It’s Pawpaw Season! Now, if you’ve never heard of pawpaws, you’re not alone. This forgotten fruit used to be grown throughout the American Midwest and South (Thomas Jefferson even grew them at Monticello), but have all but vanished from the public imagination. The flavor of the paw paw is tropical – and is variously described as a mix between a mango and a banana – and the texture is custard-y, like our Brazilian favorite, the sugar apple. However, the paw paw is hard to store and ship unless frozen, making it ill suited to large-scale distribution. Andrew Moore recently wrote a book on the mysterious fruit, “Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit.” Turns out Ohio is right in the heart of Pawpaw country, but they are sadly nowhere to be found in the Cleveland area. However, if you are going to be near Athens, Ohio next weekend – it is the annual Ohio Pawpaw Festival! We hope to make a pilgrimage there in future years. In the meantime, you can try foraging for your own pawpaws!
Tag Archives: Fruit
If you are familiar with Indian and Pakistani snack foods, chances are you are familiar with chaat! Chaat is a general term that encompasses dozens of varieties of savory snacks, often eaten as street food in India and Pakistan or in snack bars. Our picture of chaat has previously been heavy fried potatoes, breads, chickpeas or samosas, but did you know that chaat could be sweet and unfried? Enter fruit chaat, an Indian take on fruit salad, with chopped mixed fruits, topped with black salt and the essential element – fruit chaat masala spice mix. Fruit chaat is a traditional starter dish on the Ramadan iftar table, the meal that breaks the daily Ramadan fast, though it is good to eat anytime. With the heavily spiced, tangy flavors, fruit chaat reminded us of gazpacho, a spicy Mexican fruit salad, a connection or friend Omnivorous Cravings made back in 2015! The combo of fruits an be pretty much anything you want like bananas, oranges, apples, mango, grapes, or whatever is in season. The fruit masala chaat blend varies across recipes, but includes some essential spices: ginger, cumin, coriander, black salt, chili pepper, amchoor (mango powder) and asafoetida. Here are is a recipe from Food 52, plus a few more recipes to make your own spice blend (or you could get a premade spice mix).
You see Mexican food carts selling fruit throughout Chicago, usually serving clear plastic cups with fruit chunks and a topping of chili pepper or chamoy sauce. However, late one night a few weeks ago, we came across a fruit cart on North Clark and Morse in Rogers Park, that had a longer line then we had ever seen. We were instantly intrigued – what could they be doing so differently?
Fantastik (intersection of N. Clark and Morse, hours variable), as we found out this fruit stand was called, specializes in fruit gazpacho (sometimes spelled gaspacho), a specialty of the town of Morelia in the Southwestern Mexican state of Michoacán. We had never heard of such a dish, so we knew we had to try it. Morelia-style fruit gazpacho traditionally consists of mango, jicama and pineapple. However, at Fantastik you can also get a “surtido gazpacho” which included a wider variety of fruits including papaya, kiwi and strawberry. If you are in the mood for something simpler they also offer cut fruit cócteles, which are cocktails in the fruit cup sense and not the alcoholic one.
The stall is run by the Mejia family – and they have everything down to a science. Another thing that really impressed us was the complete precision of the dice on the fruit, and the sheer amount of fruit that was crammed into each plastic takeaway cup. The gazpacho is finished off with a topping of orange juice, fresh-squeezed lime juice, sea salt, chili pepper, onion, cilantro and even queso fresco. It is $7 for a small and $9 for a large container, which are both plenty enough to share. The gazpacho was sweet, salty and spicy, and was deliciously refreshing and surprisingly filling. We were completely blown away by the gazpacho and we returned twice in one week for a fix. We recommend you do the same.
When we were in Brazil we felt like we were in a paradise of exotic fruit, and we certainly tasted a few unique varieties. When we arrived in Portugal, we put our hunt for exotic fruits aside. However, we were stopped in our tracks by an exotic Portuguese fruit that bore a striking resemblance to the Brazilian sugar apple, the anona. When we saw the distinctive green nubby shell in the grocery store we did a double take. It looked like a sugar apple, but with less nubs. The greengrocer informed us it was from the island of Madeira, and was ripe when soft. After two days, we broke the anona open, and like the sugar apple, it had white fleshy nodes surrounding large black seeds. The flavor, while similar, tasted a bit more like banana. We were happy to find the anona though it gave us saudades for the sugar apple.
Well, we made a huge mistake and returned to Chicago (10 degrees) from Miami (80 degrees). But over the next week we will bring you highlights of our culinary adventures in south Florida, including our multiple visits to Los Pinarenos, a fruit store famous for its juices and smoothies on Calle Ocho, in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana (review coming soon!)
While sitting outside at Los Pinarenos, sipping our watermelon juices, we looked up at the tree we were sitting under, and grew curious about what kind of fruits it produced. We asked the amiable owner, and he responded it was a zapote. He pointed us to a small group of apple-sized, soft, brown fruits. We had never heard of them, never seen one, and had no idea what they tasted like. So, of course, we bought one!
Zapote is the Cuban name given to a fruit known widely as the sapodilla, which grows throughout Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Today it is also widely grown in southeast Asia (why didn’t we find it while we were there?), bring introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish. The taste is difficult to describe, but unlike anything else we have had: semi-savory, with nutty hints of cinnamon, it tastes like a lúcuma crossbred with a honeydew and cotton candy, but without as much sugar. When ripe they are quite soft, with the consistency of a soft melon. As such, you can’t just bite it – you need to scoop it out with a fork or a spoon. Still, the flesh comes out a bit grainy, with flecks of tasty zapote goodness.
We were quite mesmerized by this fruit. Has anyone else heard of it? And is there anywhere to get it in Chicago? We’ll keep searching and get back to you. In the meantime, stay tuned for posts from the rest of Miami!
…AKA the Fruta-do-conde or the Sugar Apple. Having been in Brazil for a month, we still don’t know exactly what the proper name for this fruit is, but we know we like it. Here, we are finally getting used to the concept of buying fruits unripened, so the first time we bought a pinha, we didn’t understand what the big deal was. It tasted hard and bland, like an unsweetened pear. But then we figured out we had not let it ripen enough. To properly enjoy a Sugar Apple, you need to let it almost overripen, to the point where the fruit becomes so soft you can squeeze it open with a slight press of your hand. The days passed with anticipation, and we finally got it right. You can gently peel off the green outer layer, and squeeze out the flesh right onto a plate.
Sugar apples are filled with 50 or so black seeds, each of which is coated with a generous helping of flesh. Just pop the seeds into your mouth and squeeze the fruit off. The flesh hits notes like a very sweet, sugary pear; the sugar so dense you can practically feel the crystals in your mouth. It’s a great afternoon snack, and easy to store once you’ve squeezed out all the seeds. They are so readily available in Brazil, we’ll be sad when we have to head home, but we did read recently they are trying to grow the fruit in Florida, so we’ll see!