• Avocado

    The avocado (Persea americana), called aguacate or palta by the inhabitants of the Americas, is a tree fruit with smooth, green pulp that has a salty–sweet flavor. When the Spanish arrived this fruit was found growing virtually throughout the Americas, but the Europeans baptized it the “pear of the Indies” for its likeness to Spanish pears. The three original species of this fruit were from Mexico, Guatemala and the Antilles. In central Mexico there is evidence of wild avocadoes being consumed more than 5000 years ago, but the archeological record indicates that human groups began to grow this fruit only recently, with evidence of its cultivation from Peru around 3000 BC and Mexico around500 BC. The word ‘aguacate’ is derived from ahuácatl, a Náhuatl term that means testicles, and the term ahuacamolli (guacamole) refers to avocado soup or salsa. The term ‘palta’, on the other hand, is a Quechua word, and it is thought that the Inka may have named the fruit after the Inka-ruled Palta people of Ecuador, who lived in a region where this fruit was commonly grown and consumed.

  • Cherimoya

    The cherimoya (Annona cherimolia), also known as chirimoya or chirimuya (a Quechua word that means cold seed) and the guanábana (Annona muricata), are two tree fruits from the same family. Both are native to the inter-Andean valleys of Peru and Ecuador. The first evidence of human consumption and possible cultivation of these fruits appears in Peru’s highlands around 2700 years ago and on the coast of central Peru around 1000 BC. Apparently, the cherimoya played a major role in the diet of pre Hispanic Andean peoples, as many lifelike images of the fruit appear on ceramic pieces produced by the Cupisnique, Moche and Inka cultures. The Jesuit chronicler Bernabé Cobo, in his early 17th Century Historia del Nuevo Mundo (History of the New World), described the cherimoya as “[…] white fleshed and very smooth, with a sweet and sour taste […] the best and cheapest of all the fruit of the Indies […]”; other Europeans of the day described it as “white ambrosia”. Certainly, by the mid-18th Century this much-appreciated fruit was being grown in the south of Spain with great success, and from there its production expanded to Portugal and Italy, and even as far as the Middle East. Today, Spain and Chile are the world’s two largest producers of cherimoya fruit.

  • Strawberry

    The strawberry (Fragaria ananassa), called frutilla ananá or fresón in Spanish, is enjoyed today around the world. The modern-day strawberry is a hybrid produced in the mid-18th Century in France from two types of American strawberry, one from the west coast of the United States (F. virginiana) and the other from Chile’s southern coast and Patagonia. The latter is a small, white and highly fragrant strawberry (F. chiloensis) that was described by Father Alonso de Ovalle in 1617 in his writings about the Mapuche people of southern Chile, who called this berry llahueñ. One theory has it that the Patagonian strawberry originated in North America and was brought to Chile by migratory birds thousands of years before.

  • Papaya

    The papaya or mamón (Carica papaya) is the fruit of a tree native to Central America that was quickly adopted in the Old World; like the pineapple, it is now grown in many countries on different continents. In pre-Columbian Mexico, it was called chichihualtzapotl or zapotl, a Náhuatl word meaning “wet-nurse”, as the people associated this fruit with fertility.

  • Pineapple

    The pineapple (Ananas comosus), known as the piña in Spanish or ananá in the Guaraní language, originated in the South American tropics and by the time of European contact could be found across much of Central America and the Caribbean. Its attractive color and sweet flavor made it very popular among the Spanish colonizers. Named “pine-apple” for its similarity to European pinecones, from early on the Europeans considered it the “queen and most celebrated of all fruits of the Indies”; in fact, the pineapple was the first fruit that Columbus tasted on his second voyage to the Antilles. The ‘ananá’, as it is called across the region today, is now produced in many parts of the world, but remains an exotic fruit and synonym of the tropical American paradise.

  • Prickly pear

    The prickly pear (Opuntia ficusindica) or tuna (a Taíno word) is one of many edible fruits of native American cacti. It has been grown for the past 9000 years in Mexico and in arid regions of the Andes. The Spanish term refers to both the fruit and the broad spiny ‘leaves’ of this cactus, which is known as the “fig tree of the Indies”.