Friday, June 02, 2006

The White Truffle of Fruit for WHB

This week, something a little unusual and unorthodox for , sponsored by . Unusual in the sense that this is really a fruit. But it did grow in the ground! And was picked! So I say – close enough! (Judges??)

We had ‘become aware’ of these things. They sort of crept up on our consciousness slowly.

I’m sure the first place we actually took notice of them was our local Asian market. This place is filled with thousands and thousands of items I’ve never seen before. Sauces, spices, powders, noodles, dried things, things submerged in tubs of water, on it goes. And they have a large array of (to me) exotic fruits and veggies. It’s a real treasure!

I’m sure we saw these things there first.

Then we saw them at the local farmer’s market.


But they are expensive. Up to $10 per pound! My first thought was that they must pull these things out of the ground in Piedmont as well, using special pigs trained to jack up the price as much as possible.

I mean, fruit usually costs less than $1 per pound, apples, pears, etc. Sometimes something special will go for more, maybe raspberries, or something.

But these things are truly precious.

So we looked around. Asked a few people for advice. Where to get them. How to eat them. Etc.

It turns out that they grow fairly well in southern California. This is sort of their ideal climate. Warm, dry but not dessert. Cool nights. Never cold, frost is rare. So these $10 per pound treasures were not expensive because they come from far away.

And they grow on trees. Short, bushy trees. So they are easy to pick.

They don’t even seem that hard to keep on the shelves of a market, because like an avocado, they are usually picked a bit under ripe, and have to soften over the course of a week on the shelf.

So I assume their high price derives from being relatively unknown, seldom grown, and tagged as an exotic. There seems to be no other reason.

But in doing a little online research, the potential for these things seems huge. They are often listed as the queen of fruits. Combining the flavors of pineapple, papaya, passionfruit, banana, mango and lemon. Wow!

Here are a few links:

They are so good, apparently, that recipes are discouraged. The fruit is best eaten out of hand. With nothing to mask or dilute its flavor.

Well, geez! You only go around once! I finally decided to plunk down my cash and see if the marketing hype lived up to reality.

We looked for a few weeks (uncharacteristically patient for me!). And finally found the best deal pricewise at the farmer’s market (surprise). They also looked better. Not that I would know. And the lady at the stand seemed knowledgeable. Not that I could tell that either. Her partner admitted to never having tasted one, though.

Our treasure was bright green (naturally we forgot to take a picture of this!). A sign of being under ripe. And hard. Again, clearly not ready to eat.

The fruit was just bigger than a fist. The characteristic curved petal formations on the skin are created when the pistils swell and fuse together, forming the actual fruit. They spiral around the fruit in a nice geometric pattern.

“Let is sit out for three to four days”, advised the stand lady. It will get soft, like an avocado. And it will darken up a bit.

So we plunked down our $5 for the almost one pound fruit.

And we put it on the shelf.

Three days. Four days. By five days, it had finally softened noticeably. And was beginning to darken quite a bit. Anticipation grew.

But, of course, life intervened. And we had to wait two more days. So here we are, 7 days out. Longer than was advised. And I think we may have missed the peak by a day or so. But what can you do?

So I stand, knife in hand, ready to do the thing in. Everyone gathered close. As I was told that the initial cut releases such an elixir of wonderful perfume that grown men are known to weep and women to swoon and become faint. Like a bad 50’s movie.

My plan is to cut deep at the center, let everyone sniff for a while, and then cut it in half. More sniffing. And then begin scooping out the flesh. Eating it raw the first time. Just to get the whole, unadulterated effect. With some pictures along the way.

So here we go!

Before cutting, you can clearly smell the banana pineapple aromas. A very nice combination.

The first cut – the aroma was nice. Not overwhelming, as was advertised. But very nice. Rich. Sweet. Banana pineapple again, but stronger, of course.

While we were cutting it, and taking a look, it already began to turn brown. So, oxidation is a major characteristic.

The large black seeds are supposed to be poisonous. Used as an insecticide. Always a happy thought when preparing food.

But we sliced it into a few sections, removed some seeds, and tasted.

Nice! Creamy, somehow. Not clean like an apple, but creamy and smooth. It just sort of melts in your mouth. And sweet. Super, super sweet. SO sweet, you could really not eat the whole thing yourself.

The flavors were there as well. Such a mixture, it was hard to tell whether we were actually tasting them, or we thought we tasted them because we had already read about them. But the overwhelming sensation was sweet.

After a few slices each, whew! We were going into sweet and intense flavor overload.

The flavor is more subtle than I had expected. There is a lot of it. And it’s very good. Just like they said – pineapple, mango, banana, etc.

If you were quick, and could serve it before it turned too brown, I think it would be sensational in thin slices served alongside a few contrasting slices of cheese, Manchego, perhaps, or Comté, Pecorino, or maybe some aged goat’s milk cheese like a Portuguese Coimbra, and a dessert wine, something that could hold up to such a powerful sweetness.

Like the white truffle, a little is a lot. Because the flavor is intense. The price is not quite as bad as the white truffle, but not something for every day. But something fun for Weekend Herb Blogging!

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Blogger Kalyn said...

This is perfect for WHB! I've never heard of it before, and you know how much I love it when someone writes about something new!

2:27 PM  
Blogger Haalo said...

From the first photo it looked like a custard apple/sugar apple and they are quite luscious and from wikipedia it seems they are related. Would love to taste this though.

4:01 PM  
Blogger anni said...

Brings back memories of dinner eaten at the Parador Hotel in Segovia, Spain. We were not quite full from our dinner and had room for a simple dessert. The most delicious morsel any novice would appreciate. A melody of sweet, sour, floral and creamy flavor profile. The best fruit are the medium sized orbs. Too small and they are too seedy, not much flesh. Too large and they are too grainy, not creamy as it should be. The perfume of the cut fruit is heady. If it happens to cross your path, run, don't walk, to the nearest serving. You won't regret it.

11:48 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

Well you learn something new everyday. In Australia (and apparently the UK) we call these custard apples, even though there is another similar fruit that is actually called a custard apple too. According to Wikipedia, the real custard apple is slightly pink inside whereas the cherimoya is cream inside. Now I know we've got the names all mixed up in Australia and I'll start demanding the grocery stores rename the fruit correctly! My mum and grandfather used to love custard apples. They're a bit too creamy for me - it's surreal to eat a fruit that feels like velvet.

6:09 AM  
Anonymous sher said...

OK--you've convinced me, I must try one.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous shomas said...


nice writing on cherimoya. It is a custard apple ( called sitaphal in inida)or its cousin , a bigger fruit called( Ramphal). but are delicious. so wondering if it is the smaller variety or big one? fabulous taste ...

5:20 AM  

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