Monday, June 11, 2007
Feijoas feature prominently in my past. There is a walkway at the end of the street my parents live on, and along that walkway grew feijoa and passionfruit trees. As a child I used to yank the passionfruit that pushed through the netting and the feijoas that hung from the branches that overgrew the fence, thus going beyond the boundaries of the property and being available to the public. It was more convenient for me to procure the fruit during 1990-1995 when I had to walk up and down the walkway to and from high school every weekday. I was very lucky to reap the benefits of the over-hanging branches (these people were not commercial growers and let their trees get out of control, hardly ever pruning them). Those days are sadly gone now (not just high school but also the self-imposed pruning ban - the property must have new owners...), as are those of my mother's, when she would raid her neighbour's boundary-leaping feijoa trees at night time with her siblings and fill up pillowcases with this ripe, jungle-scented fruit.
Native to Brazil, Uruguay, and northern Argentina, the feijoa was brought to New Zealand in the early 1900s. Since then many cultivars have been developed, the most recently acclaimed is the Wiki Tu, whose substantial fruit is almost the size of an average man's hand. Depending on the cultivar, the feijoa's skin colour ranges from the traditional green found in Islam to a very dark avocado-skin green, and which turns slightly lighter as it ripens. The skin's texture ranges from smooth to rough, and some are thicker than others. The flavour is intensely tropical, often described as the combination of guava (like feijoa, it is also from the Myrtle family), pineapple and strawberry. I prefer the tangy Poanaumu and Kakapo varieties, which were developed in New Zealand. The feijoa varieties allow for a good couple of months of availability; they mostly ripen from April through June. For more information on harvesting, storage and cultivars, visit the informative New Zealand Feijoa Growers Association website.
At first I was not sure what I wanted to do with the feijoas I bought (yes, I had to buy them because I only have one family member who has a feijoa tree, and he ate them all; I shant scold him, for he also has a tree of Fuyu persimmons, a bundle of which I ate directly from the source one rainy afternoon last week). I thought about making a chutney, per my fellow Kiwi food blogger Emma at The Laughing Gastronome), and I was also tempted to grab a spoon and devour them (I only ate one from the bunch as it had been so long since I last had one, though they apparently grow commercially in California - no one I know there had ever heard of feijoas until I asked about them). These thoughts co-mingled with the dog-eared pages of many cookery books for various curds (Nigella Lawson's cranberry curd in How To Be A Domestic Goddess, Kate Zuckerman's Meyer lemon curd tart in The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle, and Tamasin Day-Lewis' redcurrant curd ice cream in Tamasin's Kitchen Classics). It is obvious from here what I decided to do...
2 eggs and 3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
113g/4oz unsalted butter
1) Scoop out the flesh of the feijoas and blitz until smooth.
2) Into a bowl and using a spatula, push the smooth feijoa flesh through a sieve. Remember to scrape the feijoa on the underside of the sieve into the bowl.
3) In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, yolks, and sugar.
4) Over a low heat, melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. If you are increasing the quantity, you may want to use a wider pan in order to speed up the setting of the curd.
5) Stir in the feijoa and the egg and sugar mixture.
6) Whisk constantly over a low heat until it has come together and has thickened, almost like custard. This took me approximately 15 minutes. Do not forget to stop whisking as you do not want to cook the eggs.
7) Pour the curd into a bowl and cover once cooled. It can then be refrigerated or used immediately.
It tastes similar to banana pancake batter but with a twist of guava. This almost makes enough for two 500g jars, if you are so inclined. I have kept mine in a bowl, in which it will last for a week or so. I like to have curd on toast, and there is still plenty for me to pour into a tart shell or to put between two cakes for a Victoria sponge.
If you have a chance, check out my foodblog over at egullet( link is in my blog). I just bought 2 bottles of manuka honey that were on clearance for 2.00 each ( canadian). I thought it was from NZ, but its from Australia.
Didn't know there was another translation of Arabian Nights. Have you read it through? I've only known the Burton version. I've taken some Amazon peaks at your book picks. Pamuk's and Henry's are especially appealing; gorgeous cover art on both.
Randi - Yes, people often think manuka is indigenous to New Zealand. The fact is that it is just as much a part of our geological history as it is Australia's. I think Australia has 30-odd species of manuka, and we have 3. Again, like feijoa and kiwifruit, manuka has just been more wholeheartedly embraced by New Zealanders, really intertwining it in our food culture.
Susan, lovie - I know that we export a lot of products that are made from feijoas, but I am uncertain as to whether we actually export feijoas themselves anymore. I know a couple of years ago shipments to California were canceled because of a pest issue. I am assuming then that they travel well. There are a couple of cultivars that have pretty thin skins, which does not make them likely candidates to export, but if we can export kiwifruit, which has a rather thin skin, then I don't see this being a problem. I really don't know what the situation is at present as to whether or not the pest issue has been resolved.
I have only just started reading the Haddawy translation of "The Arabian Nights". I chose this version because it was the most recently acclaimed translation of the texts, and its source is the oldest surviving manuscript. There are two volumes, making for a complete presentation. Didn't the Burton edition (1880s, right?) only have selected tales?
Freya, love - I did think of including the pronuciation (fee-joe-uh) in parentheses and forgot to do so. Perhaps I should slip it in. The curd is so delicious, and I had not given thought to a feijoa meringue pie, but it sounds like a good idea. I will see what free time I have this weekend to decide what to do with it.
Did you know you can eat the pretty red and white feijoa blossoms too? They're sweet, fun to toss in salads, and quite a conversation starter.
Brilynn - If you like that flavors that are typically ascribed to feijoas, then, I have to say that you have missed out. It is a fabulous fruit not only for curd, but a cinch to eat directly out of the skin with a spoon if you need a vitamin boost on the go.
Kelly-Jane - You can still eat them mushy, but it really is best to get them before they have browned inside, which is an indication that they have passed their peak time. I guess you're like me when you travel in that you collect cookery books along the way. It is a great way to remember where you have been.
Christina - The hedge variety tend not to fruit as prolifically, especially if they have been seed-grown. However, if you do find them, I urge you to try this curd. Even friends of mine, who grew up on feijoa, had no idea a curd could be made from it. As for the flowers, I have even put them on top of pavlovas along with slices of feijoa (which first have to sit in acidulated water to prevent oxidization). Where in SoCal have you seen them? I tried to score some when I was there, and because I couldn't, I pigged out when I returned to New Zealand for holidays, except one year when I missed the season (drat!).
Love the idea of feijoa blossoms alighting a pavlova. A perfect touch, Shaun.
Thanks for sharing Shaun.