Pacay is a fruit that is very well known and frequently consumed by the population of Cusco. You find it easily, this time of year, in the popular markets of San Pedro, Wanchac, Rossaspata, Ttio, and Cascaparo. It is found in the fruit section. Its season begins in August and lasts through January.
Its size and shape vary. Sometimes they are very large and sometimes small. They are long, arched or straight pods, dark green in color, about the color of pine needles. Inside them you find the fruit which when you first look seem to be small balls of cotton covering dark seeds. Their flavor on the palate is agreeable, sweet, fresh, and juicy. You have a sensation of spongy fibers. It is very tasty and very agreeable from the moment it comes in contact with your lips.
On the market stands you will see the pacay pods stretched out over pallets along with the other fruits of the season. Its price varies according to size. When the season first beings you find the smaller pacays and they are priced from 1.5/S and as the season goes on the price drops to where the small ones are 1/S each. As the season ends the large ones will rise to around 7/S each, a bot less than two dollars.
When you open the pacay you see the white fleshy pulp, you eat it directly, spitting out the seeds. Some have as many as 17 fresh seeds with pulp inside. It all depends on the fruit’s size, of course. Pacay is used to make desserts, ice creams, and juices.
I remember that in the San Pedro market one fruit vendor said: “Pacay is good and is known as a remedy to alleviate stomach inflammations. It is also used to improve digestion. People come to buy the fruit when their stomach is irritated because of alcohol or excessive fat.”
I asked the vendor where the fruit came from and she told me with a smile: “The fruit grows in tropical places. Here in Cusco it mostly comes from Quillabamba and Puerto Maldonado. On Wednesdays and Fridays, around five am, the trucks arrive filled with pacay. They come to the wholesale markets of Huancaro.” All the fruit vendors go there to get their supply that they will offer for sale in their stands.
Pacay has a lot of nutritional value for the body. It has calcium, phosphorous, carbohydrates, and iron. This fruit is also called guaba (not to be confused with guava, called guayaba in Spanish). It has been cultivated since ancient times and is native to South America, even though it is also found in Central America.
From when I was a child I have loved to eat pacay. My mother would spoil me when we went to the markets by buying me a pacay to slowly eat while we went through it buying food and more for our home. I still love its flavor, soft and sweet. It brings me memories of when I was a child and would play with my brother and my friends using its seeds. The shiny black seeds were used as throws of tejos. Girls used the seeds to make earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. It was fun to play and give value to the pacay seeds