Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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chañar is also known as chanal or Chilean Palo Verdi, the fruit of Geoffroea decorticans (synonym of Gourliea decorticans), a small tree native to Chile and Argentina. The fruit resembles the jujube, being fleshy and subacid, and is a food of some importance in the Chaco region of Chile.

According to Emerson (1908) it possesses such remarkable qualities that, even though it had not proved possible to establish its botanical identity at that time, it must have a place in the present book, and be described in Emerson’s own words:

The Indians are extremely fond of fruit and of all which appeal to them most that called chanar is the chosen; but one must know how and when to eat it, for if even bitten into before it is fully ripe it will pucker the mouth to such an extent that speech becomes an impossible task. When the chanar is ripe and fully grown it is about the size of an egg and is also shaped very much like one. Its flavour is beyond description, and the way the Indians eat this fruit best shows in what estimation it is held. Early in the morning all hands repair to the chanares—chanar orchard (for, though wild, the trees grow in immense tracts) and proceed to eat of the fruit until locomotion, except in a crawling way, becomes almost impossible, and as soon as they have arrived at this state they crawl to the river, drink as much water as they can possibly hold, and then crawl back to the trees, where they stretch themselves out at full length and sleep until night, when they repeat the operation.