Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flowers - Tropical Fruit - Jackfruit

Fruit are flowers at the stage of seed dispersal, so FFF is going to get stretched a bit. At no previous time have you had access to more produce more of the time than now. Just a few decades ago many fruits and vegetables were seasonal. Strawberries were available in June. The only lettuce available during the winter was iceberg head lettuce. Now people take year around strawberries for granted, and some of them, improved varieties, actually taste pretty good.
Now even some very exotic tropical fruits are showing up in our markets.  TPP has a long list of exotic fruits he's sampled over the years, but many of those do not travel well and are of dubious quality. Not too long back some lychee showed up that were actually edible; previously they were too old with dried brown skins, and rambutans have made it to markets too.  But what do most people know? 
The smaller yellow papaya that show up in our markets are generally under ripe and terrible; but the larger orange fleshed papayas (below center) are not too bad in some cases and actually taste OK.  Mrs. Phactor likes her passion fruits and mostly they are OK but 10 to 20 times more expensive than in the tropics, or when you have them growing on your back fence. Even when the skins are wrinkly, they may taste just fine.

Pomelos arrived 3-4 years ago. They look exactly like giant grapefruit, and this species, Citrus maxima, is one of the two parents of the hybrid that is grape fruit. The taste is like mild grapefruit, not quite so juicy, but not bitter at all. The fruit wall will peel away with some effort; it's rather thicker than grapefruit. The sections can be separated and peeled relatively easily (a long thin-bladed knife helps), and in SE Asia where it's native the peeled sections are eaten as a refreshing snack. Just last week pomelos were sitting next to grapefruits and had one nice little woman quite confused about which were the "large" grapefruit.
The two latest fruits to show up are pepinos and jack fruit.  Pepinos are a nightshade (Solanum muricatum) looking a little bit like a slightly larger pale, cream-colored plum (but pointy at one end) with purple streaks. The flesh is firm, somewhat melony, but with maybe eggplant highlights. The skin may be a bit bitter.  They have a small seedy core.  They taste OK, but are not one of TPP's favorites. 
The other newbie is Jackfruit (above right). They are a great big old fruit with a green-brown knobby skin, basically a giant tropical mulberry, a close relative of the historically more famous breadfruit (mutiny on the HMS Bounty).  The edible parts are a fleshy layer (aril?) around the rather large seeds, which also are used for some dishes in SE Asia, but TPP has never had the seeds.  No idea how good these jackfruit are having travelled from Central America or Mexico where they are grown now, but at a dollar a pound, it'd cost $20-25 to sample one and what a waste if you don't like them. Again not a TPP favorite, but some have been OK. Apparently they sell 2-3 a week at this market, probably to SE Asians delighted to see something familiar. If every one stops buying them, then they are truly no good, but TPP doesn't know anybody to ask. Any readers care to share their experiences?
Questions about exotic fruits can be sent along to TPP. 

1 comment:

Colin Wilson said...

Pomelos are tasty and very refreshing. My family traveled in SE Asia last year, and we would buy them whenever we saw them for sale, to snack on while wandering around. Street vendors that sell them were often willing to completely peel them for us, for only a minimal extra fee!

I've loved jackfruit since my Vietnamese wife first introduced me to them. There are different varieties, where some are drier than others, or more fragrant than others, but they're all good. Of course the fresher the better. I think you smell and squeeze them to tell something about the freshness, but I don't know how. Typically vendors will have one cut open so you can see/smell what they're like inside. Maybe you could suggest that if your market (carefully) cut one open and put on display, they might sell more?

My son is obsessed with jackfruit. While in Vietnam last year - he was a year old at the time - he would demand to have some whenever he saw or smelled them.