Fresh fruit juices or “BATIDOS” are probably one of the things that I miss the most about living in Caracas. You can get it at an arepera or a fruteria (produce stores) or on a street stand outside of El Avila (the mountain range surrounding the valley of Caracas). It is fresh fruit blended with water, sugar and ice (for batidos). The range of fruit options is seasonal, but being in the tropics, the flavor options are abundant! Orange, passion fruit, watermelon, canteloupe, pineapple, tamarind, mango, papaya, guanabana, mamon, ciruela de huesto, mandarin, strawberry. This strange looking pod is tamarind and I love it. It doesn’t look very attractive or appetizing. But it is good and different, sour, sweet and citrusy at the same time. The tamarind tree is beautiful — it can grow to up to 60 feet high and produce of to 350 lbs of fruit per year! It gets sweeter as it ripens, but it is an acidic fruit. Originally from Africa, it is widely used in South Asia, the Caribbean and the Americas.The mango – by far one of my favorite fruits ever. Mango trees are generous and mangoes abound in the streets or gardens of Caracas; you only need good teeth to peel it and eat it. That is what I did as a kid: we had a mango tree at our house and I would sit and eat mangoes, my face all yellow and sweet. Mango juice is dense and very tasty! BTW, the mango fruit is the most cultivated tropical fruit in the world!This is how my grandfather used to eat the large mangoes, which we called manga to differentiate them from the smaller street mango. You cut the cheeks of the fruit lengthwise, as close as possible to the pit. Then you cut squares into the flesh and pop it open inside out, and bite off each square.
Fun fact about mango in the Americas: this fruit originated from India and came to America in the 17th century. Due to lack of refrigeration the mangoes were pickled and over time the word mango became a verb referencing the act of pickling fruits and vegetables! I don’t think that is the case anymore, but it’s an interesting story.The papaya is original to America, and it was first cultivated in Mexico. It is generally eaten ripe and raw, peeled and seeded. But it is also eaten green, like the famous green papaya salad in Southeast Asia. In Venezuela the green papaya is used to make the traditional Christmas dessert called ‘dulce de lechosa’- twisted sticks of green papaya that have been dried in the sun and cooked for hours in sugar cane, water and cloves.
The Papaya has great medicinal uses in folk traditions, particularly for digestive pusposes. Some people might be turned off by its pungent smell when very ripe. I personally love it. I eat it in the morning, diced, or drink it as a refreshing juice.
Pineapples! I think they are one of the best images for beaches and the tropics. I think people see a pineapple and immediately think of a pina colada by the beach
Original from South America, it was the first plant from the bromelia family to be exported to Europe. Nowadays it is cultivated and eaten widely in Thailand, the Philippines, Africa, South America and of course, Hawaii.
In Venezuela I always ate pineapple sliced in circles. You cut or bite around the ‘heart’ or the hard part in the middle. It is interesting to me to see how poeple in the U.S. tend to eat it, sliced lengthwise or diced. It is a beautiful plant, great for the digestive system but very tricky to cut up if you don’t know how. When peeling it you have to be sure to take out the ‘eyes’ that sometimes stay on the skin (that is, the little black indentations that are not pleasant to eat!).
The juice is delicious; I like it fibrous but most people I think prefer it strained, without the pulp. Either way, very refreshing!
Papelon con limon- this is Venezuela’s signature sugar cane lemonade. Or like a friend recently told me, Venezuelan’s Gatorade (I am not kidding!). It is really refreshing and I can best describe it as a very tasty Arnold Palmer tea (or tee. It is made with diluted sugar cane, water and lime juice. It is drunk throughout Venezuela; it is the best during a very hot day. Learn more about Papelon in our previous post here