An Exotic Fruit Tour in Medellín

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am a fruit fanatic. One of my favorite things about living in Colombia is the incredible variety of fruits and vegetables that are available (and their super low prices don’t hurt either!). Pretty much every time I go to a grocery store or a market here I end up buying some new, strange-looking fruit or vegetable just to try, and I haven’t come anywhere near running out of new options yet. It’s awesome.

I had heard rumors about a fruit tour that takes place somewhere in Medellín, but didn’t know where it was or how to sign up, so you can imagine my excitement when on Wedensday I met a friend of a friend who was looking for people to join him on a fruit tour the following day. Of course I jumped at the chance.

The tour we ended up going on is run by a company called Real City Tours. They are best known for their free walking tour of Medellín, which I’ve heard great things about but haven’t yet had the chance to try. Their exotic fruit tour, which we took, runs Monday-Friday at 9:45 and costs 40,000 pesos (about 14 USD).

My new friend Stuart and I met up at the Minorista MetroPlus station, where we quickly located our guide, Diana, who was waiting by the entrance. More folks showed up until we were a group of six, at which point Diana handed us each a spoon (for fruit-eating, of course), and we were off!

We started by walking about a block away from the metro station into Plaza Minorista, a massive warehouse-style building.

Plaza Minorista

The inside was labyrinthine, filled to the brim with small stalls selling different foods and other wares. The majority were selling fruits and vegetables, but there were also areas dedicated to other kinds of products, like meats, cheeses, and cooking utensils.

Inside the Plaza Minorista
A stall selling dried herbs
An oil and perfume stall

Diana led us to a stall near the the entrance where the tables were piled high with dozens of kinds of fruits, many of which I’d never seen before. She bought six of a small purple fruit called mangosteen from the owner, demonstrated how to open them, and then handed us each one to try. While we ate she told us about the health properties of mangosteen, where and how they’re grown, and how they are typically prepared and eaten in Colombia.

Diana showing us how to open a mangosteen. I love the look on the stall owner’s face.

I felt a little silly standing around with a bunch of camera-toting gringos gawking at fruits as the people around us went about their daily lives selling things or doing their shopping, but the tour was so fun, and everyone we met so nice, that I quickly got over feeling so self-conscious.

Gringos in the market

Over the course of the nearly-three-hour tour we walked all around the market and stopped at various stalls where we tried more than fifteen different fruits, as well as an arepa de chocolo, a sweet corn pancake that is a popular street food here in Medellín. Here are some of the coolest fruits we sampled (the little cards were helpfully provided by Diana, for picture-taking purposes).

Lulo are small, intensely sour little fruits. Because they’re so sour Colombians almost exclusively use them for juice – with plenty of sugar added.
Inside a lulo
Fresh borojó look like the picture on this card, but in order to eat them one must wrap them in plastic and let them basically rot until they look like the contents of these bags. This stall only sold the borojó pre-wrapped and rotten. We didn’t get to taste any at the stall, but I later tried borojó juice (verdict: delicious).
Tomates de arbol, literally tree tomatoes, are incredibly popular in Colombia and usually made into juice. They are also extremely cheap: you can buy several kilos for about 2,000 pesos (less than 1 USD).
Inside the papery shells are uchuvas, bright orange fruits about the size of a large grape. When cut in half they look like tiny tomatoes, with a delicious sweet and sour taste. You can eat them whole, making them a great snack.
This was the strangest of all the fruits we tried. It looked like a seed pod and was so hard we had to use a hammer to crack it open. The fruit inside had a texture like chalk and was STINKY. Diana told us that it’s mainly used in cooking, and I could see why.
Inside the algarroba

We had so many different fruits that by the end I was just a teeny bit tired of eating fruit (something I never though I would say!). Don’t worry, this wore off quickly and by that evening I was chowing down on more fruit that I’d bought.

At the end of the tour, we all sat down at a juice restaurant upstairs, where we had the chance to order any variety we liked from their extensive menu. I chose borojó juice, since we hadn’t been able to taste the fruit itself. It was made with milk, and really didn’t taste like fruit juice at all but more like a delicious vanilla milkshake.

Jugo de borojó

As we were drinking our juices Diana asked us how we’d felt that day at the market, and everyone’s answers went something like “great, such a cool place, everyone was so nice!”.

She then told us that the Plaza Minorista used to be extremely dangerous – so dangerous, in fact, that people were getting murdered there nearly every day. Many citizens of Medellín were too scared to go there, and unfortunately that reputation has endured and many people still believe that it’s dangerous and stay away.

I felt totally safe on the tour, and was truly surprised to learn this. It is just another example of the incredible changes that Medellín has seen over the past decade.

Diana told us that part of the reason that Real City Tours does their exotic fruit tour there, rather than at the somewhat larger Plaza Mayorista market located in the south of the city, is that they are hoping to help change the reputation of the market and encourage more people to visit and shop there.

Overall it was a great morning, and I now feel much more prepared for my next grocery-shopping expedition. My advice: whether you are visiting or living in Medellin, if you love fruit and trying new foods, shelve your I-don’t-want-to-look-like-a-silly-tourist pride (if you have such a thing) and enjoy this fun and informative tour.


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