|July 18, 2011||Posted by admin under Uncategorized|
Frankly, South Florida’s subtropical climate has spoiled us. Many of us take for granted our ability to grow so many tropical treats in our backyard or on the condo balcony. Every summer, high-profile fruits like mango, lychee and avocado get all the attention. But what about the humble sapodilla or the tart tamarind? We’ve showcased these two tropical fruits. You can grow them yourself or look for them in your neighborhood, then try these tasty recipes. These delicious fruits may not have dedicated festivals, but they are no less worthy of our appreciation.
Tamarind | Tamarindus indica
Also known as: Tamarindo
Snapshot: Native to tropical Africa, the tamarind tree has flat brown pods that contain as many as 12 seeds. When the pods ripen, they become dehydrated, brittle and easy to crack open, revealing brown, sticky pulp surrounding shiny seeds. Sweet and tart, this versatile fruit is used in Mexican cooking in soups, marinades, sweets, aguas frescas and is a wildly popular flavor of Jarritos soda pop. In Indian cuisine, tamarind (imli in Hindi) is used for chutneys and as a flavoring agent for curries; in southeast Asia, tamarind is a key ingredient in sweet and sour fish recipes. It’s also found in Worcestershire sauce and HP sauce.
Grow your own: This handsome shade tree does best in full sun, but is not salt-tolerant. Fertilize three times a year.
Availability: April to July. Harvested pods, kept cool and dry, can be stored for a year or more. Tamarind paste and frozen concentrate are available in Asian markets.
Sapodilla | Manilkara zapota
Also known as: Níspero, naseberry, chiku, zapote, chico-sapote
Snapshot: Related to mamey sapote and canistel, the sapodilla originated in Mexico and Central America. All tree parts give off a milky latex known as chicle, once used to make chewing gum. The fruit is round, oval-shaped or conical with a brown peel, resembling a small potato, with dark greenish-yellow to brown pulp and dark brown or black shiny seeds. Ripe sapodillas have a pear-like texture and a rich brown sugary flavor. They’re best enjoyed out of hand, served chilled or used in ice creams, milkshakes and pureed as a dessert sauce.
Grow your own: Trees do best in warm, sunny spots with well-drained, sandy soil. Look for Florida cultivars for best fruits: ‘Makok,’ ‘Alano’ and ‘Tikal’ are good examples.
Availability: Mainly May-September, but fruit may mature during the year. Wrap unripe fruits in paper until they become slightly firm but not mushy.
Spicy Tamarind Dip
Makes about 1 cup
This chutney is sweet, tart and spicy hot (adjust according to your taste), perfect for salty plantain chips or as a glaze for grilled seafood or chicken. To make tamarind pulp, buy a block of tamarind paste at Asian grocery stores. Break it up into a bowl, cover with warm water for 20 minutes, then press pulp through strainer, rubbing flesh off seeds with your fingers.
1 cup tamarind pulp
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons cayenne, or to taste
3/4 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon sea salt
Toast cumin seed in small saucepan over medium heat until it turns medium brown. Grind in spice grinder. Return to pan with other ingredients. Cook over medium heat till mixture thickens slightly.
This simple recipe embraces the spirit of a true gelato. It’s a refreshing, unfussy finale to a meal, where the pure essence of the fruit shines in a most satisfying way.
1/2 pound ripe sapodilla (about two), peeled, seeds removed
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, well chilled
Puree sapodilla, brown sugar, water and lime juice in food processor till smooth. Beat cream just until it forms soft peaks and fold into fruit puree till blended. Freeze in ice cream freezer. Serve at once.
These sites include information about fruits, recipes and growing and caring for trees:
For more on tropical fruits, visit ediblesouthflorida.com and click on the digital edition. To find more recipes, click on Recipes.