Chile’s bustling capital is exploding with exciting places to see and delicious foods to eat. Food markets, which in Chile are either called ‘mercados’ or ‘ferias’ are definitely not lacking, and definitely worth exploring!
Without a doubt, one of my favorite things to do while traveling is trying the country’s local delicacies. A must-do for any trip is a stroll around a local market to browse the vast array of strange yet wonderful locally grown fruits. Although Chile may not be known worldwide for its food, it does have its fair share of exotic and exciting fruits! Generally speaking, the closer you are to tropical climates, the more variety you will find available at your local markets.
If you’re interested in trying Chile’s favorite fruits, La Vega Central, Santiago’s biggest and most well-known fruit & vegetable market, is your best bet! Whether you want to do your weekly shopping, discover Chile’s most popular fruits and vegetables or mix with the locals – La Vega is the place to go during your stay in Santiago. Open 365 days a year and located right in the center of the city, I would recommend going early in the morning to avoid the big crowds and to see the vendors in full action! Prices here are typically much cheaper than in the Supermarket, ranging from $300 CLP to $1.500 CLP for a kilo (about 2.2lbs) of fruit, depending on which one you choose.
Depending on the season, Chile’s local fruit can also often be found in supermarkets, called ‘Supermercados’ in Spanish, such as Lider and Jumbo, and small fruit vendors around Santiago. During the warmer months, locals often sell fruit and vegetables on the busy streets of Santiago, especially close to the metro stations.
Here are a few of my favorite fruits, which can easily be found around Santiago!
Also spelled as Chirimoya, this fruit is native to the Andean highlands of Latin America, and forms part of the same family as the Sugar-apple and Sweetsop. The Cherimoya is very unique-looking, with its heart shape and rough skin which varies from yellow to dark green. When you open it, the inside is white, juicy and fleshy, with a creamy custard-like texture, with several seeds dispersed throughout.
This exotic fruit also has a plethora of health benefits, including zero saturated fat, is cholesterol-free, high in both fiber and iron and extremely high in Vitamin C. To top it all off, it is also incredibly delicious, as it tastes like a combination of banana, pineapple, peach, and strawberry, all at once! This tropical fruit is unheard of by many people, due to its somewhat particular growing preferences. Cherimoya trees don’t grow well in extreme temperatures, as the leaves suffer from temperatures that are too hot or too cold.
Ways to eat it:
There are lots of different ways to eat Cherimoya. Some people like to keep it simple and top it on their oatmeal or blend it into a smoothie along with pineapple and mango. If you’re looking to experiment more, try combining the fruit with mangos, jalapeno peppers, red onions and cilantro for a slightly different hot and sweet salsa.
If you’re looking for another way to try this fruit, Cherimoya Cocktails are extremely popular and can be found in most bars around Santiago, my personal favorite is a Cherimoya Mojito!
Pronounced ‘loo-koo-ma’, this fruit, which in its whole form looks rather similar to an avocado, is also native to the Andean valleys and grows in Peru, Ecuador, and Chile. It has a hard green exterior, whilst its flesh is yellow and is said to be a cross between caramel and sweet potato.
Despite its prominence in Chile, it is known by the Peruvian locals as the “Gold of the Incas”, and has been cherished for centuries, both as a source of nutrition and as a religious offering. Even today, Lucuma plays a big part in Peruvian celebrations and is the most popular flavor of ice-cream in the whole country. In old records, Lucuma fruit was known to support skin health and digestion. Recently, Lucuma Oil began being used for wound healing within the skin. This fruit is so well loved by the locals, there are even 26 villages named after it!
Ways to eat it:
Slice it open just like an avocado, take out the stone in the middle and scoop it out like you would a melon! Lucuma powder can also easily be found in Health Food Stores or even some bigger Supermarkets and can be used to flavor all sorts of dishes to add sweetness and a unique touch.
Try Lucuma ice-cream, available in most Icecream shops around Santiago. On Calle Seminario in Providencia, you can even find a small café that does Lucuma milkshakes! Ask for ‘Batido’ in Spanish for a Milkshake.
This is an interesting one. Scientifically called ‘Opuntia’, this fruit is an edible cactus plant, also known as ‘Nopal’, ‘Indian Fig Opuntia’, or ‘Cactus Pear’. Both the leaves and spines of the plant are very sharp, while the colorful flowers turn into prickly pear fruits. This fruit is oval in shape and can range in color from light yellow and green to orange, pink and dark red, depending on its variety and ripeness. In the past, Native Americans often used prickly pears to make Colonche, an alcoholic drink and it was also used to create Ayahuasca, a tradition spiritual medicine. Over the last hundreds of years, its most popular use remains as a great hangover cure, so make sure to have a couple in stock when you next go out drinking!
Ways to eat it:
As the prickly pear grows on a cactus, make sure to remove the skin and peel it off before eating, so that all of the sharp spines are removed. The seeds are edible, but if you don’t like the texture, you can take them out and eat the meat of the fruit in between the skin and the seeds.
If you like PB&J, take it to a whole new level and try making jelly or marmalade with prickly pears! All you will need to add is lemon juice, white sugar, and fruit pectin or gelatin.
This is a personal favorite. I found it in a local fruit market in Santiago and it immediately caught my eye. About the size of your palm, the Pepino Melon typically has beautiful purple streaks across its yellow skin and when ripe, is highly aromatic. They have a very delicate and light flavor, with notes of both cucumber and melon. In Chile, they are called ‘Pepino Dulce’, literally translating to ‘Sweet Cucumber’. Related to both the tomato and the eggplant, this is a fruit of a South American evergreen.
Presumed to be native to the temperate Andean regions of Colombia, Peru, and Chile, it is very common in these countries. However, much less overseas, as it is quite sensitive to handling and does not travel well.
Ways to eat it:
It is entirely edible, from the skin to the small seeds inside, but you can also scoop it out with a spoon like a regular melon or cantaloupe. Have it for breakfast or for a quick afternoon snack!
When I found this fruit in my local supermarket, I immediately knew I had to try it. Known as ‘Fruto de Paraiso’ in Spanish or ‘Kiwan’, this fruit is native to Southern and Central Africa, but can easily be found in South America. During their dry spells, this fruit is said to be one of the few sources of water in the Kalahari desert. The inside of the fruit looks very similar to a Passion Fruit, consisting of small jelly-like seeds, and tastes like a mix of cucumber, due to its watery and vegetable-like taste, and a sweet melon. Officially, the Horned Melon is part of both the melon family as well as the cucumber.
Ways to eat it:
To eat it, simply cut it in half, as pictured below, and scoop it out! You can also use it to top your morning oats, your salad or add to a smoothie. This green fruit turns orange when ripe, and can be rather bitter when unripe, so make sure to pick wisely! However, unlike its bright outer skin, the inner flesh stays lime green in color. If you’re feeling fancy, scoop out the inside and use the skin as a glass!
Although the exact number of edible fruits are unknown, it is estimated that there are over 20,000 species of edible plants in the world. If you find yourself traveling around South America, in particular Chile, these six fruits are definitely worth a try. You won’t regret it!
To learn more about the different exotic fruits found in Chile, any other traditional Chilean food or drink, as well as find out about events happening near you or book tours and activities, download TheBesty app on Google Play or the AppStore.