In Cuzco we have a treasure that germinates year round and dazzles in February and March. With the bright and attractive reddish color of each fruit it calls out to all who pass by as if by magic.
Capulí is a fruit that grows around Cuzco’s extensive corn fields. The fields‘ owners plant this fruit to mark their fields and keep other people out. Some people use the fruit as a tree in their garden or back yards. The tree can reach a height of three meters within only twelve to eighteen months. Eventually it will rise to 10 meters.
The fruit appears in bunches, somewhat like grapes. From February through April the fruit ripens. Its quantity is impressive. Sometimes the tree bends over until it touches the earth as if to say “I can’t bear any more.”
There is a bird called chihuaco which makes its nest close to the places where capulí grows and it eats this fruit. This bird has an amazing dexterity with its beak. It somehow eats only the fruit’s flesh and rejects the seed, though sometimes it does transport it to other places. As a result, capulí grows wherever the seed falls.
Besides being the favorite food of the chihuaco, this fruit is scrumptious. Its flavor is similar to cherries though it is sweet and smaller. During the rainy season capulí fruit make their way to all the markets of Cuzco. They are generally sold in baskets although one can also buy capulí jam. They are so good that no child can resist eating them.
The people who harvest this fruit require a fair amount of skill to climb the trees and bring down the fruit. They say that the ripest fruit are found at the top of the trees and in the biggest trees. Children also have lots of fun trying to climb up and get that fruit. They play in these trees, honing their skill in climbing.
The capulí has a lot of uses: it can be made into a syrup to treat respiratory problems; It is applied as a cream to alleviate inflammations; and, the leaves make their way into teas to alleviate colics. But most of all it is delicious to just eat right from the tree.
We Cuzqueños are happy to have such a delicious fruit with such beneficial qualities and we are happy to share it with the world so it might be known as we know it.