Tropical Paradise

Tropical Paradise
"Tropical Paradise", watercolor, by Roye Jan Myers

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jackfruit Heaven

Had a great day in the kitchen today after a wonderfully productive trip to Berkeley and the Pleasanton farmer’s market this morning to fill up the fridge(es) for the week. In addition to all of the mouthwatering, spectacular seasonal organic produce that we find this time of year around here, Monterey Market (in Berkeley) had piles of the most beautiful Morel mushrooms. I filled up two small paper bags -- and then emptied my wallet shortly thereafter. From there it was a short jaunt over to Berkeley Bowl West where I found (among too many other things to mention) the biggest, baddest, most beautiful pieces of Jackfruit I’ve ever seen (see the picture below from from a year or so ago when we bought a smallish whole jackfruit to know why I am compelled to seek out ‘pieces’ these days…). 

Leslie holding the reason we only by sliced jackfruit now.

I also saw some nice looking durian, but I’m under strict orders not to bring the stuff anywhere near home. Ever smell durian?

After getting home and valiantly attempting to find places to stow the bounty (my eyes are bigger than my available fridge space), it was time to cut up the jackfruit. There are two fruits for me that run neck-and-neck for the title most delicious fruit in the world – jackfruit is one, and mangosteen is the other (and when I find some mangosteen again that will be another entry on this page). Jackfruit comes with a bonus – in the center of every little section of fruit there is a seed – a ‘bean’ of sorts. It’s not really a bean, of course, but it looks like a large (more than an inch long) pinto bean. You cook it like a bean – throw it in boiling water and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. The texture is very much bean-like, as is the taste – but with its own unique characteristics.

Jackfruit seeds ready to be boiled

So far we’ve only eaten them plain with a little bit of salt, but I really want to try them in chili along with a mix of other beans – and oddly enough with jackfruit in another form – baby green jackfruit in brine, which turns out to be a pretty exceptional meat substitute from what I hear in recipes like chili where meat is either ground or shredded and mixed with other ingredients (probably not so great on its own as a filet, however). And there is another future blog entry…

Jackfruit piece with fruit sections and seeds

Jackfruit sections after being removed from them fruit.

This jackfruit was simply amazing – perfect degree of ripeness, and the largest individual sections I’ve ever seen. Jackfruit is as much about the texture as it is about the taste, and this one had both. Sad that the internet doesn’t let you share that part of the story directly – words fall short. That being said, if you ever have the opportunity to try good jackfruit, I think you’ll be most pleasantly surprised – and you may come away with a new favorite fruit.

: )

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Texture of a ripe avocado, shaped like a mango, feels like tree bark, tastes like flan…what is it?

It’s a wonderful fruit called Mamey Sapote – and one of my very favorites. It is sweet, creamy, rich and just basically delicious when you find a good one and let it ripen fully. Personally, I think that the flavor is like that of flan, but describes it as “a combination of sweet potato and pumpkin with undertones of almond, chocolate, honey, and vanilla”. Either one sounds pretty good to me.

The part of the Sapote that you eat is the pink-orange flesh – the skin isn’t edible, and while the (fairly huge) seeds can be used for their oil (in cosmetics), they aren’t edible either.

If you're lucky enough to find Mamey Sapotes at the store, look for one that doesn’t have any obvious dents or cuts, and no mushy or depressed spots. Ideally, look for one that is uniformly firm or even a little bit hard. Don’t cut your Sapote, though, until it softens up and gives when you push your thumb into it just like a ripe avocado would.

When it is ripe, wash it well, cut it in half lengthwise (you can’t cut through the seed) and twist it apart like an avocado. At this point it’s up to you what to do – scoop it out or cut it up. I prefer to cut it into about eight wedges, as shown above, then slice the skin off. If you want to try a Sapote but can’t find one where you are, let me know and we’ll see if we can pick one up for you and put it in the mail…