Tumbo is a fruit related to the passion fruit that makes a present of flavor. While children have all kinds of adventures seeking the fruit and picking it, their elders raise glasses of “tumbo tequila” on weekend afternoons and their mothers sweeten mornings with tumbo jam to go with breakfast.
The fruit grows easily in Cuzco. Most people have a tumbo vine in their gardens or fields. The women take charge of planting it and making sure it grows properly. They take a tumbo seed and let it dry for three days so that it is ready to be sown. Then they sprinkle sugared water on it so that its fruit will turn out sweet. They generally plant the seeds by the side of a tree so that the vine can easily grow up it and reach its full potential.
In order to use the fruit when it is properly ripe people wait for it to change color from green to a light yellow and for it to turn soft. Then you know it is at its sweetest and can enjoy it alone or accompanied with salt which gives it just a little different taste through contrast.
Not only people, but the chihuaco birds also love this fruit. They try to eat the largest and ripest fruit they can find at the very tops of the trees.
Once picked, the tumbo are not only eaten the way they are, they are made into juice and jam. These are products you buy much in the stores or markets but things made at home by the women of Cuzco They will boil some ripe tumbos with cinnamon, cloves, and sugar. They let it boil until it reaches the right point. Then they strain it to reove the seeds, and let it cool. In this way they make a delicious jam that they can spread on the wonderful Oropesa bread and have with their morning or afternoon coffee, what we call “lonche”.
This fruit that fills Cuzco’s fields and gardens is also good for your health. They say that if you eat tumbo before breakfast three times a week it is very good for your liver. It also helps with constipation. People will squeeze the tumbo pulp out on a plate with a little sugar. When its lets loose its juice, they strain the seeds away and drink it as is to help. Regularly drinking tumbo juice is also said to help reduce kidney pains.
We had a lot of tumbo in my house when I was a kid. All of us would eat this fruit whenever we wanted to. My grandmother would gather the ripe fruit and would run them through a blender before straining the juice. Then she would put it in a pitcher with some cañazo (distilled cane alcohol), according to the quantity of the tumbo juice. She would mix it and let it sit for a week. In that period the delicious “tumbo tequila” would develop. We would drink this beverage after eating baked guinea pigs (cuy al horno).
You do not have to grow tumbo to enjoy this. You can easily find it in the markets and some stores. The caseras, vendors, of the market sell it by the piece for about S/ 0.20 ($ 0.08 US), a very economical price. You can buy it and enjoy it in any of the many preparations that use it, or just enjoy the fruit whole.