Different places, different food. I’ve been meaning to write about this for a long time, but somehow didn’t get round to it. Maybe I was just lacking the right hook. But now: There it is! Small and green, lying right at my feet in the grass in front of our apartment–a feijoa. “A fei-what?” many of you will probably ask now. A FEIJOA! A small, green, egg-shaped fruit, pretty unique to NZ (although not native, as I have learned today from both my room mate and wikipedia.org) and celebrated all over the country.
It’s feijoa season!
All Kiwis and true Aotearoa fans await the feijoa season like Christmas, summer holidays and their next pay check altogether. And great excitement is in the autumnal air when it finally arrives… And then there is no stopping: The feijoas are everywhere! Feijoa crumble, feijoa smoothies, feijoa ice cream, feijoa chutney, feijoa cider, feijoas with peanut butter, feijoas pure as they are, traditionally eaten cut in half and spooned out. I’m warming up, too. Had several of these little fellas for breakfast.
A feijoa tastes like a feijoa.
Now, how does it taste? I watched a first-time-eater today, and the response was–let’s say–tentative. Looking at her full of expectation and eagerly waiting for an outburst of excitement over the great taste, she just spooned out the pulp very slowly, chewing over it…
“And? How do you like it? How does it taste?” “Ummm, I don’t know… It somehow tastes like something familiar, but then again, it doesn’t. It’s not really sweet.”
A moderate reaction. Fair enough. It reminded me of my first time eating a feijoa, a few years ago. I wasn’t really thrilled by the tang either. ‘fermentation’ and ‘perfume’, these two associations sprang to mind. Sounds yummy, right?
I asked the people around me and they described the taste as:
“sweet and sour”, “tangy but sweet. perfumed!”, “like early strawberries: slightly sweet and fresh”. I had another sample as well, and I would say: slightly sour, kind of sweet, a bit like apple or something really fresh. Now you can choose, hehe.
As you can see, apparently there is no common definition. The taste seems to be hard to describe–on the other hand, which taste isn’t? We never try to describe an apple or a banana, because everyone knows what an apple or banana taste like. So probably we only assume that we have good taste descriptions for other, more common fruit. Anyways. We might just go with the statement of a friend of mine: “It tastes like feijoa. Not like apricot, not like apple. Like feijoa.”
Yet, what everyone seems to acknowledge, is that the overall flavour is quite distinctive. Once you know it, you will recognize it.
Despite the strong tang and the fermented flavour I tried a second feijoa and a third feijoa after my first encounter, and the next thing I remember is that along with all the Kiwis I, too, was excitedly expecting the season. (Maybe this is also partly owed to my partner’s feijoa-licious caipiroska, a celebrated seasonal drink. *mmmyummmm*)
Aw, feijoas, you are just too good!
Not the banana, not the mango. Never mainstream, never hip.
What also makes me love them, I suppose, is their uniqueness and seasonality. Although, as mentioned, shockingly they are neither native to NZ (I always thought they were), nor are they exclusive to NZ (I always thought they were).
Still. What makes me love them is their rarity. Feijoas probably are the most non-mainstream fruit you can and will find (at least from a Western European perspective), even kind of an anti-mainstream fruit. And they will never become mainstream, because they’re simply not meant to be:
1. They need warm to sub-tropical conditions to grow.
2. They only give us a very small window of time where they are fully ripe and yummy to the max.
3. The ripe fruit are very prone to bruising, meaning they wouldn’t survive a long overseas transport. (for a deeper read on this great little fruit see wiki again)
These are three good reasons why feijoas will never become mainstream and why they also will never become “hip” as in “Berlin-hip” or “long-bearded hipster” (fingers crossed!). And this very fact makes the feijoa even cooler. It’s such a confident fruit, such a strong character, not caring what all the other fruit do. Not the banana, not the mango. So different, doing its own thing. Not looking for worldwide fame, but sticking to its roots.
Seasonal fruit. Such a role model!
The other very charming aspect that makes me fall in love even more with the feijoa is its strict seasonality. How could you not love a fruit that makes its appearance only once a year for a few weeks? How could you not treasure a jewel like that? I mean, seriously, this is cool stuff. Only once a year, after hundreds of hours in the sun, deciding on its own when it’s time to be eaten by simply plopping down.
Local, sun-ripened fruit is always a winner, and combined with this rare beauty makes it even better! Thinking about it, the feijoa is actually a prime example highlighting the quality and awesomeness of locally grown, seasonal food. A whole country is celebrating its season and looking forward to it like the next big All Blacks match.
Why don’t we do things like that more often and more obvious? Why don’t we celebrate the local apple harvest or the beets? Why don’t we value the cabbage or the plum season more? It’s about appreciating what we have, what is given by nature. And, by appreciating this, maybe we take up a more critical stance on imported fruit and veggies.
Standing in a German or Austrian supermarket, is it really necessary to buy potatoes from Egypt? Or, standing in a New Zealand store, do we have to go for the pineapple from Ecuador when it is apricot or peach season? There is almost always a local or regional choice equally as good and yummy.
The crucial point, in my opinion, is to simply be more aware of what we buy and to ask ourselves (me included) more frequently what we really need. I know, it can be a hard one sometimes. However, every single step in the right direction is a good step. I’m sure, the feijoa would be proud to serve as a role model and food for thought.
And now, let’s celebrate together! C’mon kiwis: What’s your favourite way to eat or drink feijoa? C’mon other parts of the world: What’s your favourite seasonal fruit? Share and cherish!