Sub-Tropical Sweeties

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 more seeds. 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 Central America. 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 properly. 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 weighing 55lbs/25kg. 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 candy. 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 Guatemala. 
 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 synthetics. 

 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 rainforests. 
 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 have ever tasted. To go to Home Page please click here.