Winter has well established itself here in Michigan with snow on the ground and temperatures below freezing. It seems that only a week ago I was trekking through the Rawnora landscape in search of pawpaws. What’s a pawpaw you say? That’s a fair question to ask considering this native fruit is relatively new to me as well.
Pawpaw, Latin name asimina triloba, is the largest indigenous fruit in North America. The pear-sized fruit resembles a light green mango in appearance though some fruit bulge at each end looking more like a green Mr. Peanut. The flesh of the fruit it light yellow and has smooth custard like consistency. Each fruit contains 6 to12 black seeds. Pawpaw’s flavor reminds me of banana and mango with hints of vanilla. Some local names given to this native food are Ozark banana, Indiana banana, wild banana, Kentucky banana, banango… Are you noticing a pattern?
There are multiple varieties of wild growing pawpaw. Their fruits vary in size, color, skin thickness, flavor and number of seeds. Here at the camp we are fortunate enough to have a very juicy and tasty variety of pawpaw. The closest relative of the pawpaw grows in the tropics. Pawpaw is related to soursop, sweetsop cherimoya and other Annonaceae family trees… all of which I love to eat. Unfortunately these guys only grow far, far away.
Both the pawpaw tree and fruit have complex chemical properties that have both health and agricultural applications. Compounds known as acetogenins in the leaves, twigs and bark of the pawpaws are a natural insecticide and show anti-cancer properties. Pawpaw fruit is higher in protein than most fruits and is also rich in fatty acids. Caprylic acid (octanoic acid) in pawpaw fruits is a compound shown effective against bacteria infection and is also used in supplements taken to suppress candida.
Enjoy this pawpaw hunting video from October of this year and stay tuned for my next post where I’ll show you how to make a pawpaw pie.
Yes I’m back on the mainland but the tropical mystique of Kauai is still in my heart. I sat in on a few minutes of Soul Surfer just to rekindle the spirit of the island. So I figure I’d share in greater detail some of the specs on my favorite island fruits. If you read my last post about the chico sapodilla you received a small taste of what is yet to come. I have to say I have quite a fascination with exotic fruit. Veggies are cool and all but there’s nothing better than seeing a tropical oddity hanging from a tree or on display at the farmer’s market and inquiring, “what the *@$!% is that?”
For example the black sapote. On the outside it looks innocent enough but once you split it in half it looks like poop. Fortunately the smell and taste do not follow suit. The black sapote isn’t actually in the sapote family, it’s related to persimmons, another favorite fruit of mine. The inedible exterior of the black sapote/chocolate pudding fruit turns dark green when ripe and the inside turns dark brown and soft resembling the taste and texture of chocolate pudding. I heard a vendor remarking that the black sapote was considered to be the highest honor when given as a gift.
Of the 3 fruits mentioned in the title I’m guessing the soursop is the hardest for people to come by on the mainland but it is well worth the effort. Soursop is an evergreen in the Annonaceae family that includes cherimoya and sugar apple. The sugar apple is also called the sweetsop. The tell tale difference in appearance between the soursop and its cousins are the harmless spikes on the outside of the fruit along with its larger and oblong size.
The trees are freeze sensitive and thrive in almost all semi-tropical and tropical climates around the world. The soursop is also known as graviola and has been the center of attention concerning cancer treatment. I had a chance to enjoy both the fruit and the leaves of the tree and would take them over chemotherapy any day of the week. Fortunately my diet and lifestyle choices will likely keep me from ever having to make that decision.
Most of the time in Hawaii I just ate soursop as is but I did work with another raw food chef and make a soursop pie. It was a very tasty treat yet it had too high a water content to be my first choice for making pies. I definitely could see soursop as a choice for making a dehydrated pie similar to an apple pie, ice cream or sorbet. More soursop experimentation is needed to formulate a solid recipe. Until then I’ll just continue eating them straight up.
If you’ve ever done a double take at the oversized grapefruits at the grocery store then you’ve probably seen a pomelo, pummelo or pommelo.
I first saw them in Taiwan where they hold a place of tradition during the autumn moon festival. Like I mentioned pomelos look like really big grapefruit. In actuality once peeled they’re usually only slightly bigger having a skin with a thick layer of pith (that white stuff that sticks to oranges and grapefruit). The pomelos I had in Taiwan had an elongated pear shape while the ones in the States are usually round. Have fun peeling them and if you get good at it you can keep the whole peel intact and make cool hat out of it. Believe it or not I met a woman in a video store in Maoli, Taiwan who claimed to be the owner of this legendary helmeted cat. She even had a variety of pictures to prove it. Not only can you make headgear for your pets with the peel, it also is used to make jams and teas.
While on Kauai I had my share of pomelos. I even took to appropriating them from a neighbors tree by using a 25 foot piece of bamboo. Talk about pinata training. In my opinion pomelos are better than grapefruit in 2 ways: first they have none of the bitter or sour flavor of grapefruit and second the way you eat them is more fun. The pulp of the pomelo is firmer than other citrus fruits allowing you to remove the outer skin from each wedge of the fruit and just eat the pulp. This can be quite an enjoyable tactile experience. Pomelos are a favorite food of mine for air travel (pomelo on a plane video) and going to the movies. They’re easier to get on a plane than into a movie theater though.
The star apple or caimito is another fun tropical fruit in the Sapotaceae family. This is the same family that gave us the chico sapodilla. I was able to experience the star apple in 2 varieties, purple and green. The purple fruit had a white and purple interior with brown seeds surrounded in a juicy clear pulp. The green fruits were white inside with brown seeds as well. Both colors oozed a latex from the stems and had white latex concentrated near the skin especially when unripe. Personally I’m a fan of purple fruits. I feel most people don’t get enough purple in their diet and star apples are a great way to get that daily allowance of purple. It might sound silly but purple foods contain an important color pigment and antioxidant known as anthocyanin. Some other great sources for this purple pigment are purple corn, acai, black grapes, black raspberries and cherries.
It’s not often that I get to make a purple pie so I took this opportunity to create a star apple pie recipe that showcased its purple goodness. Here’s the basics for making your very own purple pie filling… if you can get your hands on some star apples.
Star Apple Pie Filling
4 star fruit – 1 1/2 Cups
1/2 C agave
1/2 C cashews
1 C coconut meat
pinch of salt
Blend all ingredients smooth.
Pour into crust and allow to set in the freezer until firm or frozen.
Use your favorite pie crust recipe. I used an almond date crust for the pie that is pictured. Let me know if you make a purple pie and how it turns out. Until next time… Keep it Live! – Chia