You have to try this fruit, said Santiago. I just can’t remember what it’s called. We were in our usual cafe in Parque Carlos E. in Medellín’s Suramericana neighborhood. Santi was preparing to move to the U.S., so we were practicing English as much as possible. I was getting ready to abandon him for a week, traveling through Santa Marta and Cartagena on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. He’d just been a few weeks prior and was struggling to find the words to describe some tropical fruit or other. He asked the server when she delivered two granizados to the table. Zapote, she said.
Sure, you can buy zapote in Medellin, most easily in the city center. Men push heavy wooden carts piled high with funky produce. I’ve even found a few stray zapotes in my own neighborhood market. But it’s most delicious on the coast, where juice vendors slice and scoop it right in front of you, and whirl it around in a battery-powered blender with milk (and mounds of sugar unless you stop them). The texture is gooey. But when mixed with leche, it takes on a smooth, creamy feel; more of a milkshake than a fruit juice.
Here’s the fruit before slicing and dicing. It looks like a beet dressed up as an acorn just to prank its friends.
I drank down more jugo de zapote in my days in Santa Marta than necessary. We’re talking three glasses a day. The colonial coastal city was exactly what I’d hoped: sweaty; busy, and bright. Carrera 5 is bustling; it’s where the buses run in both directions (you’ve got to jump out into the center of the street to get them to stop), and women sit on fruit crates, selling jewelry, shampoos, second-hand clothes– everything. Yet if you turn the corner, you’ll leave the world behind; many side streets are empty streets but for a few stray dogs.
Head toward Parque de los Novios, and the surrouding streets are packed with gringo-approved restaurants: the health-conscious, overpriced lunch foods we gravitate toward, salads and wraps included.
But the best jugo stands are at the beach. Whether you hitch a ride to Taganga Beach or hike your way to Parque Tayrona, you’re probably deserving of a batido de zapote.