Apart from the glorious weather, the clean and vast beaches,
the sweet smelling oxygenated rainforests, and the incredibly beautiful
wildlife, one amazing benefit of living in the Sub-tropics is the fruit.
Sub-tropical fruit maybe seen as a bit of an in-between in the family of fruit; the middle child who has
its place in the family tree between the cooler climate temperate fruit
such as Peaches and Apples and the real heat-loving truly Tropical fruits like
Durian and Mangosteens.
Many of the Sub-tropical delights originate in South and
Central America; Australia a vast country, which can grow just about any type
of fruit due to her extensive range of climates, has no claim to be the
original home of the Sub-tropical bounty she now produces. In fact the only
commercially-grown food crop now grown in the Antipodes that actually
originated here is the Macadamia nut.
But just as Australia has embraced immigrants from all
countries and climates, so she has also welcomed onto her shores a whole host
of migrant fruits.
I would like to describe some of my
favourite of the
Sub-tropical fruits that I have been fortunate enough to taste during my time
in Sub-Tropical Australia.
Abiu (Pouteria caimito)
The Abiu has yet to commercially find its feet in Australia.
It can occasionally be found in local farmers’ markets, but is more commonly
procured from back-garden growers and fruit enthusiasts.
The Abiu is a beautiful golden sphere, its shapely shell is
inedible, but inside is a jelly-like flesh containing one, two, or sometimes
Abiu, to me, tastes
like caramel pudding, I especially like the bit next to the skin, and find it
very satisfying scraping the very lasts bit of flesh off with my spoon.
The Abiu is native to the lush Amazon It does well in both
the Tropics and Sub-tropics,
but when young it is not tolerant to strong winds or frost.
Chocolate Sapote (Diospyros digyna)
The Chocolate Sapote has its origins in Eastern Mexico and
It does very well in Sub-tropical climates. It is a
low-maintenance tree, which does not need a lot of attention. It is fairly
tolerant of low night temperatures.
Now the Chocolate Sapote, if picked at the right time and
grown with care, is an amazing eating experience. A truly great Chocolate
Sapote has the texture of Mousse, or a nicely whipped pudding.
It is creamy in texture, though very low fat and I can say
it tastes way better than any chocolate mousse I have ever eaten.
The Chocolate Sapote is related to the Persimmon (Diospyros
kaki), and like the Astringent Persimmon, the Chocolate Sapote needs to be
fully ripe before eating. Under ripe, and like its Kaki cousin, its tannins
will dry out your mouth. In fact it is pretty toxic unless it is all
saggy-baggy squashy ripe.
Despite the need for the Chocolate Sapote to be fully ripe before
eating, it is starting to become more commercially grown in Australia. Although
it rarely shows its face at Supermarkets, it can often be found at local
markets; and it travels well in its hard state, so it may be sold interstate.
The Chocolate Sapote can be picked hard, but its calyx needs
to be raised at the edge in order for it to ripen properly. If it is picked
with an unraised calyx, it will often wither and shrivel without ever ripening
In the nutrition department, Chocolate Sapotes contain
useful amounts of Vitamin C and Calcium.
Hopefully, as more people sample the delights of this tasty
and nutritious fruit, it will become better known and more widely distributed.
Star Apple (Chrysophyllum canitio)
This fruit originated in the West Indies.
It is a beautifully coloured round fruit, about the size of
a small Apple, and it can be either Purple or green-skinned.
Personally, I prefer the flavour of the purple Star Apples.
I find the taste to be more rich and intense.
They get their astronomical name because if you cut them in
half there is a pretty star-shape where the seeds are.
The Star Apple again, for those of us who have eaten cooked
desserts, has a resemblance to childhood puddings. It tastes to me like Apple
Pie and cream but in a beautiful light and fruity way.
Rollinia (Rollinia deliciosa)
Another amazing Amazonian native. The simple botanical name
of Rollinia deliciosa speaks volumes about this fruit. A member of the
Cherimoya family; the Rollinia is, to me, the sophisticated and slightly exotic
cousin who lives in the sunshine.
Last year, I was fortunate enough to be given a huge
Rollinia from a fruit-growing friend.
When I was eating it, I was struck by just how much it
reminded me of Lemon Meringue Pie (my favourite dessert as a child) While
researching this fruit online, I found out that the Rollinia was indeed
referred to as ‘Lemon Meringue Fruit’ by some folk.
Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)
Native to South East Asia, the Jackfruit is the aromatic
giant of the subtropical fruits.
Jacks can grow to sizes of up to 80lbs/36kgs or even more,
the world record size is for a Jackfruit in Panruti, India, which weighed in at
a hefty 154lbs/70 kg.
