Thursday, July 17, 2008

Exotic Fruit Tasting

The ten fruits at the tasting

I have my first visitor here at Cape Tribulation! Rachel has come from Wellington to spend a week with me in Far North Queensland. I’ve been so looking forward to sharing this place with a friend, but unfortunately she has arrived just in time for some spectacular rain.

I had warned her about the lack of cell phone coverage up here, but today we haven’t even had any internet connection. Far more dramatically, Cooper Creek has flooded across its causeway over the only road so that it is only accessible to 4WD vehicles. I am too scared that our tiny rental car would be swept off the road and we would have to swim the raging torrent, fighting off 4m crocodiles, to reach the shore soaking wet and miles from anywhere.

One of the best rainy-day activities (actually one of the best any-day activities) in Cape Trib is the Exotic Fruit Tasting at the farm where I did some wwoofing when I first got up here. I did the tasting back then but didn’t take my camera so I’ve been waiting for another chance to go, and Rachel’s passion for fruit proved the perfect excuse.

Every fruit tasting starts with a glass of Tahitian Lime juice to clear the palate and then some hot roasted Breadfruit chips which are similar to potato wedges and possibly even yummier. Breadfruit is usually cooked unripe and eaten as a vegetable but apparently once picked, it ripens quite quickly and turns into banana flavoured cream which can be used as a batter for making hot cakes or muffins. I can’t wait for breadfruit season (summertime) so I can start experimenting with it!

Digby cuts a pommelo

The next fruit on the menu (there are always 10 fruits to taste) was Pommelo, and I’m very glad because I had thought pommelo was pretty much the same thing as a ruby grapefruit and had been merrily misinforming all sorts of people along those lines. Pommelo is actually an early, wilder ancestor of most of the citrus fruit we know today. It is grapefruit coloured and grapefruit shaped but the size of a beachball! The pommelo we tasted was a smaller version known as the ‘Cocktail Pommelo’ (cf cocktail onions) and it was the size of a child’s head.

Black Sapote (Chocolate Pudding Fruit)

Next we tried three different kinds of sapote all of which I know but still learned more about. I have already posted about my cooking experiments* with Chocolate Pudding Fruit or Black Sapote, but at the tasting I actually learned how to cut it open properly instead of the arduous approach I have been taking. I had no idea that the sweet little Sapodilla can contain up to 17% alcohol as the sugar ripens and ferments inside the airtight skin, nor that until the 1950s the tree was widely grown, not for its brown and grainy fruit, but for its sap which was used to make chewing gum until replaced by petroleum synthetic latex (bleuch!).

The tasting finished with three fruits from the amazingly delicious custard apple family. I’m already a big fan of the Soursop and Atemoya (which everyone just calls custard apple) and I had tasted an (in retrospect) inferior specimen of Rollinia before. The Rollinia at the tasting was exquisite and very much like a lemon meringue pie. Rachel and I both thought we’d both died and gone to heaven and it was difficult to resist beating up the other tasters so as to eat all the Rollinia ourselves.

Rollinia (lemon meringue pie fruit) cut up and ready to eat

Our host for the tasting was Digby Gotts himself and we heard the facinating story of how he and Alison left their Melbourne teaching careers and found themselves growing fruit in Cape Tribulation. As an teacher, Digby must have kept even a Year Nine class enthralled as he is a enthusiastic, knowledgeable, funny and calm presenter. After we were full of fruit it was still raining so we took our tour of the food forest and fruit orchard under big umbrellas, sampling things like curry leaves and tumeric root along the way. I showed Rachel some of the little mangosteen trees I had dressed while wwoofing there.

* Tonight's version of Chocolate Pudding is black sapote, chocolate port, yoghurt and drinking chocolate.


Carol said...

You resurected two memories for me today. One, the pomelo tree we had in our orchard when I was a child - and I hadn't seen a pomelo until recently when the gorgous Thai boys at the farmers' market started bringing them for sale; and the other was the wonderful breadfruit chips that were made for me in Funafuti, the capital of Tuvalu. Just the best chips ever. And your chocolate pudding sounds delicous. Another excellent post!

Kimberly Kay said...

Hi there Cuz!

I am loving your posts from Australia! The fruit sounds absolutely delicious...I have been a fruit maniac since I've been pregnant...wish I were there to try the lemon meringue pie fruit!!

Much love,
Your Cuz (Kimberly)