Guanabana and Tamarillo

In Making Food on June 13, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Week 16
Guanabana and Tamarillo

Let’s start with a bit of Chekovian gun-on-the-mantle foreshadowing: I bought ice pop molds at the dollar store.

I rarely shop at dollar stores; the stuff inevitably falls apart after (or during) one use, which equates to basically throwing $1.11 directly into the garbage (thanks for nothing, Chicago sales tax!). Plus I recently read Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, and that pretty much gave me a complex about buying dollar-store-type merchandise. But I’d gone to six different stores and none of them — not one! — carried ice pop molds. In desperation, because it was really hot out and I really wanted to make ice pops, I went to the dollar store, and bought two sets of six molds. Then I cruised over to Harvestime and picked up two exotic-sounding frozen fruit purees: guanabana and tamarillo.

Tamarillo’s kind of like the Prince of fruits; it’s the Fruit Formerly Known As Tree Tomato. Grown on small trees in cherry-like clusters, tamarillos look a lot like cherry tomatoes, both outside and in-. They’re native to Central and South America, but have somehow become one of New Zealand’s most popular crops for both import and export. In 1967, the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council, apparently sick of people confusing their beloved tree tomatoes for regular old ground-sprouting tomatoes, officially changed the fruit’s name to tamarillo.

If you find them whole, you eat them kind of the same way you eat a kiwi, by scooping the flesh and seeds away from the bitter skin. The taste has been compared to kiwis, too; however, I can assure you that this is: a load of bunk. I tasted the puree once I defrosted it; it tasted like tomatoes. Really tangy tomatoes with a hefty dose of orange juice mixed in. (Call me crazy, but a tomato-flavored popsicle’s not exactly what I crave once the mercury hits 90.) The mouthfeel was weird, too — kind of gelatinous, which I assume was a side effect of the seeds and their goopy embryo-like covering being pureed as well. If you’ve ever cut open a tomato and poked at the clearish goopy stuff holding the seeds, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And I bet you can imagine the mouthfeel that’d give a tomato smoothie, right?

Still, I was game; I’m no quitter. I mixed in some simple syrup* until the tamarillo puree was straddling the line between sweet and tangy, and poured it into my cheap-ass molds. Then I moved on to the guanabana.

I first saw guanabana listed on the milkshake flavorings board at our favorite Cuban sandwich joint. The Husband asked me what it was; rather than admit I didn’t know, I told him it was a twofer flavor, guava and banana mixed. This, as I now know after some intrepid googling, is not the truth. Guanabana is its own, single fruit thing, one that’s called soursop in English.  (Hi, The Husband! Sorry I lied to you, causing you to get a strawberry shake instead. I don’t lie all that much. Only when I need to save food face.)

Frankly, after the tamarillo taste explosion, I approached the guanabana with trepidation. Dread, even. But surprise! It was delicious. I even tasted it twice to make sure I wasn’t mouth-hallucinating. It’s kind of a mash-up of strawberry, pineapple, banana, vanilla, coconut and lime flavors. Super-good. I didn’t even sweeten it with the simple syrup before pouring it into the molds.

Guanabana’s an interesting beast. Reputed to have a long list of folkloric medicinal properties, guanabana’s pulp and leaves allegedly can kill head lice, cure acne, control seizures, and repel garden pests. Some researchers believe that it may have cancer-fighting qualities; other researchers believe that it may contribute to Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms. (I didn’t read about the Parkinson’s stuff until after I’d already used a bunch of the juice in some breakfast smoothies, so.)

After a couple hours, we pulled the ice pop molds out of the freezer. (And here, theater fans and scholars, is Act III, where the gun that’s been hanging over the mantle during Acts I and II finally goes off.) The molds sucked; they really did. We couldn’t even eat the ice pops. The handle things wound up pulling out of the frozen puree, even after we’d let the molds sit at room temp for a while to defrost, even after we ran warm water over the molds to loosen them. I wound up digging shards of the fruit ice out of the molds with a steak knife, then kind of knocked the shards into a bowl so we could eat them with spoons. Lame. I was too mad to even take pictures.

The guanabana pops were delicious; until they prove a definitive connection between Parkinson’s and soursop, I’m going to make that stuff an a.m. smoothie staple. The tamarillo, not so much, though The Husband thought it was pretty good. (In all fairness [to me], though, he was both incredibly overheated from working in the garden, as well as a little buzzed from a couple of post-garden beers.) Even frozen, the tamarillo puree still had that weird gelatinous mouth feel; no thanks for now.

In the meantime, I’m either going to keep my eyes peeled for some nicer, more upmarket ice pop molds, or go the completely old school route and pick up some dixie cups and popsicle sticks.

* simple syrup‘s just a one-to-one mixture of water and sugar, simmered gently until the sugar has completely dissolved and the liquid’s slightly thicker than water. You can use it to sweeten tomato-flavored ice pops, cocktails, coffee or iced tea.

(Hi, The Husband if you’re reading this! I don’t lie all that much. Just when I need to save food face.)
  1. Sam should know what guanabana is — remind him of “soursop specials” in St. Thomas. I think I’ll pass on the gelatinous, tomato popsicle though. 🙂

  2. […] for other people, too. The number of hits I get for ways to deal with pork belly, black currants, guanabana, palm sugar and salt roasting are encouraging — could Smart Cabbage actually be helpful? […]

  3. In Mexican cooking, the tomatillo is used to make things like salsa verde or other green sauces. For example,

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen it used in a sweet.

    Salsa verde is a tasty but short lived table sauce that can only be kept for a day or two. But oh it’s wonderful for that short period of time.

    • Hi, Pat! I do love tomatillos — we make salsa verde a lot, both for chip-dipping and enchiladas. But tamarillos are a completely different beast, and one that was totally new to me. Both are fruits, and both have similar seed pod structures on the inside, with high pectin content; both are in the nightshade family of plants.

      I think tamarillos are generally sweetened and/or cooked, while tomatillos are used for savory purposes, sometimes raw, sometimes cooked. Not sure I’d attempt another batch of ice pops with either one ever again…

      Thanks for reading!

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