Ketembilla Juice

Every other Sunday – the first and third of the month – local farmers pitch their tents at la Placita Roosevelt, on the Hato Rey neighborhood of San Juan.  I’ve tried to showcase their produce and baked goods on several posts, focusing on new (for me) items.  This time around, I would like to highlight one of those items that I’ve bought over and over again but never showed you before.  When in season, I usually grab a cup of “cranberry” juice to enjoy while browsing the tables and buy the fruits to add to smoothies or juice at home.  These “Puerto Rican cranberries” are actually ketembillas, a native Ceylon gooseberry that was brought to the UPR Experimental Station in 1930.

Ketembillas - Puerto Rican Cranberry

The ketembillas do not resemble actual cranberries, but their taste is very similar.  They are usually juiced or used for making jellies, due to their high pectin content.  The wrinkly ones are ripe, and thus, sweeter than the larger smooth ones.  I wouldn’t advise eating them raw anyways – they are very tart.  Their juice is very opaque, leading me to believe it is loaded with antioxidants.  Unfortunately, not much information is available regarding these little berries’ nutritional benefits.  Could it be a superfruit in the making?

Ketembilla Concentrate

No special equipment is needed to make ketembilla juice – a regular blender and strainer will do.  I made a simple syrup with brown sugar to sweeten the juice, but fructose or regular white sugar would work fine as well.

Ketembilla Juice
(Yield: 2 quarts)

  • 1/2 pound ketembillas, washed and stems removed
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup of water

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar and 1 cup of water and bring to a simmer until the sugar fully dissolves into the water.  Set aside, and allow the syrup to cool.

Add the ketembillas to the blender, and add another cup of water.  Pulse until the fruits are liquefied.  Slowly strain the juice into a 2-quart pitcher, pressing the solids to obtain the juice.  Add the brown sugar simple syrup and stir well.  Top the pitcher with water and store in the refrigerator.

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Adriana is a financial analyst by day, avid home cook in the evenings, and food blogger and runner in the strange hours between those two. When not in the kitchen concocting meals and stories to pass around, she is out looking for the next great bite (or the ingredients to make it at home), checking what's new at the market, or planning a trip around great food and wine.

5 Responses to “Ketembilla Juice”

  1. Norma-Platanos, Mangoes and Me!
    October 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm #


    This is the first time I hear of these and must look into it. I hope all is well y te mando un abrazo!

    • October 8, 2012 at 9:19 am #

      All is well! Very busy at work, but happy to be making time again to blog.

      These little fruit are like grosellas or acerolas – stuff that grows on people’s backyards but you normally wouldn’t find in supermarkets or stores. Apparently they used to be grown in Florida for the pectin, but the tree/shrub was too large for the amount of fruit it yield so it was deemed an ‘inefficient’ crop.

  2. Katherine Carl
    June 26, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    Julia F. Morton’s book: Fruits of Warm Climates will give you info. on nutritional value of the fruit. I thank you for finally helping me properly identify the PR “cranberry”.

  3. Justina
    November 19, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Tengo el arbusto en mi finca desde hace 15 años y ¡por fin! he podido identificar la fruta. Aunque la corteza es un poco amarga el interior es agradable aunque con mucha semilla.
    Estas frutas de color intenso generalmente son muy nutritivas.

  4. Ana
    August 1, 2018 at 8:16 am #

    Ahora que sé lo que es, no la cortaré más y usaré su fruto!!! Sus espinas no me gustaban.

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