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  Season 8 - Episode 804

California Tropics

California Tropics

California Tropics

California Tropics

  California Tropics

Talk about different! It looks like an inverted artichoke without any leaves, with thumbprint-sized indentations called "carpels." This semi-tropical fruit is the "cherimoya," indigenous to the highlands of Peru and Ecuador and highly prized by the Incas.

Peter Nichols is with California Tropics, his family-run farm in Carpinteria, just south of Santa Barbara. At first, cherimoyas were definitely a hard sell. "I would be trying to call brokers on the East Coast," recalls Peter. "And I would say 'we have cherimoyas' and they would say, 'cheri-WHAT?'"

Cherimoyas got their start in the Golden State when a malady called "avocado root rot" attacked local avocado groves. Farmers needed to replace their diseased avocados with a new crop that would grow in this temperate coastal climate. Emily Miles is Peter's sister and says their dad found a solution south of the border. "He brought cherimoya seeds from Mexico and planted trees before we were born," she says. "So we grew up eating this fruit. And just always loved it."

And what's not to love? Cherimoyas taste like a blend of papaya, mango, and pineapple, with a texture similar to a pear. Nutrients include riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.

Peter adds that the cherimoya "is also something that is very easily digested, especially for somebody who is in a hospital, or someone who is recovering from surgery. In fact, in Japan they will give the cherimoya as a present to somebody who is ill or sick."

We first came upon California-grown cherimoyas at a supermarket in Japan, where Pat found the delicate fruit going for $15 apiece!

As you'd expect, the price here is a small fraction of that, making cherimoyas an affordable alternative to more common California fruits. It's even become popular with those "fruit of the month" clubs.

Cherimoyas ripen best at room temperature. When they're slightly soft to the touch like an avocado or a peach, they're ready. Emily says cut the cherimoya in half, remove the stem, cut slices, and then scoop out the flesh. Discard the large, black seeds. Consume as is or prepare the following easy-to-fix recipes from California Tropics.

Look for cherimoyas in higher-end grocery stores. They're in season from November through June, with peak production in March and April. California Tropics is located at 6950 Casitas Pass Road, Carpinteria, CA 93013. Phone:
(805) 684-1393. Fax: (805) 684-7993.


The intriguing flavor combination in this salad comes from sweet and savory ingredients, spiked with chile.

4 to 5 cups shredded lettuce leaves
2 cups julienne strips of cooked chicken breast
2 cups cherimoya chunks, peeled and seeded (approximately 1 1/2 pounds of fruit)
1-cup julienne strips red, yellow or green bell pepper
1/2 cup red onion strips

3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup light olive or vegetable oil
1 fresh or dried, soaked chile, seeded and minced
(Such as jalapeño, chipotle, serrano, small Anaheim, or yellow)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Teaspoon honey
Dash salt
Garnishes: fresh cilantro sprigs (optional)

In a large bowl toss together lettuce, chicken, cherimoya, bell pepper and onion. For the dressing: in a food processor bowl, or blender container, place juice, oil, chile, cilantro, honey, and salt. Cover and process until mixture is smooth and well blended. (If desired, you can strain out the chile pieces, the flavor will remain). Toss salad with dressing, garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Makes 3-4 dish salads.


Serve this refreshing compote on its own in a dessert glass or goblet, or use as a topping for a fruit ice cream, waffles or poundcake.

1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional)
1-tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 cups cherimoya chunks, peeled and seeded (approximately 1 1/2 pounds of fruit)
2 seedless oranges, halved, peeled, and sectioned, or one 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup peeled papaya, mango, peach, or nectarine chunks
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts or slivered almonds

In a measuring cup stir together orange juice, liqueur (optional), brown sugar and ginger. Place cherimoya chunks in a non-metal bowl; pour orange juice mixture over. Add orange and papaya pieces and nuts; toss gently. Cover and chill 30 minutes before serving. Makes about four cups (six to eight servings).



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