As an avid Food Network fan, particularly of the show Chopped, I have been intrigued by the ingredients that chefs must work with in each mystery basket. On a recent episode, Peach Palm Fruit was one such item.
The ingredient was packed in a jar with liquid; however, as I scrutinized it really carefully, it looked very familiar. As a matter of fact, I was convinced that it was a fruit that I enjoyed as a child that would be picked from a palm, not unlike some palm trees seen around the Virgin Islands.
The fruit would be boiled in salted water and when cooked and then cooled, we would peel off the outer covering and chow down on the savory orange flesh surrounding the seed. After we had eaten off all the flesh, which could sometimes be stringy, we would crack open the seeds to find the “coconut” inside. This was such a treat.
As it turns out I was correct. Peach Palm Fruit is what I call Peewah. So I started thinking about how many fruits, and produce in general, grown in the territory are called different names depending on where we first encounter them.
So here goes….this is a photographic column that will hopefully also be interactive. Look carefully to see if you recognize the fruit in the photos and if the names are unfamiliar. I encourage your feedback. Do you know Peach Palm Fruit or Peewah and, if so, how have you used it?
Next up is a fruit that is coming into season right now and other than eating them right out of their shell-like covering, few other uses come to mind, although recently I experimented successfully with creating a jelly and an exotic syrup. Known as kenep or genip in the Virgin Islands, I grew up calling them chennette. This season, because of the low rainfall, the fruits are so small that we can’t help but wonder whether there will be any pulp on the seeds.
Carambola is a prolific crop whenever the trees are bearing. And they deliver more than one crop a year. My name for this fruit is five finger. I guess the five ridges that form the fruit lent its name, but it is also called starfruit.
This becomes a little confusing because a fruit I know as caimite is also called starfruit. When it is sliced in half, there is a star-shaped pattern in the center. A ripe caimite is sweet and a little milky.
Sour cherries that are stewed and turned into a sweet treat for children and adults alike were known to me as cerise which is the French word for cherry, but they are also called jimbelin. In addition to the syrupy sweet confection, they are also eaten with salt and pepper sprinkled over the fruit for a spicy condiment.
Another fruit that I loved as a child is known to me as dongs, although I have heard them referred to as pommeserette and jojo. When really ripe, the flesh of this fruit becomes sweet and somewhat slippery and as such was often referred to by a very off-putting name, snatty nose.
On St. Thomas there is a tree adjacent to the eastern end of the Frenchtown ballpark. When in season very few people seem interested, so most of the fruit ends up on the ground unused.
Do you know these fruits? Do you know a different name for any of them? If so, please share. You may contact me at [email protected]
June Archibald owns and operates Precious Produce Farms on St. Thomas and its subsidiary Virgin Islands Fruit Preserves.