Surinam cherries, jackfruit and other exotic fruit

David Croxford
Surinam cherries

Surinam cherries, jackfuit, tamarillo, calamansi, bilimbi, soursop, jaboticaba, white sapote. How many do you know? How many have you tasted? The Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers (HTFG) are hoping that soon, you'll know all of them, and next time you're in the produce aisle, you'll grab one of these exotics as easily as you might a mango or lychee. "They bring novelty to the table and can delight the senses," Ken Love, HTFG president, says of these lesser-known fruits.

HTFG recently received a USDA grant to help build markets for these fruits via free public taste tests and culinary demonstrations. This Saturday, Kevin Hanney of 12th Avenue Grill and SALT will prepare Surinam cherry and jackfruit at Whole Foods Kahala. Local growers will be on hand to answer questions, and shoppers will be able to purchase the fruit.

You can certainly eat all of the fruits out of hand, but Love, a fruit grower and former chef, has endless other uses for them: jackfruit jerky, jackfruit curry, pickled jackfruit, jackfruit pho, jackfruit marmalade, jackfruit martinis. He even grinds dried jackfruit seeds for tempura. And that's just the jackfruit.

In previous demonstrations, Ricky Sakoda of Merriman's Restaurant Kapalua demonstrated the use of tamarillos (tangy, egg-shaped fruits) in a kimchee and tamarillo ceviche as well as a tamarillo BBQ sauce, while culinary instructor Paul Heerlein sampled bilimbi, tart with the texture of starfruit.

If all these fruits are so good, and farmers are growing them, why don't we hear more about them? "I think the demographics have changed so much, and so fast, that much knowledge was lost on how to use these fruits in Hawaii," Love says. "I'm hoping we can bring that back. Both in terms of understanding how our ancestors and predecessors used the fruit, as well as how our extremely creative chefs are using it now."