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about 8 mm in diameter. Because the plant has been given no selection, its fruits are variable in quality; they are sometimes pleasant and juicy, and at other times are barely edible. They contain numerous, though hardly detectable, small seeds.
Mortiño fruits closely resemble the blueberries of the United States, and superior types could probably be developed into commercial crops for temperate climates and tropical highlands.
Andean Blueberry. This blueberry
(Vaccinium meridionale) grows between 2,400 and 4,000 m elevation in the cold, windy highlands (páramos) of Colombia and also between 1,000 and 2,000 m in the mountains of Jamaica.
It is a shrub 1–4 m tall, or sometimes a tree growing up to 13 m high, with reddish, flaking bark. The berries are black, nearly round, and about 1 cm in diameter (larger than most blueberries). They are sweet and juicy and are borne in clusters of 10–15. The skin is somewhat tough and may be difficult to digest. The fruits are marketed in Bogotá and are popular in preserves, pastries, frozen desserts, and wines.
Ugni. Outside of Chile, this plant (Myrtus ugni
) is one of the least known commercial fruits; almost nothing about it can be found in the international research literature. In Chile, however, ugni
is not only cultivated, but the processed fruits are being exported to fill a growing demand in Japan.
The fruits are oblate, up to 1.5 cm in diameter, and purplish to deep cranberry in color. They are said to fill the air with the fragrance of strawberries and have a pleasant wild-strawberry taste.
Like the cranberry of North America,
they have a “spritely” flavor and make piquant drinks, desserts, jams, and jellies.
The slow-growing evergreen shrub reaches about 2 m in height and flowers in 3–5 years. It is drought resistant and tolerates some frost. With its profuse, pink-tinged blossoms, it makes a showy ornamental. In Chile, most ugni is found growing wild in mountainous forest