genipe, limoncillo, mamón, Spanish lime, and many other names.
Mamoncillo have a thin skin that is hard and rigid that can be cracked with your teeth. Inside is an orange and yellowish fruit that is creamy and juicy similar to a lychee. One can be eaten fresh after peeling the skin. The taste is normally tangy and a bit sweet. Because of the small amount of edible fruit, it can be boiled and used in cold drinks. It is also used in juices and jam.
Mamoncillo is a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as fiber, calcium and phosphorus. But be careful, make sure that mamoncillo fruits are ripe, as raw ones may contain some toxins.
Taxonomic Name: Passiflora edulis
Maracuyá is also known as passionfruit. This fruit has a thick yellow skin. The pulp of the maracuyá is extremely tart when eaten alone. So, many that eat it this fruit raw mix it with sugar. However, maracuyá is mainly used to make a delicious juice.
Maracuyá is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B, riboflavin and niacin, as well as copper, iron, magnesium phosphorus and potassium.
23. Nispero (a.ka. Loquat)
Taxonomic Name: Eriobotrya japonica
Nispero is a yellow to orange fruit and ripe fruits have a soft texture. Inside the flesh is white or golden yellow. Also, it will typically have up to five seeds that are not edible. Nisperos to me have a pretty similar taste to apples, both tart and sweet. But nisperos have a more soft and juicy texture.
Nisperos are low in calories but are rich in dietary fiber, pectin and vitamin A. Furthermore, the fruit is a good source of calcium, copper, iron and other minerals. In addition, the nispero has been called a super-fruit with claims that it has cancer fighting properties and also helps maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Taxonomic Name: Carica papaya
Papayas are pear-shaped or spherical fruits that can be as long as 20 inches and weigh up to 20 pounds but the ones typical found in markets normally are about one pound. The flesh of a papaya is a rich orange color. Inside the inner cavity of a papaya are found seeds that are edible but taste somewhat bitter. Once you get past the smell of papayas, they tend to be tender and sweet.
In my experience, people seem to either love the flavor of papaya or hate it. My Colombia wife loves eating cubed papaya but I don’t really care for the fruit.
Papayas are rich sources of vitamin C (more than oranges), vitamin A and B-complex vitamins. In addition, they are a source of copper, magnesium and potassium. Furthermore, the papaya is low in calories and has a good amount of dietary fiber.
Taxonomic Name: Vasconcellea pubescens
Papayuela is a dark yellow or orange fruit when ripe. The flesh of a papayuela is similar to the papaya, but not as strong. Inside the pulp is a kind of jelly-like with seeds that look almost like tiny pine cones. This fruit is commonly cooked into candies or preserves. But it can also be eaten fresh. To me, the flavor of the papayuela is kind of a mix of an orange, pineapple and strawberry.
Papayuela is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and vitamin A. In addition, it’s a source of copper, magnesium and potassium.
Taxonomic Name: Bromelia pinguin
Piñuela is a small shallot-shaped fruit. To eat one, it is peeled like a banana. Inside is a white floss with seeds that tastes fairly tart in my experience and it is used in juices. The piñuela fruit is reportedly more common in in the Cauca Department in Colombia, near the Pacific coast. I have only seen this fruit a few times in Medellín.
Piñuela is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and zinc.
27. Pitaya or Pitahaya
Taxonomic Name: Pitaya stenocereus
Pitaya is also known as dragon fruit due to its thick yellow scales. Inside the white flesh is flecked with an abundance of tiny black seeds that are edible. The flavor is mild, which to me tastes like a combination of a kiwi and a pear. I typically cut a pitaya in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.
Pitaya are low in calories but rich in nutrients. They contain vitamin C, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and several B vitamins, as well as carotene and protein. In addition, calcium, iron and phosphorus is present.
28 Tomate de Arbol
Taxonomic Name: Solanum betaceum
Tomate de Arbol is a red or orange colored egg-shaped fruit. Inside the flesh is orange and juicy with numerous small seeds. The flavor is a bit sweet and is also somewhat tart. It can be eaten alone or sprinkled with salt. This fruit is mainly used to make juice. And this juice is popular with menú del dia offerings at many local restaurants in Colombia.
Tomate de Arbol is a very low-calorie food with only 31 calories per 100 grams of fruit. It is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E. It’s also a source of copper, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.
Taxonomic Name: Physalis peruviana
Uchuva are small, round, bright yellow fruits that are encased in delicate paper-like husk. They are small sized like a cherry and have a similar texture. The flavor is tart while also being sweet. In Colombia, they seem to like selling uchuva with honey or chocolate. Uchuva are also used in pies, puddings, ice cream and eaten fresh in fruit salads.
Uchuva has more dietary fiber than prunes, is a good source of B12 and is a good source of phosphorous and vitamins A and C. Uchuva are ripe when the outer husk is dry and comes off easy. Be careful as unripe uchuva fruits are reportedly poisonous. But I’ve never seen unripe uchuva being sold.
Taxonomic Name: Quararibea cordata
Zapote is a roundish brown fruit with a rough texture. Inside the flesh is dark orange and creamy with two large seeds. This fruit can be eaten raw. However, I didn’t like the strong flavor of the zapote when I tried one. In addition, it is commonly used in smoothies, milk shakes and ice cream as well as jams and jellies.
Zapote is a good source for dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, riboflavin, niacin, manganese and potassium.
The Bottom Line: Exotic Tropical Fruits of Colombia
Colombia has a tremendous number of tropical fruits available, which is one of the benefits of living in Colombia.
Several of the fruits listed above you can find in the local groceries stores in Medellín. But for a bigger selection of tropical fruits you’ll have to go to a market like Plaza Minorista. On any given day, you can likely find up to 20 of the above 30 tropical fruits on sale at Plaza Minoresta.
After living in Medellín for over seven years, my favorite tropical fruits now include the carambolo, guava, mangosteen, mamoncillo, pitaya and uchuva.
How many of the 30 tropical fruits listed above have you tried? And which of these tropical fruits is your favorite?