The Wacky and Wonderful Jackfruit

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So on Saturday, my husband went alone to do the produce shopping (I was sleeping in after two weeks of family visits).  I figured he’d buy the usual – cucumbers, okra, papaya, mangoes, eggs, greens etc. etc.  I did NOT, however, expect him to come home with this:

Jackfruit

And what is this, you may ask?  This, my friends, is a jackfruit.  One of nature’s largest edible fruits, if not THE largest (let me do some research and get back to you).  This particular jackfruit was about 15″ long from stem to tip, give or take an inch.  You may remember the photo of them growing on the tree in Aberra Bulbulla’s orchard – and I believe that Doug bought this one from him.

Jackfruit are prized in the Far East, and there are many recipes created to cook with them.  You can also just eat them straight, as we chose to do with this one as a first experiment.  Jackfruit also grows throughout the Caribbean and is considered a delicacy (and a full meal) by those who enjoy its delicate fruity flavor.  It can be cooked and prepared in recipes green, or wait until it’s ripe for out of hand eating and sweeter delicious flavor.

I will warn you though, that it is not a fruit for those with a queasy stomach.  A ripe jackfruit such as this one gives off an odor reminiscent of sweet sweaty feet.  It isn’t particularly terrible, but it isn’t particularly pleasant either.  This is due to the amount of latex in the skin, which is the next hurdle to get past.  The sap is very sticky, and doesn’t wash off of your skin with soap – rubbing your skin with oil is the way to remove it.

Gloves

To cut open our jackfruit, we grabbed an old pizza box (local pizza, of course) to serve as the cutting surface and to catch the sap and juice and so on.  My husband – whose hands are modeling for me in this demo – wore gloves to keep them from getting too sticky, and we got out a large serrated knife and a bottle of grapeseed oil to grease it with (again to stop the sticky sap).

Cutting the jackfruit

Cutting the jackfruit wasn’t hard.  A thin layer of oil on the knife, and it cut right through the skin easily into the soft fruit interior.  We cut it more of less straight down from stem to tip to make it easier to remove the fruit “pods” inside, and then my husband pulled the two halves apart.  But this is where it gets really insane.

photo 2

AAAAAAGGGGHHHHHH!!!!  *hyperventilates*

*catching breath*  Okay, okay, it’s not that bad.  The interior of the jackfruit may – ah – look like some sort of terrible alien dissection experiment gone wrong, but remember – IT’S A FRUIT.  Those aren’t really organs and spines and tentacles inside.  Trust me.  And the sweet scent is actually amazing!  This was the point when I started to think I might be okay actually eating some of this behemoth.

Fruit "pod"

This is what you’re going for.  Nestled all inside the strands of flesh are the fruit “pods.”  Each pod contains a seed which is also edible when it is boiled.

Seed

Splitting open the pod with a finger reveals the seed, which you pull out and set aside.  The fruit “pods” are then put in their own dish, and they are ready to eat!

pods

But of course the question is – Julie, what do they taste like?  They actually taste wonderful!  They are sweet and citrus-y and fruity all at the same time.  One of my friends says that they taste like Froot Loops, which I definitely can taste, and another friend has told me that jackfruit is the inspirational flavor for Juicy Fruit gum!  And that is really what they smell and taste like – outside of their latex skin, the scent is definitely reminiscent of Juicy Fruit.

We ate this jackfruit simply as you see it here, as fruits.  After a day in the refrigerator, they actually set up and had the consistency of peaches.  I could see using them in various recipes and smoothies that call for peaches, and they would be quite delicious!  There are also many recipes available on the internet that I have yet to try.

The seeds we boiled with salt for about 1/2 hour, and then peeled off their membranes and ate them.  They have a starchy consistency and taste, a bit like a fruity sweet potato or chestnut.  My husband enjoyed them more than me, but they weren’t bad.

Young jackfruit is also available canned, and is catching on in the states as a meat substitute for vegans in BBQ.  I may get brave enough to try it!  But for now, we’ve enjoyed this first foray into the wacky jackfruit.  If you get the chance to buy and try one, you should!  They are well worth the bit of creepy factor for the delicious fruit.  Happy hunting!

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Tasting the “Bee Kind” Life

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I recently was lucky enough to be invited to a private local mead tasting at eat @ Cane Bay on a day the restaurant was closed for business.  Wanda Wright, owner of Wright Apiary and local mead artisan, asked myself, Katherine Pugliese (eat @ Cane Bay and the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience), and Roger Shepard (Premier Wine & Spirits) to sample her meads in preparation for her attendance at upcoming food and wine shows.

