The first time I ever heard of achachairú was in the back of a tuk-tuk bouncing along Cambodia’s countryside in 2011. My travel companions were in the middle of a serious debate: is achachairú the greatest fruit of all time, or is it not.
Actually, there was little to be debated. The two Bolivians clearly agreed that above all, achachairú reigns superior to all fruit across the world. The Peruvian needed little convincing to hop on board and I, the Midwesterner from middle America only familiar with apple trees, had little to contribute to the conversation. (Fortunately, I returned home from that trip a tad more well-versed in exotic fruits.)
Nevertheless, my Bolivian companions were bragging and rambling on that this funny-sounding fruit is sweeter than Southeast Asia’s rambutan, tangier than pity (dragon fruit), and overall more satisfying than the very similar mangosteen. When I suggested we try some of their fruit, they just about died with pride.
“It only grows in Bolivia!”
So what exactly is achachairú, you ask?
Native to the Amazon region and eastern lowlands of Bolivia, this tropical fruit is the pride and joy of the Santa Cruz department – the only place where it is naturally found and grown in the world. Achachairú fruit trees thrive in the moist forests of this region during Bolivia’s rainy season, summer in the Southern Hemisphere. The fruit has gained international attention in the past decade and has since been cultivated in other tropical environments throughout Brazil and is now sold commercially in Australia and parts of Europe.
The fruit itself is small (about the size of a golf ball), and consists of a fleshy pulp contained in a bright orange rind. This outer peel can be easily split with your fingers, exposing the edible flesh that covers the large, inner seeds. To eat, simply pop the white flesh into your mouth and suck the pulp off the seeds.
Achachairú means “honey kiss” in the indigenous Guaraní language, a rather misleading flavor indicator. The incredibly juicy pulp is both sweet and sour, with the perfect balance of sugars and acids—and not a hint of honey!
For months, the entire city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra goes through an achachairú craze, where it seems no one can get enough of their beloved fruit.
When the fruit is in season from mid-December to early March, the streets and markets of the city are flooded with vendors selling achachairú by the bagful. Coolers are dragged out to the side of the road where commuters can buy achachairú juice by the cup or purchase bags by the kilo.
Achachairú immediately becomes everyone’s seasonal ice cream flavor of choice and you’ll be hard pressed to find a bar that hasn’t incorporated the tangy fruit into a cocktail. Popsicles, cheesecakes, liquors, jams and other sweets highlighting the fruit all become popular menu items throughout the city’s food scene.
TRAVELERS TIP: Visit the Italian creamery in the Plaza Blacutt for the best achachairú sorbet, order the achachirú mojito at OGA, and indulge in Serendipity’s mousse dessert (pictured above) if you happen to visit Santa Cruz de la Sierra while the fruit is in season.
Porongo Fruit Festival
One of the leading producers of achachairú is Porongo, a small municipality of Parque Nacionál Amboro 20km west of Santa Cruz de la Sierra resting beside river Piraí.
Each year in late December/ early January, the town holds a festival in honor of the fruit’s harvest where you can buy jams, honey, wine and other products featuring the fruit at the fería de achachairú.
Santa Cruz newspapers reported over 15,000 fruit lovers and 80 farmers attended the 2016 festival this January, overtaking the small town by 1.5 times its own population!
Santa Cruz local Giovanna De la Jaille shows her excitement over her purchase of 100 achachacirus for $3 (left) and fair goers sample fresh squeezed juice (right) at the 2016 Porongo fruit festival in Bolivia. (Photos via Giovanna De la Jaille and Patricia Majluf, Foodies.)
Bottom line: Locals are OBSESSED and Cruceños sure are proud of their beloved fruit.
And with reason! After finally getting my hands on some achachairú after moving to Bolivia, I couldn’t agree more with their bold statements boasting it’s greatness. It’s sweet, it’s sour, it’s soft, it’s PERFECT.
Have you tried achachairú or the similar mangosteen before? What did you think? What’s your favorite exotic or tropical fruit I need to get my hands on next?