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Foreign Grocery Friday: The Calafate Berries of Patagonia

December 13, 2013 at 10:27 AM | by | Comments (0)

When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to pop into a local grocery store and check out the food products and candies we'd never find anywhere else. So we're trying out this new feature, Foreign Grocery Friday, where each week we'll feature some of our (and your) favorite overseas treats. Got a recommendation? Let us know!

Entire landscapes of Patagonia are ripe for the picking right now, awash in the bright indigo dots of juicy Calafate berries (English name: Magellan Barberry). So symbolic are these of Patagonia that an entire city in southern Argentina is named for them (El Calafate) and a local legend holds that any visitor who eats a berry will be sure to return to the region. Past years have seen small harvests due to lack of rain, but this year the getting looks good.

We mainly sampled them around Puerto Natales and the Torres del Paine National Park area in Chilean Patagonia, and our Quasar Expeditions guides were able to point out the bushes nearly everywhere we ventured over 5 days in the area (of course don't eat any berries you aren't sure of).

Enjoying a Calafate Sour at the fireplace of The Singular Hotel's bar

The taste: Mind the thorns on the Calafate bush and you'll be rewarded with a sweet nectar extremely high in antioxidants. Forget açaí; it's Calafate the world should be fawning over for its taste and health properties (even the roots are medicinal). In flavor, it's like a cross of blackberry and mulberry with a higher sweetness than one would expect. Bonus: there's no seeds to get stuck in your teeth. Turning it into liqueur or jam brings out a tartness that absolutely appeals to this fan of sour treats.

The price: Varies depending on product, but plan on $3-5 for a jar of calafate jam, and $5-8 for a Calafate Sour cocktail or bottle of the liquor.

Where to find it: We purchased Calafate liqueur in the gift shop at the Hotel Las Torres and the Calafate jam at the excellent shop El Ovejero (located in Cerro Castillo, at the border between Puerto Natales and El Calafate). Also look for it on restaurant menus, as the berry juice makes a lovely dessert sauce.

The easiest place to try calafate berries, however, is anywhere in the town of El Calafate, or at Puerto Natales' The Singular Hotel's bar, where they serve Pisco Sours with a hint of calafate, and also a wholly Calafate Sour cocktail.

Calafate liqueur bottles at the Hotel Las Torres

If you'd like to share some of your foreign grocery finds, we'd love love love to see them. Send 'em on over via email here and snack on, my friends.

We traveled to Patagonia as a guest of LAN and Quasar Expeditions, but all photos, observations and opinions are completely our own.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted, TravelingLao]

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