Wanda Wright

Meet Wanda Wright.  Local beekeeper, honey producer, mead artisan, owner of Wright Apiary, and all around amazing and wonderful person.  Wanda is an eternally youthful soul with a big smile and a heart to match.  She gives the best hugs!  And the flavors of her meads reflect the love that she puts into them.

Mead Varieties

For those of you who may not know what mead is, it is also known as “honey wine.”  It is fermented honey and water, and the flavor can range from sweet to dry, depending upon the age and the ingredients added to the mead.  Meads may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling, and they are served at all temperatures, from room temperature to chilled.

Wanda adds local fruits and spices to her meads, and she has six different varieties available – carambola, suriname cherry, mango, yellow plum, passion fruit, and guava.  It is important to note that these are not flavors – the mead carries only the lightest essence of flavor from each of these ingredients.  Rather, each added fruit juice to the original honey prior to being created into mead adds notes of distinction to the final product.  You can read the notes on the final tasting sheet for each variety.

Wright Apiary meads are recommended to be served at room temperature or slightly chilled, before or after dinner.  They make a delightful drink just for sipping while watching a beautiful St. Croix sunset as well.

Mead Tasting

Wanda gave us some interesting facts about mead, such as “mead has been enjoyed for centuries by nobles, notables, and ordinary people, but especially by lovers, honoring their union in a month long celebration, punctuated with drinking “honey wine,” giving rise to our modern day tradition of the honeymoon.”  Mead truly is a drink of love!

If you’d like to purchase and try Wright Apiary meads, the best way to find them is by contacting Wanda Wright directly.  She can be reached at (340) 277-6727, or (340) 718-2142.  Wright Apiary honey (not mead) is also sold at ARTfarm, which you can find on my map of St. Croix farmers markets and farm stands.

I hope you get a chance to taste these wonderful meads, as I was fortunate to do, and enjoy a bit of St. Croix love.  And as Wanda says – “Bee Kind!”  Thank you Wanda, for caring for your bees, for St. Croix, and for making these wonderful products for us.

Market Days St. Croix January 26, 2013

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Today my shopping trip wasn’t quite as large as usual, due to a variety of personal conflicts preventing me from cooking at home as much this week.  So I scaled down what I purchased to buy only what we will eat over the next few days.  Here’s the photo of my “haul”:

Market Days 01/26/2013

I primarily shopped at ARTfarm, where I bought heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, green leaf lettuce, microgreens, onions (with their green tops), and heirloom cherry tomatoes.  But there were several items there that were SO hard to pass up today!  For example, check out their locally grown broccoli:

ARTfarm Broccoli

I intentionally framed the photo to show the HUGE and lovely stems of this broccoli plant – lots of broccoli goodness to cook here, yum!  And the greens are just as good!  You can see them on the lower left in this photo, which also features some lovely beets and several kinds of lettuces:

ARTfarm Beets and Greens

And of course, the cucumbers, and some more green leaf lettuce.  This is some of what I brought home.

IMG_2472

From ARTfarm I headed over to Southgate to see my friend Aberra Bulbulla to check out his fruits that he has available today at his stand.  I had to buy a coconut water, of course, fresh from the coconut…

Cutting Open the Coconut

Aberra recently surprised me with a box of fruits of all sorts that he grows on his farm.  Over time on this blog I’ll feature them all!  There are some familiar ones here, in addition to some exotics:

Aberra's Fruit Box

There are mangoes, star apple, sugar apple, sapodilla, carambola, local orange and grapefruit, guava, mele apples, chocolate fruit, and pomelo all in this box.  And we’ve been eating them and enjoying them all!  Many tropical fruits are excellent to bake with, which I’ll have recipes for those coming up for you guys also.

So that’s the weekly haul!  I’ve already made a salad with quinoa, the tomatoes, and cucumbers.  And lots more going on this weekend – I’ll have some really interesting updates soon!

The Mighty Chocolate Fruit!

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Before I moved to St. Croix, I had no idea such a thing existed.

Chocolate Fruit

It truly is pretty darn ugly, isn’t it?  I mean, where in human history did someone look at this thing and think…Hey, I want to eat that?!?  This one is particularly large, about the size of a softball.

Chocolate Fruit Insides

Cut open though, you can see how the inside looks and tastes exactly like fudge pudding.  Doug made short work of this one tonight.

Chocolate fruit are actually persimmons – but they’re a dark-fleshed variety that has this unique flavor.  If you want one of your own, the best place to buy them on St. Croix is from Aberra, who has a farm stand on the Southgate corner on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.  He’s my primary source for unusual tropical fruits.  Give it a try!