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The Babaco, also called mountain papaya and chamburo, is native to Ecuador and is believed to be a natural hybrid of the papaya or perhaps the mountain pawpaw. The plant is not found in the wild. Babaco is unique because it is distinctly 5 sided - when sliced crosswise the slices form a star shape with rounded points (similar to a star fruit).
Babaco grow to about 8 - 12 inches long and 4 inches in diameter, with a seedless, soft and juicy apricot-colored flesh and a flavor described as a cross between pineapple, papaya and strawberry. It is frequently called the ‘champagne fruit.’ The skin is edible and turns from green to golden yellow when ripe. Babaco contains the enzyme papain in several times the amount as papaya.
Today Babaco is cultivated throughout South America. It is the most cold tolerant plant of its type and is also being cultivated in New Zealand, and as far north as the Channel Islands off the Coast of Normandy. They are also being grown commercially in California.
The fruit is best when eaten fully ripe skin and all. It can also be sliced and added to fruit salads, pureed with a little sugar as a drink, used in relishes, chutneys and curries, or mixed with other fruit for pies. Babaco has excellent keeping quality, with room temperature storage of several weeks (optimal storage temperature is 40 degrees F). Another good feature is that damaged or bruised fruit can also be kept for a long time, as the damaged tissue will not spread to the rest of the fruit.
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