Monday, March 19, 2012
This situation happened last week, when, during a run through the produce section of a local supermarket we came across a styrofoam tray of rather anonymous-looking small round orange fruits labelled Achachairú. They were very unprepossessing looking, but only cost R$3.00 (about USD $1.60) for a tray of about 20 of them. Our gastronomic curioiusity was sparked, and we bought them.
Before we tasted them, we asked several Brazilian friends about them. The universal response to the question "What does achachairú taste like?" was "What did you say? Achachairú? Never heard of it..." Which just increased our curiousity, naturally.
Before we bit into one, we googled achachairú and found out quite a bit (what did the gastronomicly curious do before the Internet? Risk a bite?) We learned that the fruit comes from the Bolivian rain forest, its scientific name is Garcinia humilis, that it's related to the Asian tropical fruit mangosteen, and that it's also known as achacha. We also learned that it recently won a 3rd prize trophy in Berlin at the 2012 Fruit Logistica exposition in the "fruit innovation" category. Although up to now it has only been commercially grown in Bolivia and the parts of Brazil close to Bolivia, efforts are underway in far-off Queensland, Australia to develop a commercial market for the fruit and the first plantation there is already in fruit.
Suing the trade name achacha, Australian growers have set up an informative, interactive website to promote the fruit, which they describe as "an exotic fruit from the Amazon basin now grown in tropical Queensland." It even includes a video showing how to open an achacha and lots of recipes for the fruit.
So our intellectual curiousity well satisfied, it came time to give the achachairú a test drive - a taste test. Following the Australian website's instructions, we opened an achachairú. Inside the leathery skin, which comes away very easily, the fruit itself was pure white, with a cottony texture. The flesh surrounded a hard, brown ovoid pit. The taste was acid and sweet at the same time, and highly perfumed. And absolutely delicious. It has that tutti-frutti taste common to lychees and mangosteens and is utterly refreshing. We were sold - and so was most anybody we were able to convince to try one.
Now that we've had a happy encounter with the achachairú, all we have to do is hope that we can continue to find them in the market. It would be a shame to lose contact, just when we were getting to know each other.