Isidro slices open a torete fruit with a small knife. His wife, Maria, breaks the two halves of the spiky round ball into pieces, handing one to her grandson and another to Yorlenis and me. “Los ninos son debiles,” she says. “Quieren café con azucar. “Cuando era chica, comí esta, nada mas,” she says in that familiar When I was young storytelling that crosses cultures.
On her way to school, Maria tells us, she used to eat torete for breakfast. The sweet, soft tangerine-hued fruit that clings to the torete’s dark seeds could hold her over for hours. These days, children crave sugar, filling up on artificial cookies and sweetened instant coffee. “Antes, los ninos eran fuertes. Comian comida natural,” she philosophizes. Before, the children were strong. They ate natural foods.
Outside of the Comarca, torete is more commonly called chincuya (and scientifically, annona purpurea). Its trees are sprinkled throughout Soloy. No one seems to plant or cultivate them; they just exist, dropping a heavy, dinosaur-like ball from their branches in the rainy season. On a separate hike, up a different mountain, 16-year-old Jhonathan eyed one on the ground. He picked it up and cracked it open on a rock.
The outside shell resembles guanabana, a related fruit with a white interior. The texture of torete is stringy, gooey, and soft, like the meat of a pumpkin.
And with only one, there’s plenty to share. To eat it, just pull off a yellow-coated seed. Swish it around your mouth like a hard candy, sucking on the seed like a peppermint and working away at the fruit. Then launch the seeds into the air and back down the mountainside. Torete is messy. You’ll have to dig your hands into the meat of it to peel off some more.