The $10 Fruit Challenge

With a little extra time today, I had to come up with an activity that would feel productive yet enjoyable. Finding $10 in my pocket, I decided that this would be the key to the challenge. So I walked to the Mercado Central to buy as much fruit as I could within my set limit of funds. And what I ended up with was far more than I could have imagined.

A collection of fruits for under $10.

A collection of fruits for under $10.

Many of these fruits are often sitting in my apartment at any given time, but today presented an opportunity to spend some extra time with the familiar and to get acquainted with the new. I lined them up and, one by one, sliced and tasted each. Here is a rundown of the wide range of fruits that you can find in Ecuador.

A Note on Passion Fruit:
I actually found three different types of passion fruit today. You may not see the similarities from the outside, but once you look within, it’s pretty obvious. The fruit is characterized by its seeds covered by a slimy, jelly-like membrane (which is actually the delicious part). You can eat the seeds with the goo; no need to separate them. Interestingly, while some people think that it’s called passion fruit because of its aphrodisiac qualities, quite on the contrary; it was named by Christians as a reference to the passion of Jesus, with the ten petals of the flower representing the ten faithful apostles.

Granadilla
This is my favorite passion fruit. It is the sweetest of the three that I found. The seeds are also the most reminiscent of frog eggs (or snot, you choose) than the other passion fruits. It’s said that these are good for your stomach and can be eaten before a meal to aid in digestion.

Granadilla.

Granadilla.


Taxo
Also known as the banana passion fruit, the taxo is tangier than the sweet granadilla. The closer-packed seeds are also slightly harder than the other passion fruits.
Taxo, or Banana Passion Fruit

Taxo, or Banana Passion Fruit


Maracuyá
The most tart of the three passion fruits that I found, this was, consequently, my least favorite. This variety of passion fruit is often made into juice in Ecuador, but sugar is added to counter the sour flavor.
Maracuyá.

Maracuyá.


Pitahaya
Since arriving in Ecuador, I’ve probably eaten one of these daily. Also known as the yellow dragon fruit, it is closely related to the pink variety that you can find in Chinatowns across the US. The inside is semi-clear with seeds suspended throughout, similar to a kiwi. The flavor is sweet, but subtle with a slightly floral hint. Excellent when chilled.
Pitahaya, or Golden Dragon Fruit.

Pitahaya, or Golden Dragon Fruit.


Guayaba
Known as guava in the U.S., this interesting fruit isn’t particularly sweet; the smell and flavor are almost musky. It somewhat reminds me of a mix between a pear and a strawberry. The small seeds throughout can be eaten, and some people even eat the skin.
Guayaba, or Guava.

Guayaba, or Guava.


Pepino
Pepino is a nightshade related to the tomato and eggplant. The flavor is slightly sweet and resembles a honeydew melon. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as a pepino melon, though it isn’t closely related to the melon family.
Pepino.

Pepino.


Fisalida
Also known as the cape gooseberry after being cultivated at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa (despite it being native to South America). This fruit is slightly sweet with a little tang and a hint of tomato. I think this would be a good addition to a salad. The paper-like outside is discarded and the orange fruit is eaten whole.
Fisalida, or Cape Gooseberry.

Fisalida, or Cape Gooseberry.


Achotillo
Also known as rambutan, this fruit can be found in Chinatowns in the US and even at some Whole Foods or freeze dried at Trader Joe’s. The fruit inside is similar to lychee, though it is harder to separate from the seed. It is sweet and slightly floral in flavor.
Achotillo, or Rambutan.

Achotillo, or Rambutan.


Sapote
Though it looks more like a squash inside, this fruit has a surprisingly fresh flavor, with hints of persimmon and cantaloupe.
Sapote.

Sapote.


Babaco
Leaving the largest for last, babaco is a very juice fruit that tastes somewhat like a watered down pineapple with a touch of strawberry. It is often boiled with cinnamon and sugar and served hot in its own syrup.
Babaco.

Babaco.

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Arrived in Ecuador!

I have landed in Ecuador!  As we flew over the Gulf of Mexico, a storm was brewing towards Cuba.  At times, I couldn’t count to five without bolts of electricity lighting up the sky. Here is a video of the lightning beneath us.

Tonight I will attend the premier of El Tren de los Sueños and then spend the rest of the week here before heading to Urbina to spend a week with the llamas and the mountains. It’s good to be back.

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Hello, Quito.

Tomorrow morning I will depart New York City en route to Quito. It’s been a whirlwind couple weeks trying to get everything ready, but my film bag is packed, my cameras are cleaned and I just picked up the last round of test slides (no more light leaks!).

Here is a picture that I return to a lot as I try to imagine what life will be like in Quito. I took this on our last day there in September, from the top of Basílica del Voto Nacional. We had to climb all the way up on stairs and then ladders, but the unobstructed view in all directions was worth it.

I’ll be updating this blog more frequently now, as I pick up where we left off on our projects. See you in Ecuador!

El Panecillo from the top of Basílica del Voto Nacional.

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Sketches of Ecuador

Katie Patch kept a sketchbook as our team advanced up the old G&Q Railway line last September. Katie trained in art at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). She studied photography in Paris, and spent a European Honors semester studying art and art history in Rome. Here are a few of her delightful sketches from Ecuador.


You can see more of Katie’s artwork at her webpage: http://www.katiepatch.com/

Or on her flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/katiepatch/

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The Train of Dreams (El Tren de los Sueños)

We are really excited to announce a premiere event – El Tren de los Sueños (The Train of Dreams) - in Quito, Ecuador on January 26, 2011!

It’s an animated musical short film based on a letter written by General Eloy Alfaro, produced by Raúl Almendáriz. The film honors the memory of Eloy Alfaro, who died 100 years ago, and features Archer Harman, a trusted friend of Alfaro and his family who, along with his brother, Major John Harman, built the Guayaquil & Quito Railway. Also included in the film are Sir James Sivewright, who helped finance the G&Q, and Alfaro’s lovely daughter, America Alfaro.

Alfaro’s death 100 years ago was awful and gruesome, including betrayal, greed, a final train ride from Guayaquil to Quito on the railroad that he built, incarceration, mob scenes, guns, dragging through the streets, dismembering, and then a wretched fire scene in the El Ejido park… but this movie isn’t about the awfulness, it’s about… the train!

A trailer for the movie has been posted to YouTube:

Date: Wednesday, 26 January, 2011
Time: 19h00
Place: TEATRO MEXICO (next to South Train Station CHIMBACALLE)

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