What better time to talk about tropical fruit than in the middle of citrus season and before stone fruit season starts. Pineapples, Mangos and Cherimoyas come to the top of our mind. Pineapples are one of the most difficult fruit to tell when they are ripe. We have never been able to find a sure fire way to tell when a pineapple is ripe. In reality it is almost impossible but the best way to tell ripeness is by the fragrant smell at the base of the fruit. Some of the other ways we have found to be true are to look for a bright gold color around the “eyes” at the base of the pineapple. The higher up the golden yellow color goes the more even the flavor will be. Avoid wrinkled skin, a reddish/bronze color and a vinegar smell, all signs the pineapple is over ripe. We would love to hear how you determine if a pineapple is ripe. Please post your suggestions on our Facebook.
Organic pineapples are available year round although supply can be affected at times by heavy rains. The main areas of production are Costa Rica, Mexico and Hawaii. Pineapples can be stored on the counter if you plan to eat them within 2 days. We do not recommend storing any tropical fruit under 55 degrees because this can discolor the flesh and affect the flavor. Do not store in the refrigerator because the average temperature is around 38 degrees.
There is no need to buy a fancy gadget to remove the core. Lay the pineapple on its side and cut off the top and bottom with a sharp knife. Slice the rest of the pineapple into rings about 1 inch thick. Lay the rings on the cutting board and using a paring knife gently go around the inside of the skin until the fruit pops out. I like to cut the entire piece of fruit up but if the core is too tough for you it is good frozen and added to a smoothie.
Cherimoyas are one of my favorite unusual tropical fruits. Cherimoyas are conical or heart shaped green fruit covered in scallops on the surface of the skin. The flesh is white and creamy and dotted with nickel sized large black seeds. The seeds are toxic so make sure to pick them out! The California variety flavor has suggestions of mangos, pineapples, banana, papaya, strawberries and vanilla custard. Cherimoyas are grown in California from Santa Barbara all the way down to San Diego.
Look for firm, unripe fruit that are heavy for their size and let them ripen at room temperature out of the sunlight. Cherimoyas are a delicate tropical fruit and should be treated with care so they don’t bruise. The flesh will yield to gentle pressure and the skin will turn slightly brown as it becomes ripe. Once you notice the first sign of ripeness wait another day or two to eat but not much longer because the sugars in the flesh will start to ferment. The simplest way to eat a cherimoya is to scoop out the flesh with a spoon but my favorite way is to cut it in half, wrap it in plastic and put it in the freezer. When you scoop it out it is creamy like ice cream.
The small kidney shaped Atualfo Mango and the Kent mango are the two main varieties we see during this time of year. The Atualfo mango has a vibrant yellow golden color and the delicious flavor and absence of stringy fibers make it a huge hit. The pit is very thin which means there is more flesh to eat. As the Ataulfo becomes ripe the skin turns a deep golden color and begins to wrinkle. Ataulfos are ready to eat when the fruit yields to slight pressure. They should be left at room temperature until they are ready to eat. Ataulfos are also known as Honey, Manila, Yellow, Baby and Champagne mangos.
Kent mangos have an almost completely smooth flesh with very little fibers. Kent’s are not covered in the typical red blush we associate with a ripe mango. The outside skin is mostly green and yellow with a little red blush- but don’t let the color throw you off. The sweet flavor and smooth flesh of the Kent mango makes them worth seeking out. Kent mangos will have a yellow undertone with speckled dots as they are ripening. The mango will feel soft to the touch and yield to gentle pressure when ripe. Slight wrinkling of the skin is also a good thing and another sign of ripeness. The Ataulfo and Kent mangos main production areas are Peru, Mexico and Ecuador.
For the full story on tropical fruit listen to Earl’s “What’s In Season” update this weekend on An Organic Conversation. The main topic of the show will be “Allergies: What’s Your Reaction?” You can catch all of Earl’s produce updates on the AOC website or by downloading the podcasts on Itunes.