Monday, February 23, 2009

Strange Fruit. Really.

I recently attended my  second farmer's market in Kauai. The first one was last June in the west side town called Kekaha. The market was very simple: half a dozen senior citizens congregated in the parking lot behind the community center, opened their hatchbacks, put out the fruits and veggies they had gleaned from their backyards, and called it a farmer's market. If you sneezed, you missed it because it lingered only for an hour or so, unlike California markets, which typically last all morning or all afternoon.

This weekend, we journeyed from our home base in Poipu to the north coast town of Kilauea, where I was prepared to see a 'real' Hawaiian farmer's market, with produce from farms instead of backyards, longer hours, and more vendors. But that wasn't meant to be, as the Kilauea market was remarkably like the one in Kekaha. Rather than lament having again missed the 'real' market, I embraced this one and in return, made a number of priceless discoveries.

The first of my take was the rambutan. This golf-ball sized fruit is red and covered with what Wikipedia describes as "fleshy, pliable spines."
 Actually, the term 'rambut' is Malay for hair, so the name is fitting.

Judging from its outer shell, I never would have guessed that the rambutan is edible. To get at the insides, you score the leathery, red, protective coat, and pop out the inside. What do you imagine is there?

Fertility symbolism aside, the rambutan's egg-shaped, pulpy interior has 
a texture similar to that of a stone fruit: think plum in both texture and taste. Like stone fruit, the rambutan also has a pit similar to that of a peach. 

The day's other notable find was the chico fruit. On first glance, I thought it might be an Asian pear or an overgrown kiwi fruit, but the inside was nothing like them. The texture was a little too grainy for my palate, but a pleasant, mild cinnamon taste. I could see pureeing this -- remove the seeds
first -- for use in cakes or quick breads. By the way, Mexicans, Philipinos, and Indians also call this a sapodilla

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