Scattered throughout the highlands of tropical America from Mexico to Peru are dozens of species of native berries. Their fruits are common both in the countryside and in the markets of Bogotá, Quito, and other large cities. Some are said to be superior in flavor and size to their well-known cousins, the commercial raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. In Latin countries they are important fresh fruits as well as ingredients in jellies, jams, juices, thick syrups (jarabes, from which are made refreshing confections), and even wines.
Despite their popularity, these native berries have not been widely studied. Most are still gathered from the wild, and only a few are seen in regular cultivation. Because the plants have received little or no horticultural attention, their fruits exhibit widely variant size, color, and quality, and the flavors in any batch may range from extremely acidic to cloyingly sweet.
This chapter highlights several berries that are found mainly at elevations between 1,300 and 3,000 m in the Andean region. These seem to show promise as new cash crops for farms and backyards both in the Andes and elsewhere.
Mora de Castilla. This blackberry1 (Rubus glaucus) is native to the broad area from the northern Andes to the southern highlands of Mexico. Although common in the wild, it is also abundant in the gardens of hundreds of towns and villages, especially in Ecuador and Colombia. In two Ecuadorian towns, Ambato and Otavalo, nearly every garden has the plants, and mora de Castilla (pronounced mor-a dey cast-ee-ya) fruits appear in the markets most of the year. In Colombia, the mora de Castilla has become an increasingly important cash crop. During recent years, its cultivation has increased because