Chontaduro in Colombia. Cali’s best-selling fruit.
When mentioning Chontaduro (Peach Palm Fruit), we are talking about one of the best-selling fruits on Colombian streets. Spending some few hours in Cali will reveal how popular it is in the city, even more than fast food. It is considered the “National Viagra” and despite of the lack of studies to support its believed effects of increasing libido and extending for hours people’s ‘performance’ under the sheets without exhausting, the truth is that nutritional properties of Chontaduro have been extensively proven.
This palm fruit contains as much protein as eggs, liposoluble vitamins, zinc, cooper, calcium, iron, beta-carotene and helps lowering cholesterol levels, due to its high contents of omega 3 and 6. Perhaps that’s the reason why people who eat it frequently point Chontaduro as a natural energy booster.
If someone thinks coconut tree is versatile, then perhaps still don’t know about this Central and South American palm, whose fruits are as popular as the music produced by the “Marimba de Chonta” a type of xylophone made out of the beautiful dark wood of this palm, that brings joy to colombian parties; the tender hearts of this palm garnish the most delicious salads.
Alameda Market - Entrance # 6
24th Avenue – 8th Street
Mon – Sun 8:00 – 15:00
$1.000 COP ($0.50 USD)
If you try this tropical fruit, you will find a floury texture, like a boiled potato, with a butternut squash or sweet potato taste-like. You might think it’s a bit dry, due to its high contents of natural oils, but if you like to try a perfect and exotic match for your “Tinto” (Colombian Coffee) then this is the right choice. The skin of this fruit varies from red to intense orange and its flesh is orange with a coconut-like small pit. Ask your Chontaduro slightly salted, with honey or even both of them to enhance flavor.
Where? Alicita’s Chontaduros
It is easy to find Chontaduro vendors in the Valle’s capital, at Santa Elena Market or Chontaduro Park. However, if you are at downtown, then go to Galería Alameda, one of the most visited fruit and vegetable markets in Cali. Right at Entrance # 6 you will see “Alicita” with a large tray full of Chontaduro, all red, shiny and huge, which definitely are among the best in town. You can probably find some cheaper ones around, but she says she doesn’t like to sell them. She carefully selects the fruits by their size and precise point of ripeness.
Behind the Fruits. The story of Alicia Córdoba
Alicia Córdoba was born in 1950 in Tadó, a small town located in the Chocó province, at the Colombian Pacific Region. She is undoubtly a very nice person to chat with and unlike the rest of us, she didn’t expect any professional or material success, instead, her dream since she was a child, was nothing but being a good and beloved person….and she really is.
Mother of two, Monica (32) and Carlos Alberto (43), had to take care of her family at a very early age. Since 1966 Alicia, like many other women from her province, started to sell Chontaduro in Medellín, walking streets up and down with a bowl of fruits over her head, without any rest. Few years later she moved to the Nueva Floresta neighbourhood in Cali before settling down at Alameda Market, largely visited by the locals since it was opened.
Preparing and cooking Chontaduros, demands a very hard work for this sixty four year-old woman. Every day, after she closes her stall, Alicia selects and buys several bunches of fruit to take home. Her kitchen is located at the third floor of the house she lives in, so she has to walk up and downstairs to use her woodburning stove. She boils about a five-gallon bin full of palm fruits for more than three hours, to sell next day, all by herself, seven days a week.
Chontaduros come with a Reward
After 47 years of hard work, Alicia made Chontaduros her source of income and education for her family. Nothing bad because she has got the opportunity to travel the country several times from Caribbean in the north, to Nariño at the south and even Ecuador, thanks to her small stall. She dreams to go to Orinoquía, at Colombian east for her next holidays.
We could describe Alicita as a hard working woman, with an incredible memory and a charming personality, wich makes her customers to visit her very often. If you visit her you will find not only extremely good Chontaduros but also good story-telling woman who gets immediately confident with you.
Chontaduro is very popular among tropical countries of Central and South America. It is known with different names: Colombia: Chontaduro o Cachipay, Venezuela: Pijiguao o Pichiguao, Perú: Pijuayo, Bolivia: Tembe, Brasil: Pupunha, Panamá Pifá, Pibá y Pixbae, Costa Rica: Pejibaye.
In Colombia it is harvested in two different seasons, one between January and May and then from August to November. The fruit’s pulp can be processed to obtain flour and be used in juices, soups, pastry and preserves. However, if you dare, you can try the “Mojojoy” or “Chontacuro” worm (a future beetle) which is usually found in the palm´s core, considered a delicacy by the indigenous of the Amazon.
Read more about Chontaduro at Wikipedia