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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Alien Invasion: Weird Wonderful Fruit

Soursop is at 12 o'clock, in the same basket with passion fruit,
five-finger, orange and  papaya also known as paw-paw
 in the Caribbean.  Note the size of the avocado
in the top of the left hand basket!  All local produce from the
Castries open market.

Spiky soursop, grenade-like custard apples and five fingers…. these are my new favorite fruits. 

Soursop looks like half a yin-yang symbol, armored in a leathery, spiky green skin.  Sneaky.  It’s a perfect disguise for an alabaster white, peachy-but slightly-slimy succulent interior flesh.  Soursop’s name is also a great subterfuge; it’s very sweet and fruity-floral…. Earl Gray & jasmine meet mango-peach.  Best way to eat it is simply split it open like a watermelon and eat with a spoon.  Be prepared for lots of seed-spitting. As a labor of love,
I made a fruit salad which included seeded and minced soursop, not a feat I’m likely to repeat in the near future.

Custard apples at a less than camera-happy
fruit vendor  at Castries  market.
Custard apples look almost as weird as soursop and taste almost as good.  I mean, soursop is exceptional and custard apples a simple sweet treat.  Imagine a sweetened creamy vanilla yogurt (but without the yogurt “tanginess) so sweet there’s sugar crystals.  Spoon them from out of an artichoke green avocado-like skin with grenade shaped bumps.  On rare occasion I see them sold as cherimoyas in the U.S.

We occasionally see five fingers, sold in the United States as star fruit.  Imagine a cross between a crisp pear and a green grape. Waxy-skinned five fingers are versatile, great in fruit and green salads.  Their star shape, which comes to the fore when they’re sliced, just screams “Celebrate!”  Here in Saint Lucia, five fingers often costs as little as10 cents USD in the markets.

Other local hits?
Five finger aka star fruit is in the upper right hand corner uncut,
and the lower right hand corner, cut.
Mangos, papayas (click here for the Papayas as Big As A Baby’s Head post) and bananas, limes, grapefruit… not that unusual in a supermarket in the States.  But fresh, really fresh with a short commute from farm to fork.
Good!  This particular grapefruit was
by far the seediest I’ve ever eaten, and
I’ve eaten a LOT of grapefruit.
An Oh! My! Gosh!
Okay, we get avocados at home.  Heck, Wayne even grew up next to the avocado groves in Santa Barbara, so he’s pretty picky when it comes to “perfect avos.” What’s the big deal?  Local avocados here are huge, often about the size of a child’s football, and incredibly buttery.  Their skins practically fall off, pits are often loose and drop out without the slightest need to pry.  Add some salt, black pepper and lime juice (often readily available in the form of fresh squeezed cheap, juicy-sweet Caribbean limes) and some chopped tomatoes if you’re lucky enough to find them and it’s practically orgasmic eating.

Misses?
Golden apple is the pear-colored sliced fruit.
Guinep is the lower right-hand
orange-y grape-shaped fruit with
its green peel stripped back.
Golden apple (not to be confused with custard apple!), which is a bit like a bitter (not just tart), woody (not just crisp) Granny Smith apple.  They’re readily available and cheap, but whether it’s because they’re popular or just don’t get eaten (my rather uncharitable guess), dunno.

More Trouble Than They’re Worth?
Guinep and cacao pods are high maintenance eating.  Grape-size guinep also has a leathery green avocado-like skin, but you pop them out of their skin in your mouth, as you would a sunflower seed from its shell.  Then you gum them for  awhile them, while sucking their soft pulp away from the inner seed they cling so tightly to.  More on cacao pods in a future post.

Still to try…
Christophene, a warty, pale yellow pear-shaped vegetable in the squash family, also known as chayote.