The Arabs introduced tamarind, from the Arabic tamrhindi (Indian date), to Europe in the Middle Ages. It gives a sweet-sour, pleasant acidity to food. The tamarind tree, graceful with feathery foliage and small red and yellow flowers, is a distant cousin of the string bean and a member of the pea family. In its native habitat of tropical Africa and southern Asia, it can grow to eighty feet. Tamarind fruit is a pod three to six inches long, three-fourths inch wide, cinnamon-brown, and fuzzy. The fruit pods hang in clusters on the tree. Shiny, brown, inedible seeds inside the pod are embedded in a jamlike, edible pulp. When mature, the edible pulp shrinks from the pod. The pulp can be found pressed into bricks, but the jellylike tamarind concentrate sold in jars is much easier to use. Find it in Oriental or Indian markets.
Did you know that Captain Bligh's cargo on the Bounty was 1,015 breadfruit plants growing in tubs? Needless to say, he had to return to Tahiti in August 1791 to gather more breadfruit plants which he successfully delivered to Jamaica.
The breadfruit tree is a beautiful tree about sixty feet tall with lobed leaves one to three feet long. Hawaiian quilt and jewelry designs are often patterned from the leaves and fruit of the tree. Breadfruit does not travel well, and it would be unusual to find it in a store outside the tropics. The fruit is green, round or oblong, and about 8 inches in diameter. It has a thin, rough rind which turns green-brown to yellow as the fruit ripens. Despite its name, breadfruit is not used in making bread. It is used like a potato--in stews, whipped, and diced, and in a salad resembling potato salad.
Hawaiian coffee is making its mark in the world marketplace. We grow coffee in Kona, Kauai, Maui, and Molokai. The first coffee plantation in Hawaii was started in Kona in 1828.
The coffee plant is a shrub or small tree which grows to about fifteen feet and bears dark red, shiny berries. Each berry has one or two large seeds which are the coffee beans. It takes about 500 pounds of coffee beans to produce 100 pounds of roasted coffee beans. The beans are shipped clean and dry to the coffee manufacturer where they are roasted and blended. Ground coffee or coffee beans can be stored in the freezer, but don't thaw and refreeze.
Wild guavas, a great thirst quencher, are found often on Hawaii's hiking trails. In Kilauea, Kauai, C.Brewer's guava plantation is open to visitors. Their Beaumont guavas are lovely and large with pink-strawberry pulp. Visitors see fruit-laden guava trees and can sample guava ice cream, sorbet, and other products. During harvest, the trees may need to be picked thirty-five times because guava does not ripen uniformly.
The form, color, size, and sweetness of guava, classified as a berry, vary widely. Guava pulp, highly fragrant, tart, and slightly granular, was named xalxocotl--"sand plum"-- by the Aztecs. The 150 species of guava growing worldwide from 27 degrees north latitude to 30 degrees south latitude encompass sweet, crunchy, small, and large guava.
Don't peel guava because the edible rind has a large concentration of vitamin C. For smoothies and other uses, puree the rind along with the pulp, but discard the hard, white seeds. Guava has about five times more vitamin C than orange (raw guava, 242 mg. vitamin C per 100 g./ orange 50 mg. vitamin C per 100 g.) Purchase mature, green-stage guava which can be refrigerated for a week. When ready to use, ripen the guava at room temperature for 1-5 days. When ripe, guava keeps only a day or two, but the pulp freezes well. Use guava puree for marinade and for entree and dessert sauces. Guava also makes excellent sorbet, frozen yogurt, and combines well with other fruits and vegetables for salads.
The world's most romantic fruit, lychee, has been enjoyed in the Orient for over 2,000 years. In fact, the first fruit culture book, written in 1056, was about lychee. Want to win your lady's heart? You might try giving her fresh lychees like T'ang Emperor Hsuan Tsung (A.D. 712-756). He organized a "pony express" to carry fresh lychees from tropical south China to the northern court for Lady Yang Kuei Fei.
