Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cherimoya, the "ice cream fruit"

*Update 1/21/2012. I take back all the negative things I said about this fruit. I had some fresher ones later in my trip and they were so, so, so much better.


There's one fruit I've been wanting to try a long time...and that was the cherimoya. After all, it's what Mark Twain called "the most delicious fruit known to men."  (I was wondering how he managed to snag one, as they only grow in the tropics...apparently he once traveled to Hawaii as a reporter for the Sacramento Union.)

Anyway my photos are pretty disgusting. I got the cherimoya in relatively normal condition this morning from the Hilo Farmer's Market (it was soft and green with only a few small twinges of brown – which meant it was ready to eat), but it got knocked around in my car trunk the entire day, thanks to the abrupt starts and stops along Hawaii Belt Road, which is undergoing construction in multiple places.

It also could have potentially been due to my not ever driving in the past year, but we're not going to explore that option.

So here's a nice picture of a cherimoya (looks a bit snakey doesn't it):


And since my photos are so ugly I'm hiding them til after the jump...


When I'm petting the cat...

When I stop petting the cat...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Macadamia nuts: Harvesting, de-husking, cracking, eating.

I now know why macadamia nuts are so expensive. There's a macadamia nut pasture in the backyard of a farm on the Big Island, and I got to see what work goes behind macadamia nut processing (at least the small-scale, by-hand type).

Enter the macadamia nut pasture...

This is how the nuts look on the tree. Most I spotted by themselves or in twos, but a few were in big beautiful clusters such as these.

If they're low enough and you're not too short, you can pick by hand. This is rarely the case though – for most I used a macadamia fruit picker (not pictured, but imagine long wooden handle with something that looks like half a bird cage attached at the end).

The green ones are younger; the brown ones are older, but you don't separate them by color. You separate the ones that have cracks from the ones that are still whole.

For the ones that are whole (they might be green or brown), you need to "age" them before you can eat them, which mostly means getting them as dry as possible.

To do that, you can layer the nuts in a bin between layers of cloth (to take out the moisture), and leave them there for weeks until the husks are starting to crack. At that point, there will be some compost in the bin (and a ton of bugs too...there were actually millipedes and earwigs in there...I somehow managed to restrain myself from screaming/sobbing. Aghhh I guess that's how you know they're organic).

Here are ones that have cracked:

Once they've cracked, their outer husk is easy to remove.

And on in the inside is a smooth round seed:

Once you have the seed, you can now use the macadamia nut cracker (pictured in the lower left here):

If they're still "wet," the edible portion will stick to the shell, and it's very hard to remove. The little shards can still be roasted and eaten though.

If they've dried sufficiently, the inner "nut" will have shrunk in size so that it doesn't stick to the shell, and comes out easily.

The taste of raw macadamia nut is pretty incredible. It wasn't at all what I expected – it tasted like mature coconut meat: crunchy, fresh, and slightly sweet.

The nuts of my labor:



Its name comes from the Malaysian word for hair ("rambut"), and you can probably see why. They also remind me of miniature dragon fruit, with extra pointy scales.

The one in my hand is probably 130% the average size of one.

This fruit is NOT easy to peel. It's not going to make you bleed per se, but ripping it apart is not comfortable. If you've ever picked fresh chestnuts, it feels a little the same way: rubbery and spiky (though not as piercingly hard as chestnuts).

I ended up having to google "how to eat rambutan." A little sad. Apparently if you squeeze hard enough the outer shell pops open, but no matter how I tried, it wouldn't work. I ended up just ripping off the slight bump from which the stem attaches to the fruit, and that gave me a crack that I could enlarge and then ultimately use to rip the whole shell apart.

That was actually a really gruesome sentence.

The fruit is sweet and tastes like a firmer, chewier, dryer lychee...and it's hard to describe how lychees taste. Sweet, tropical, floral, a little citrusy. Texture-wise, it's like a very dense grape.

If I had to pick between a lychee or rambutan, I'd probably pick lychee because of this:

There's a fine, woody, papery husk on the pit that tends to stick to the flesh. It's very hard to separate and I found myself just eating it...more fiber right.

I got these at the Kea'au Village Market on the Big Island for $2 a bag that contained maybe about 10 rambutans.