Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Have you ever heard of a carica fruit?

The carica is a tropical fruit that grows in South America, principally in Chile. It is related to the papaya, which is why it is also called Golden Papaya, Mountain Papaya, or Chilean Papaya. The carica is also grown in Indonesia, though I'm sure they have their own word for it (carica certainly sounds like a romance language word).

As with many tropical fruits grown outside this country, strict import laws keep the fresh fruit from reaching our markets. But you can buy caricas that have been trimmed, seeded, and preserved in a very light sugar syrup. (Though they were available at Amazon for awhile, they seem to have disappeared. I'll keep looking for them. You might also find them in specialty stores that sell Southeast Asian foods.)

So what do caricas taste like? Closing my eyes and concentrating and trying not to get too complicated, I would say they taste like a cross between pineapple and pear. But to me the one distinguishing feature of caricas is their texture: They're chewy!

Here's what a carica shell liberated from its jar looks like. It's 3 to 3.5 inches long and about 1.5 inches wide at the opening (which I propped open with a toothpick because the fruits are flattened when they're packed in the jar). You could fit a generous 1/3 to 1/2 cup of something inside a carica shell. 

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