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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Meet Local Farmer: Aberra Bulbulla

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Writing this post is a treat that I’ve been anticipating for some time now, because it meant that I was able to visit Aberra Bulbulla in his beautiful St. Croix orchard.

Aberra's Orchard

Aberra moved to St. Croix over 20 years ago, and worked as a research analyst at UVI as well as in the Cooperative Extension Service, specializing in irrigation.  He brought his love of tropical fruit trees with him to the island, and began planting his four-acre orchard 15 years ago – an orchard that is now full of mature trees loaded with delicious and beautiful fruits.

photo 3 (2)

And yes, Aberra’s smile grows larger as he walks amongst his trees, his passion and joy and enthusiasm rolling from him in waves that you can’t help but be caught up in, and feel a little happier for the moment being spent with him.

Aberra and his tree

Aberra is normally more quiet and reserved.   Such as he won’t tell you that he was Farmer of the Year four times at the Ag Fair, with the entire fair named after him in 2010.  He also won’t mention that he was Crop Farmer of the Year last year (2013) either.  But when you find those facts out, and ask him about them, he will smile broadly and say, “Yes, that was me” with no expectation of applause or fanfare.

Sugar Apple

Which means that Aberra is one of those wonderful farmers who – in my opinion – we don’t celebrate enough.  Because Aberra has not only created an orchard for his retirement, he has also planted into St. Croix’s future.  He has given us a blessing and heritage that few consider doing – and for me, the gratitude for this gift to our community runs deep.

Sapote Trees

Such as this tree – the “Mommy Apple.”  Many on St. Croix speak fondly of this fruit in their childhood, and most trees have all but disappeared.  But Aberra has one growing on his farm, and more on the way.

Mommy Apple

Or this unusual fruit – the chocolate fruit, one of many persimmons growing in the orchard, and my husband’s favorite.  Before Aberra, these fruits were tropical flavors that were not growing here, or were growing here very little.  But now they are here, and we are able to keep them growing for future generations.

Chocolate Fruit

Or the jackfruit tree!  I must admit to being seriously intimidated by this fruit, but it is quite popular in Asian dishes, and one of these days I’ll attempt my hand with one – each one being the size of a watermelon, or larger!

Jackfruit Tree

And of course, there’s an abundance of mangos, avocado, coconut, eggfruit, starfruit, guava, and many other local fruits, in several different varieties.

Orchard

And in addition to the fruit trees, Aberra is also growing decorative flowers, and has a greenhouse for starting plants that contains one of the island’s only miracle fruit trees.  The miracle fruit is called a “miracle” because of its ability to change a person’s sense of taste, leading to some entertaining experiences.  This is a really delicate fruit that lasts only about 12 hours, so having the opportunity to sample one is a rare treat indeed!

Miracle Fruit Tree

Aberra insisted on creating a giant bouquet for me of flowers and ornamental leaves, which I took home and enjoyed for many days.  I must admit to grinning from ear to ear as I walked behind him with this lavish gift.

Aberra's Bouquet

You can buy fruit from Aberra on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Southgate, from around 8:30 am to 1 pm.  The location can be found on my farm stand map.  Right now Aberra is bringing malay apples, coconuts, mangoes, eggfruit, and star apples for sale.  Avocados will be in another month or so, and there are more chocolate fruits and sapotes and sapodillas on the way, and guavas and surinam cherries and…well, the list goes on and on.  With over 300 fruit trees, there’s always something growing in abundance.

Mango

But there is one gift that Aberra exceeds in abundance even more than his fruit trees – and that asset that he holds is kindness.  Aberra is one of the rarest and kindest souls on the planet, and I find great joy and inspiration in being his friend.  I hope that by visiting his orchard with me, you do too.

The Bountiful Summertime

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Mangoes in my kitchen

Ah, Summertime on St. Croix…the time of year when the pace slows down, the temperature rises a teeny tiny bit, and we all look occasionally to the East for the possibility of a storm, while relaxing on the beach, drink in hand.

The official start to Summer is actually June 21, the Summer Solstice, but on St. Croix we know that it’s actually a different day – and that day is the day you get to eat your first delicious, juicy, sweet, floral scented and tropical flavored MANGO of the season.  For me, it is a day I look forward to all year!  And that first mango is also a sign of more delicious bounty to come in the form of avocado, carambola (starfruit), soursop, and more wonderful tropical fruit treats, ready and ripe to enjoy in a recipe, on a dish, or simply out of hand.

And while the bounties of summer flourish, the pace of life also slows.  Our beautiful little island becomes a bit quieter and softer, as the hustle and bustle of the tourist season comes to an end and we enjoy our summertime visitors and the start of wedding season.  We watch the flamboyant trees slowly unfurl their summertime coats of red splendor and relish the scents of the greenery and flowers in the air.  The kids are out of school, the community gathers for picnics and family barbeques, and the beaches are the days of rum and long, summer languid moments of nothing but – peace.

Oh, and mangoes.  Have I mentioned mangoes yet?

This week I’ll be visiting Aberra Bulbulla and wandering through the variety of tropical fruit trees in his orchard, trees that are now laden with fruit and beauty.  I’ll have photos to share and hopefully some inspiration to try something new and local on St. Croix that perhaps you haven’t tasted before!  Our local bounty of fruits is tremendous, and today only marks the beginning of the season.  I hope you’ll stick with me over the next few months as I cover more of our lovely summertime, and continue to Go Local St. Croix!

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!