I have personally eaten (but not all at once!) a Jackfruit
Jackfruits usually fall into one of two types, either they
have a crunchy texture or are ‘gloopy’ in structure.
Myself I am a ‘gloopy’ girl and I prefer the luscious
elasticity of the softer varieties.
Jackfruit lets you know when it is ripe by its fantastic
smell. It just starts to emit very strong messages of ‘Eat Me! Eat Me!’ when it
is perfectly ripe.
Although Jackfruit will ripen some once picked, eaten
properly tree-ripened it is simply marvellous.
Jackfruit has a tropical flavour of Pineapple Vanilla
Bubblegum, and as well as tasting fabulous it is a great source of fruit
energy, Vitamins A and C, iron and calcium.
Mamey Sapote (Pouteria sapota), Green Sapote (Pouteria viridis)
The Mamey originated in Southern Mexico, the Green Sapote in
Honduras and Guatemala.
These fruits share their second name with the Chocolate
Sapote, but they originate from different fruit families.
Sapote is just derived from the Aztec word ‘tzapotl’, which
literally means ‘soft ‘edible fruit'.
A special Mamey Sapote experience remains one of the
highlights of my fruit eating days; I was visiting Tropical Fruit World (a
fruitarian theme park) in northern New South Wales, when I found a sun-warmed
Mammy on the floor beneath its beautiful parent tree. The taste of this
perfectly ripe solar-heated fruit was exceptionally memorable.
A good Mamey has a deep orange flesh of dense but not dry
consistency and tastes to some like sweet Pumpkin pie.
Green Sapotes are closely related to Mameys but, as their
name suggests, their skin is greener. Like Mameys, the flesh within is orange,
though maybe less vibrant than the pulp of the Mamey. Some Sapote aficionados
believe the Green Sapote to be superior in flavour to the Mamey. Both Mameys and Green Sapotes are especially
good source of beta carotene; they also contain useful amounts of iron and calcium.
Canistel (Pouteria campechiana)
The Canistel is also known as ‘Egg Fruit’ due to its
textural similarity to hard boiled egg. The Canistel can have quite a dry,
dense and mealy consistency. I find it hard to eat a whole fruit, they are very
filling and definitely one of the denser fruits. Fortunately, their similarity
to eggs ends with colour and consistency; their taste is rich and sweet , like
I, personally, do not feel that I could make a staple out of
Canistel, but I do think that they are a good nutrient and energy dense fruit
who would be a useful addition to the diet for those wanting to build-up. These
fruits contain useful amounts of iron and calcium.
One variety of Canistel is the Ross Sapote (Pouteria
campechiana); although some botanists think that the Ross Sapote may indeed be
a separate species of Sapote. Ross Sapotes
tend to be moister and less mealy than Canistel, and they very prettily
burst open like flowers and the top when properly ripe. This may be one reason
why they do not tend to be sold commercially.
Sapodilla (Manilkara zapota)
The Sapodilla is believed to be native to Yucatan and- other
nearby parts of southern Mexico, as well as Northern Belize and north-eastern
Nowadays, the Sapodilla
is grown in many sub-tropical climates,
and it is very popular in India.
The Sapodilla is a fruit which amazes and delights the
taste buds with the depth and complexity of its flavours.
The first time I had the pleasure to eat one, it reminded me
of canned Pears mixed with chocolate Swiss roll. It is a mid brown colour
inside, with a dense yet moist consistency.
Some feel it has the taste and texture of raw sugar, and
indeed some varieties have rather a grainy texture.
Sapodillas need to be eaten ripe, when they are unripe they
contain sticky white latex called chicle. Chicle remained the main base for
chewing gum until 1944–1945 when it was replaced by petroleum-derived
The Sapodilla is very unassuming on the outside, it almost
looks like a dusty little potato, so it does not rely on its looks for its
growing popularity. Sapodillas not only taste divine but they provide useful
amounts of iron, copper and Vitamin C.
It seems to me that so many of the beautiful Sub-tropical
fruits taste like the cooked food creations many of us once knew and loved, and
indeed some of the fruit names such as Peanut Butter Fruit and Blackberry Jam
Fruit reflect this. And I wonder if the chefs who have created the cooked
versions of Sub-tropical fruits are in some ways trying to re-create a dietary
heritage from long ago; and if there is somewhere deep inside each of us a
fruit memory that has been passed down from generation to generation from the
time when we feasted on Sub-tropical wonders in unspoilt and bountiful
And for those who have been raised on raw unprocessed
produce from day one, then they are blessed to have no cooked food reference
points for these delicious fruits; the only comparison they have is with other
delicious creations from Mother Nature.
So, I thank the generation of trees, the climate, the
growers, and the pickers who enable me to feast upon the wonders of
Sub-tropical fruits, foods that more than surpass any human-created dish that I
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