Tuesday 28 July 2009

Champagne fruit ... anyone?

Where will you find a hint of strawberries, pineapple, papaya, passion fruit, clear peach with an aromatic scent, an effervescent flesh, producing a powerful fragrant perfume once it reaches ripeness – encouraging you to cut into it to reach its elixir – in a Babaco?

Ecuador from Images Net

The large dark green seedless babaco fruits, turn to bright yellow when ripe, the pale apricot coloured flesh, the tender juicy pulp, mild and delicate in taste, faintly acidic offers an unusual flavour that is so overwhelmingly delicious that you simply could not forget it – in my case for over 20 years – if another one had been sighted, it would have been bought on the spot.

I was travelling back from the Kruger Park in South Africa, having stayed at a game lodge for a week’s break in the bush, away from the hustle and bustle of city life; we decided to take the back road, rather than the main highway back to Johannesburg, so we were able to visit trout farms, fruit and vegetable stalls along the way – restocking our freezers with fresh fish and our larders or fridges for the week ahead.

The babaco was here: purchased – completely unknown, it looked good, smelt good -I suppose we must have asked how we used them. When home we cut into them and were completely intoxicated .. and if we could we would have turned round and gone back to the farm stall to get some more. This was about 20 years ago – memories remain.

The taste of the fruit was really fantastic the juice poured out as it was cut, but then stopped – so each slice just melted on the tongue, sweet and fragrant, sensuous to taste – it is more than just a fruit, high in vitamin C, with a host of nutritional recipes to satisfy every occasion.

This highland fruit is believed to be a natural hybrid of the papaya and is unique because it is distinctly five sided, being first discovered in southern Ecuador in 1922. It was introduced to other parts of the world from the 1970s and apart from South Africa, is found in New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, north America and Guernsey, where they are grown under glass.

The babaco tree has a palm-like, truncated appearance with large ornamental leaves growing from the top third of the tree. Surprisingly it grows to a height of only two to three metres (6 – 9 feet) in the first year, and will produce fruit after nine months. The tree is parthenocarpic (seedless) which means that its flowers do not need pollinating to produce fruit.

The fruits appear to grow and hang down in bunches, having an extensive fruiting period the tree will produce 25 to 100 fruits per year, in a fairly short life span of 6 – 10 years. The star shaped fruits are quite large measuring 12 inches by 4 inches and weighing in at 675 – 1,135 grams (one and half to two and a half pounds) each.

The fruit is extensively used in the Andes – fresh, roasted, in sauces and fresh juices, in marmalades or preserves – while the western world has put its own take on the fruit .. in muesli, babaco parma ham wraps as starters, a hollowed out babaco filled with ‘fruits de mer’, babaco sauces, fish in babaco and green herb sauce, babaco tagliatelle, babaco cheesecake, a cooling refresher, or morning glory drink. Why or why can I not find one here?

The fruit is incredibly versatile, 98 percent edible and virtually seedless. During the cooking process, unlike many other fruits, the babaco will retain its shape and will not break up; the skin is very tender and easily digested, or the fruit can be peeled and the skin squeezed to remove any extra juice; the unripe green fruit is delicious used as a green vegetable in curies and chutney; while it also contains an enzyme called papain which acts as a meat tenderiser, rendering tough meats more digestible than a marinade containing wine.

Babaco can be used as an alternative to lemon juice, offering a softer acidity than lemon juice, especially when used with delicate fish dishes. It can also replace lemon juice to prevent peeled fruits, such as apples, from turning brown, without making them too acidic.

With this amazing array of choices, I am really surprised that there does not appear to be a ready market for them – but will this under-exploited small tree, that could provide so much value, become a future super fruit? That exotic scent wafting through our homes is just too wonderful to contemplate – I might have a travel quest in the future: in search of the elusive strawberry, mango, lemon, passion fruit, pineapple scented champagne fruit – the babaco.

Dear Mr Postman .. my mother will love this story as she loves trying new tastes and flavours and would relish the challenge of finding a market for these fruits, travelling to see the orchards, testing new recipes - all things 'up her street' - the kind of things she would so enjoy. One day I will find a source and once again be able to buy a fruit ...
PS - let alone the photos today .. I struggled to find the ones I wanted .. and gave up .. so I shall be searching for photos too ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Peter Baca said...

Hi Hilary,

Interesting information on the Babaco fruit! When I traveled to South America they did have a much wider selection of fruits and vegetables than here in the U.S.

Next time, I will have to stop for a taste now that I know the name of the fruit.

Thanks for you informative post!

Pete Baca
The Car Enthusiast Online

Liara Covert said...

NOthing quite like visiting a palce where the juicy fruit is picked just before you consume it. Closer to home, this is still possible with traditional apples and other local varieties. Thanks for the lesson on a region of South America which is not necesarily well-known. Everyone is a teacher and student in some way.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Pete .. thanks it's such a delicious fruit - by the sound of it a breakfast drink would be wonderful .. could do with that now!

Let me know if you find one sometime .. they're in Southern California I think ..

All the best - Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. I absolutely agree having grown up with a garden full of fresh fruit and veg of all sorts - absolutely wonderful straight from the bush or tree.

I've never been to South America, but the babaco hit a taste spot, I'd love to learn more and see more of it .. Thanks for your comment ..

Have a good week - Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Wow! Hilary,

That is an amazing fruit. We had not heard of this fruit before. Thank you for the knowledge that you share with us.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. Wow indeed .. I'm just waiting for someone to say 'yes' we know where you can get it .. I expect a trip in due course to find it!

Glad you enjoyed hearing about it ..
all the best -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Believe Achieve - Hugo and Roxanne said...

Hi Hilary,

We've never heard of this fruit before. It looks like a papaya or a squash. Look forward to seeing more pictures of it.
The next time we've at the market, we'll be on the look-out for the Babaco fruit. Can't wait to taste one! But, you did described it so well, I think I can almost taste it!

Yummy post! :-)

Many Blessings....

Roxanne and Hugo
Believe Achieve

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Hugo and Roxanne .. thank you .. delighted you 'tasted' it .. Please keep a look out .. but they seem very elusive .. I spent quite a long time searching!

It is a hybrid of the papaya .. but just tastes so different ..

Great to see you - yes .. yummy it was too ..

Thanks .. Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Blue Bunny said...

i eets those froots!! my jannie bying me them if i visits 22 bloggs a day and leaving my fabulis kommints!


Blue Bunny said...

oh, and my jannie very mutch lieking shampain.

to drink, of korse, as wel as poring in she bath for pretty skins.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Blue Bunny .. if U eets dem froots after visiting 'en komminting on 22 blogs - den I'm coming over .. I love those fruits and I haven't seen or tasted one since!!

Jannie 'en champers .. I'd never hav gessed?! Drinkings .. and in the bath .. for pretti skins .. me too luv champers .. never had a bath in one .. is that how she keeps you kleen after sweeping the chimney?

Be well .. see you again in 2010 .. bye for now .. thank you for coming here from


Hugs from across the pond .. Hilary xxxxoooo

Emily in Ecuador said...

Hi Hilary, You are right - this fruit is delicious and I love eating it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning new features of a fruit that I see on a daily basis here in Ecuador. I did not know that it could be used as a marinade to tenderize meat nor that it could be used like lemon to keep apples from turning brown so quickly. New things to try! Thank you!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Emily - thanks for coming over and commenting, as you now live in Ecuador ... I wanted to get your thoughts on this delicious fruit.

So I'm glad the fruit is as I remembered it and you can see new ways of trying it out here ... I crave it - even 25+ years later ... !!

I hope you can get to write about it on your blog ... cheers Hilary