Capulì (Prunus salicifolia), formerly known as ussun, is a fruit tree highly diffused in the Americas, especially in the south.
The botanist Acosta Solís and others cite archeologic and ethnolinguistic studies affirm that the plant is of Andine origins. Another branch of studies support the claim that its origin is Central American, and there are also different theories on the diffusion between these two territories.
The capulí tree used to grow abundantly, especially in Quito and the surrounding areas, and was the principal vegetation of the Andine forest; from the seventies onwards the population has constantly diminished due to the introduction of other plants.
The tree can grow up to 10 meters tall and the fruits are very similar to grapes, of a shiny black, brown of purple color. The tree grows in valleys with temperate climates and prefers sandy soils and a dry climate, like in the areas of Guayllabamba, Malchingui, Perucho or Tumbaco. The harvest is mostly done between February and March.
Despite the capulí and the tree being diffused in the Sierra Andina, it is getting more and more difficult to find it on local markets, as imported cherries and amarena cherries have replaced it. The capulí is very similar to amarena: round and glossy and of a dark purple color, tending towards black. The skin is very thin but resistant and the pulp is very juicy. The syrup obtained from capulí is a traditional cure used to alleviate respiratory problems.
The biggest share of capulí is consumed fresh, but it can also be preserved or transformed into jams, wine or juices. Capulí is called “murmuntu” or “ussum” in Quechuan language. In the province of Pichincha the production of the capulí has declined because of the commerce of its high quality wood.
Capulí can be eaten fresh, but also used to prepare jams or to make a fermented alcoholic beverage similar to wine; it is also used to stuff tamales and make sweets. One of the most diffused recipes using capulí is jucho, eaten in the harvest months (February and March): it is a dish with a capulí base, with “arroz de cebada”, panela (raw cane sugar), pears and peaches.
A traditional sweet of the Andine communities is the puchaperro: a sweet beverage made through fermenting oats, with the addition of some pieces of capulí and cinammon, prepared during carnival season.