Babaco has potential for export as a fresh fruit. New Zealand growers are already shipping it to Japan and the United States. When properly harvested and carefully packed, it remains in good condition for a month or more at 6°C. The cut fruit also keeps well and does not turn brown (oxidize) over time.
Babaco is a small plant (1–2 m), only occasionally branched, but it coppices well. Total yields are better than those of a good papaya plantation, and have exceeded 100 ton per hectare.15 Propagation is by cuttings or tissue culture.
Toronchi. Toronchi16 is a natural hybrid17 found scattered around houses and villages in southern Ecuador. It is a frost-resistant, vigorous plant that may grow to 5 m, although most selected types are smaller, reaching only 2.5 m. It is found up to about 2,500 m elevation, and can withstand temperatures down to 1°C. There is much variation, but all specimens produce attractive, quality fruits with a delightful fragrance. They are eaten fresh or processed and are readily accepted, even by those tasting them for the first time. Cooked, they are useful for sauces, jams, pie fillings, and pickles, as well as for adding to cheesecake and dairy products such as yogurt.
The mature fruit is five-sided, generally 10–15 cm long, green to lemon-yellow in color, and weighs up to 0.5 kg. It is extremely juicy with a soft, creamy-white pulp and is one of the least seedy of the highland papayas. Smooth skinned, it can be eaten without peeling, and has a medium papain content. A New Zealand variety called “Lemon Creme” is a vigorous cultivar that produces an abundant crop of sweet, lemon-scented fruits.
Fast growing, these plants bear within 12 months. Picked ripe, the fresh, raw fruits are superior in flavor to all other highland papayas. However, they must be handled more delicately than the babaco; even when moderately ripe, they are poor shippers.
Although the plant functions as a sterile hybrid, pollination seems to increase production, and the fruits often contain viable seeds. Toronchi hybridizes readily with siglalón (C. stipulata), resulting in many intermediate forms with different flavors and varying amounts of seed.
The Andes. All of these fruits are consumed locally throughout much of the Andean highlands, but currently only Colombia, Ecuador,