El Copao Fruit from Chile

by Rob W. on August 19, 2010 · 3 comments

The inside of the Copao fruit

El Copao Fruit from Chile

The fruit that most people associate with the Valle del Elqui (in the north of Chile) is the Papaya. However, there is a lesser known fruit also typical of the zone called Copao.

What is a Copao?
It is the fruit of a wild cactus called “Eulychinia acida” (great, got the big scientific word out the way). Now, did you notice that last word “ácida” which in English means sour/acid. Yes, the Copao is VERY acidic. The first taste makes you wrinkle your face like that of a 90-year-old sucking unripe lemons. Having said that, it is a yummy taste between kiwifruit and grape (I could have said chicken too, have you noticed how every tastes like chicken… I digress) which is best served with dollops of sugar to take away its biting sour kick.

Where can I buy Copao?
Since the fruit is native to the Valle del Elqui you can easily find stands on the side of the road offering both the unpeeled fruit as well as the already squeezed juice. There are a number of stands at the Embalse Puclaro (dam) near Vicuña where you can get them. The ones we bought were from the Craft market on the north side of the main Plaza de Armas (square). In 2010 they cost about $1000 pesos for 5-7 of them though you can get them cheaper at around $100 each if you look hard enough. Outside of the 4th region of Chile Copaos are hard to get. Does anyone know where to get Copao in Santiago or other cities?

Piscopao
If you have ever been in Chile you are sure to have tried a Pisco Sour or ten. But have you tried a Piscopao?
Yes, instead of using lemon you can use the juice of the Copao to make this new cocktail. You will need to add a bit more sugar than your usual Sour though.

The cactus plant the copao fruit comes from

The cactus plant the copao fruit comes from

Did you know…?
The famous Palo de Agua Rain sticks that are sold in almost every craft market from Arica to Punta Arenas are actually made from the Copao cactus. The stem is dried, thorn branches are crammed into the middle and seeds are added to give it the “rain” sound.

You may want to check the following blog (in Spanish): copaochile.blogspot.com. It’s by the association of growers from the region.

Have you ever tried this fruit?

A bowl of copao fruit

A bowl of copao fruit

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

felipe sfeir January 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm

COPAO SFEIR EN CHILE: desde 1985 estamos experimentando productos derivados de la fruta del copao. Gracias a los avances en investigación de INIA en La Serena, hemos avanzado en la formulación de nuestros productos que actualmente están respaldados por CORFO INNOVA, mediante un proyecto de emprendimiento asociativo con los campesinos que recolectan esta fruta silvestre.
Hace años acuñamos el nombre PISCOPAO con un amigo de CONAF que ha apoyado nuestro trabajo con los cactus.
Si deseas probar nuestros productos, nectar o piscopao puedes solicitarlos enviando una nota a nuestros E-mail: copaochile@gmail.com.
Blog: http://www.copaochile.blogspot.com
Mr Copao
FELIPE SFEIR

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Geoff February 1, 2012 at 8:01 pm

We just discovered these amazing fruits today…wow!! So good! We were on a two day trip to Pisco Elqui and tried them on our way through Vicuña. We loved them so much that on our way back we bought almost two dozen. There were several markets that sold them…all the way down to at least the dam. Great writeup by the way!

Hoping we can find them in La Serena as well.

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Rob W. February 2, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Thanks Geoff.
I first discovered them in Vicuña too though I am yet to see or hear of them again down here in Santiago.
A pity because you could make some interesting things with them.
Saludos

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