Lychee's fragrant, sweet, juicy flavor is memorable. Fresh lychees are oval, about an inch in size, with a brittle, red peel. Do not bite through the inedible, reddish shell. It peels easily revealing the fruit's pearly white, translucent flesh which surrounds a brown, inedible seed. Lychees grow in clusters on thirty to fifty foot trees which are sensitive to drought, frost, and wind.
Don't confuse "lychee nut" with fresh lychee. Lychee nuts are dried lychee and resemble a raisin. The dried fruit has a smoky taste and is crunchy. Canned lychees, however, do resemble fresh lychee and can be used successfully in recipes.
Red fruit is fresh. Select the heaviest and fullest fruit with stems. Lychee keeps 2 weeks when refrigerated and about 6 months frozen. Freeze lychee unpeeled, with a small part of the stem intact for a seal. Store in freezer bags or freezer containers. Occasionally, the lychee shell cracks during freezing, but the fruit's flavor and texture remain good. Defrost before peeling.
The popular use for lychee, fresh or canned, in Honolulu is as an appetizer. We stuff lychees with low-fat cream cheese and top with crushed nuts. Lychee is exquisite in a fresh fruit salad with pineapple, papaya, kiwi, and banana. Even canned lychee are good in a fresh fruit salad. Lychee on ice cream with chocolate sauce is absolutely decadent. A lychee stuffed with a fresh or frozen raspberry turns a glass of sparkling wine or champagne into a festive drink. Lychees are truly a "class act".
The longan is known as the "little brother" of the lychee. Sometimes called Dragon's Eye, the longan, rambutan, and lychee all belong to the Sapindaceae family. Longan is round or oval and a little larger than an olive. Its thin, rough, caramel-colored shell is easily peeled. Longan pulp is white translucent and surrounds a large, round, deep brown seed. While the longan's flesh is sweeter than a lychee's, it is not as juicy.
This green, bumpy fruit is among the earliest recorded New World fruit. All varieties have a thick, soft, inedible skin with shiny, watermelonlike seeds. The atemoya, cherimoya, soursop, and sweetsop are usually labeled "moya" for marketing convenience. They are about 4 inches in diameter with the soursop twice as large. Moya is eaten when the fruit yields to pressure like a ripe avocado.
Chill and peel the fruit, remove all seeds, and cut into chunks or puree the pulp. Use moya in fruit salad, smoothies, tropical drinks, sorbet, and salad dressing.
This vine, native to the steamy Amazon, produces beautiful flowers and sweet-tart fruit. It was named by the Spanish missionaries in South America who saw the Passion (suffering) of Christ represented in its flowers. In Hawaii, the purple passion fruit grow at higher altitudes than the yellow, but both kinds are found wild on Hawaii's hiking trails. Most Hawaii passion fruit connoisseurs prefer the yellow variety. Passion fruit's exotic flavor entices backyard gardeners, but the vine is closely watched because it quickly climbs trees, spreads, and becomes a pest.
The highly fragrant passion fruit is unmistakably tropical. About the size and shape of a large egg, passion fruit has a tough shell. Inside the 1/4-inch shell, juicy, yellow-orange pulp is filled with edible seeds about the size of grape seeds. The famous Australian dessert, Pavlova, named for the Russian ballerina, is customarily topped with passion fruit pulp including seeds.
Don't try to substitute passion fruit juice for passion fruit pulp in recipes. The juice is sweetened, diluted, and may contain other fruit. The results will be disappointing. If you warm passion fruit pulp, the seeds can be removed with a sieve. Most people, however, do not find the seeds objectionable. Passion fruit pulp is good in marinade, sherbet, juice, salad dressing, and as dessert topping for ice cream, cake, and cheesecake.
If you don't like winter, blame Persephone. It was pomegranate seeds she ate that gave Pluto power over her, preventing her return to Earth, thus causing winter. The fruit's origin is the Middle East, and the Moors brought pomegranate to Spain where it became the national emblem. Granada, named from the fruit, has an avenue of pomegranate trees that were planted by the Moors.
