Monday, December 10, 2007

New Fruit (#9)

(photo courtesy of Cereales Killer)

Another very big fruit, the SAMBO looks a like a mottled watermelon, though it's more closely related to zucchini, pumkin, and squash. I had a heck of time finding any information about it online under that name. It must be an Ecuador thing. Makes me wonder if the term has any relationship to the racist American stereotype of a watermelon-eating African-American of the same name. The scientific name is Cucurbita ficifolia.

I didn't buy a whole one because you can buy slices empacado in a plastic bag. They don't have strict rules about putting health claims on packaging in South America, like they do in the US, so the package has a box that sort of looks like a surgeon general's warning labeled "Health Benefits." It says, "Besides giving you energy..." [Energy (aka calories) is a favorite selling point down here. Cookies are healthy and good for kids because they give them energy.] " is used to combat illnesses of the mind because of the phosphorus it contains, and as food for people suffering from high cholesterol." (To put these claims in context, I heard a 15-minute spiel on the bus for a vitamin powder that largely contained radishes, which the guy called "the healthiest food in South America.")

Unlike a watermelon, the flesh is totally white, and it has rows of soft, white, unripe seeds. Fully ripe, it's supposed to be a juicable fruit, but less ripe, as this must be, it's treated like a vegetable. When I opened the bag, a certain tanginess rose to my nose. In texture and flavor, it's more like a cucumber than a squash, but a little juicier. In my mouth, the tang becomes more distinct, though still mild. It reminds me of miracle whip, or the light mustardiness of deviled eggs. It would probably be nice as a salad, salted with tomato and parsley, or the crunchiest parts rolled into sushi instead of cucumber.

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