Tangerines, Persimmons, & Cherimoyas . . . oh, my!

IMG_1545I’m so, so lucky to live in SoCal (southern California).  We have an abundance of warm weather and sunshine that affords us something yummy growing all year long.  No downtime for winter here!  Yeah, we’re dealing with that nasty drought.  And the 5 or so inches of rain so far this winter haven’t helped, yet.

This drought is why local farmers aren’t using all their acreage for farming.  This farm I went to with my local farm tour group is a pesticide free private farm owned by Nino, an older Italian farmer.  He owns six acres, but can only afford to water and work 1 acre.  But  this acre is packed with fruit trees.  And he speaks with and gets to know each person that comes to his farm to “u-pick” his fruit.

We wandered around the persimmon-tree covered hills, using shears to harvest both fuyu and hachiya (aka Japanese) persimmons.  The Fuyu is short and fat, crisp like an apple or pear, and is eaten when it is firm. You eat the skin, and all you need to remove is the top green leaves and maybe a small center core. Fuyus don’t oxidize, so if you pack them sliced for lunch, they hold up without discoloring.  And, unlike the hachiya, the fuyus are not bitter or tannic if chomped into before ripeness.

The hachiya MUST be soft and squishy to be ripe, almost bursting out of its skin!  If not, you’ll taste bitter, tannic dryness that will make you never want to pick one up again!    But when ripe, the jelly-like goo drips sweet deliciousness.  The hachiya is an elongated orb with a deep hue of jewel-like orange.  Don’t even try to slice this piece of fruit!  Use a spoon to scoop out every last silky bite!

Nino has a large selection of tangerine trees bundled together on a nearby hill.  But I recognized the first tree I came to as a Dancy tangerine, the same variety I grew in my   garden in Murrieta.  These tangerines are deep orange, super sweet with a few seeds, and “zipper-skinned” or easy to peel and segment.  The Dancy makes a perfect snack to include in lunch boxes.  Yes, these went fast!

Nino walked me around his various cherimoya trees (aka custard apple).  I have to admit I had my first cherimoya only a month ago, a taste and purchase at a local farmers market.  And Nino told me he started his cherimoya orchard after tasting, and loving, his first fruit only a few years ago.  This large dusty green & knobby fruit is brought to us from the Andes.  Nino picks the fruit while firm, then suggested I leave the cherimoya on the counter until it “gave” when pressed, similar to the feeling of a ripe avocado.  Nino has several different varieties growing on his farm, and chose 2 different styles for me to take home and try.

Cherimoyas are soft and custardy inside when ripe with large shiny black seeds that are easily removed.   The skins can be eaten, but they’re a little tough and not nearly as delicious as what they contain.  One of the fruits I brought home had more of a banana with lime custard taste.  The other fruit had a pineapple custard taste.  The creamy white/yellow flesh of the cherimoya can be sliced, chunked, or scooped with a spoon.  Its taste also, like papaya, can be enhanced with a squeeze of lime.  As Mark Twain described it:  “the most delicious fruit known to man.”

Yes, I’m so, so lucky!


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