Pomegranates grow on a spiny, six-foot shrub, are round, reddish-gold, and about two to five inches in diameter. Their distinctive crown is the fruit's blossom end. Juicy, crunchy kernels inside the pomegranate are held in a cream-colored, bitter membrane that is not edible.
To remove the seeds: Cut out the blossom end, remove some of the white pith, but do not break the red pulp around the seeds. Score the skin into quarters. Break the pomegranate into halves and then halve again following score lines. Bend back the rind and pull out the seeds. If you do not like seeds, this fruit is not for you unless you use a juice extractor or food processor to extract the juice from the pulp. The juice can be strained to remove any seed sediment.
Pomegranate makes beautiful pink sorbet, icing, salad dressing, soup, and puddings. The juice gives a unique fresh flavor to sauces and marinades for fish, chicken, and beef. Use the seeds to garnish fruit salad, dessert, and appetizers. Pomegranate juice is the original ingredient in Grenadine although contemporary manufacturers may utilize a synthetic.
Pineapple is a herbaceous, perennial plant of the bromeliad family with large, pointed leaves. It develops from tiny, lavender flowers on a short stalk that grow from the center of the leaves. The flowers fuse with the bracts to become fleshy and to form the pineapple. Bet you didn't know that pineapple's fibrous, chewy core is the original flower stalk! When you see the hexagonal sections of the pineapple rind, look at each section, a botanically individual fruit, which merged to form the finished product.
Hawaiian pineapple is ready to eat when harvested and it is rushed to market at optimum sweetness. Don't store pineapple expecting it to ripen like other fruit. In the growing process, the starch in the fruit's leaves converts to sugar and goes directly to the fruit. Once picked, the fruit is cut off from its "sweetness" supply.
Look for fresh, green leaves and be certain they are not wilted or brown. The pineapple should smell sweet and be firm with no soft spots. There is a new pineapple in your future. Del Monte's latest creation, Golden Pineapple, is now in many mainland and European markets. Sweeter, juicier, golden, and loaded with three, yes xxx, times the vitamin C of the older model. This pineapple grows in Costa Rica and the Philippines. Only a limited number are being grown on Oahu by Del Monte, and no word about future Hawaiian production at this time.
Latest production figures from the Del Monte offices in Florida are that 40-50,000 new Golden Pineapples are shipped weekly to both mainland US and Europe. The Golden Pineapple carries a name tag for easy identification. Happy munching!
The most flavorful use for a fresh pineapple is the simplest. Don't mask its sweet flavor with a rich dressing or bake the freshness from it. Use canned pineapple for richly dressed salads, marinades, and baked goods. Fresh pineapple is good uncooked as a topping for a cheesecake or a tart and in fresh fruit salad. Serve it cubed with a dash of brandy or kirsch for dessert. Fresh pineapple is the perfect ending to a dinner because its enzymes aid digestion.
Mango, one of the earliest cultivated fruits, has been grown in India for about 5,000 years. At least 500 mango varieties are grown there. In Hawaii, mangos are a common backyard fruit often eaten ripe, but they are also enjoyed green with vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and pepper.
Mangos can be round, oval, or oblong and the fruit color can vary from green to yellow-orange. When buying mangos, select unblemished, firm fruit. It will ripen in three to five days at room temperature. If refrigerated, mango keeps well for about a week.
If you are lucky enough to have a mango tree, you may be overwhelmed with your crop. Mango pulp can be successfully frozen for about one year as puree or slices. Peel mangos, remove pulp from the seed, and use a food processor fitted with a steel blade to puree the fruit. Pour the puree into ice cube trays and freeze. Pack cubes into freezer bags, or pour puree directly into freezer bags and freeze as a block. To freeze mango slices, seal them tightly in freezer bags or containers. Do not add sugar or water.
Frozen mango puree slices easily with a sharp knife, almost like cold butter. No need to thaw. Return remainder of unused, frozen mango puree immediately to the freezer. Frozen mango puree can be used in sorbet, salad dressing, and marinade.
