Do you know how to pick the sweetest melons or prep a pineapple, like they do in the Pacific?
Tropical fruit varieties are more available now than they’ve ever been in New Zealand. Cruise the fresh produce aisles at your local vege store or supermarket and you’ll find everything from dragon fruit to pawpaw depending on the time of year.
C’mon admit it, these exotic beauties add a colourful, exciting complement to the Pink Lady apples and Bobby bananas in your fruit bowl (along with your cute Freshkeeper sachet to keep it all fresher for longer).
Exotic fruits are also a great talking point for when friends drop around.
‘Oh, are those red spiky things fresh lychees? How do you eat those again? I’ve only eaten ones from a tin…’ (um, FYI, you just break their prickly little shells open and tuck in).
All very well, you say. But how do I choose these fruits for maximum sweetness? And are there any ways to bring out their natural flavours?
So who better to ask than Aggie, an 83 year old Auckland grandmother from Fiji.
These are her 5 fruity secrets – and yes, they work most of the time, she reckons!
Ever cut into one and to your disappointment, it’s not quite ripe? (Please don’t beat yourself up – I mean, sometimes you want your avocado on toast RIGHT NOW, right?)
Instead, keep Aggie’s hack in mind for next time: Wiggle the stalk (or its cute belly button) – if this falls off easily, you should have a perfect avocado to eat. Of course you’ll have to make sure you buy avocados with their stalks on to start with…)
CRISP WATERMELON – EVERY TIME
Many Pasifika people swear by the flick test. Flick with thumb and forefinger and if there’s a hollow sound (listen for the ‘plunk’), you’ve picked a winner. Less water and sweet crisp fruit. Also if the melon has a yellow underbelly, then that’s also a sign that it’s good to go.
Rumour has it, says Aggie, that back in the 1950s and 60s Tonga had such a surplus of watermelons, the locals only ate the hearts of them – the sweetest part – and threw the rest to the pigs. Watermelon-choly way to go… (sorry).
Yum. A wedge of this for breakfast – simple, delicious and fresh. But when it tastes like soap suds… what a letdown. To find your perfect melon, use the sniff test – you’re looking for a sweet, almost sickly, perfumed scent, says Aggie. Smell that and you have a winner in your hands.
PINEAPPLE? PASS THE SALT
Yes, that’s right. Salt really does make a less than perfect pineapple taste sweeter. How? A bit of reverse psychology! It squashes the bitter flavour of the fruit which in turn tricks your brain into thinking it’s actually sweeter than it really is. Aggie advocates peeling a pineapple using long diagonal cuts to remove the prickly eyes (keeping in mind that the sweetest parts are at the edge of the fruit) then massaging it with salt and rinsing off before serving in slices. Delicious!
Pawpaw (or as the Americans say, papaya) grows like wildfire in the Pacific. In Fiji it’s used for everything from baby food to er, a fruit that’s renowned for keeping your mighty regular…
But for many Pacific isalnders, it’s a breakfast favourite – especially when you use this simple trick to enhance its delicate flavour: Cut your ripe pawpaw in half, make a criss-cross pattern into the fruit with a knife and squeeze lime juice (or lemon, if you’re stuck here in wintery old New Zealand) all over it. Bula! Your taste buds will be immediately transported to the tropics.