Clean the fuzzy mango seed removing as much pulp as possible. Plant it horizontally in a six-inch pot with a good planting medium. Place the seed on the surface of the pot with about a quarter of the seed embedded in the soil. Do not overwater and feed as you would a regular houseplant. Mangos are hearty plants and in about a month you will have a mango plant underway. As the plant matures, shape your "tree" by pinching off leaves.
Star fruit, or "five corners", are other names for this juicy, refreshing fruit. It is green-yellow, about three to six inches long, and has five distinct, lengthwise ridges. The thin, waxy skin is edible, and sliced thinly, carambola is a good addition to a fruit or green salad.
If you have a carambola tree, freeze the juice for use in smoothies, ice tea, tropical drinks, salad dressing, sorbet, and marinade. When purchasing star fruit, select those without brown spots. If the carambola ribs show a brown line, remove them before slicing to eliminate the fruit's oxalic acid and to give it a sweeter taste. Carambola Tips: Make stars by slicing the fruit crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces; add two cups of star fruit slices to salsa; use star fruit for chutney; grill star fruit slices on skewers with shrimp or chicken; make star fruit pickles.
Bananas are picked mature, but green, and should be thoroughly ripened before eating for easy digestion and absorption of nutrients. If left on the stalk to ripen, bananas split, become insect infested, and get eaten by birds and rodents. In Hawaii, backyard growers pick bananas when the sharp corners of the fruit are rounded and plump. The stalk is hung in a cool place to ripen. Unfortunately, most bananas on a stalk ripen at the same time, and I've had 126 bananas at one time!
The banana plant is a large herb, and the fruit is a berry which had many seeds in its early form. Early man propagated and developed the banana removing most of the seeds and improving the texture and taste. There are about 300 varieties of bananas. A favorite variety in Hawaii is the "finger" banana because it is about the length of a finger. It is a dense, sweet banana.
If you encounter an oversize banana, it is probably a plantain. This is a cooking banana, not eaten raw, and a staple food in many countries. Plantains can be cooked, still in the skin, in the microwave for about five minutes, or until tender. It should feel soft when ready to eat. Plantains can be grilled, also unpeeled, and are a good accompaniment to fish. Their consistency is similar to squash, but the flavor is much sweeter.
Bananas are terrific in smoothies and, if frozen, make the smoothies thicker. Refrigerating a banana does not damage the flesh, only the peel turns black. When a banana reaches the desired ripeness, it can be refrigerated at least three days.
Overripe bananas can be peeled, mashed, and frozen for smoothies, cakes, breads, and ice cream. Just ripe bananas can be peeled, skewered on half a wooden chopstick, wrapped tightly, and frozen. Coat the frozen banana with chocolate topping which hardens on a cold surface before eating.
Because papaya dates from prehistoric times, there are dozens of varieties. Some are tiny while others are the size of a watermelon. In addition to being popular as a breakfast fruit and in salads, papaya's coolness and bland flavor in salsas complement spicy food. Papaya pulp is a good addition to a marinade because its beneficial enzyme, papain, is a meat tenderizer. This fact accounts for its unsuitability with commercial gelatin which have a protein (animal) base. Papaya, pineapple, and kiwi will not congeal.
Green papaya ripens at room temperature in about 3-5 days. Ripe papaya can be refrigerated for a week. Green papaya can be used in salsa and added to stews or soups like a vegetable. Papaya seeds are peppery and can be pulverized for salad dressing and marinade. Add a slice of lemon or lime to a papaya half at breakfast or lunch to enhance the papaya flavor. For dessert, add a dip of sorbet to a papaya half. Cubes of papaya, fresh pineapple, and mango can be slightly warmed as a wonderful accompaniment for fish or poultry.
Avocado, a native to tropical America, is a common backyard tree in Hawaii. It has been considered an aphrodisiac in some cultures. Avocado contains seventeen vitamins and minerals and has more potassium than many other fruits and vegetables.
Avocado ripens only after it is picked and may need 10 days to ripen. When ripe, an avocado will yield to pressure. Use mashed avocado as a topping for baked potatoes or include it in a salad dressing for a rich, creamy texture. Mashed avocado is also good to stuff mushroom caps and omelets and to top hamburgers and other sandwiches.