Marvelous fruit-eating experiences

Like an avocado wrapped in alligator hide.

Like an avocado wrapped in alligator hide.

Sunshine equals sugar, and in the Central Valley it takes a spring and a summer to produce its sweetest, juiciest fruits.

But in Southern California, some of the most delightful fruits in the world ripen in midwinter. Subtropical cherimoyas recently appeared at the Davis Food Co-op, as did white sapotes. In Sacramento, S.F. Supermarket (65th and Stockton) is a likely bet. Though these two New World natives are colloquially called “custard apple” at times, they are not related. The cherimoya is a green, leathery beast originally from the equatorial Andes and resembles an avocado wrapped in alligator hide. And the white sapote is a lime-yellow, soft-when-ripe Mexican native that looks—and eats—more or less like a pear.

The Davis Food Co-op receives its cherimoyas and white sapotes from Noah’s Ark farm in Carpinteria, where owner Sal Schettino has been growing organic subtropicals for 25 years. Of his six cherimoya varieties, the Dr. White is perhaps the best and definitely the largest, bearing fruits as big as volleyballs (though fruitlets as small as golf balls appear on the same branches). Oddly, Schettino’s cherimoyas seem to operate with no regard for the calendar; he has harvested them before Thanksgiving, while other years the crop comes in the spring.

His white sapotes may also fruit in the fall if they feel like it—or six months later. This year, they’ve coincided with the cherimoyas, which the Davis co-op is selling for $7.99 a pound. The cherimoya’s flesh, studded with marble-sized seeds, is white, sweet, distinctly “tropical” and slightly tart. It should be sliced in two and eaten with a spoon when soft as pudding.

And the white sapote—$6.99 a pound—is one of the most marvelous fruit-eating experiences to be had on this Earth. Under its smooth skin is a mild, almost banana-like flesh, faintly aromatic and decadently creamy. As Schettino observes, “Can you believe something so sweet like candy grows from a tree?”

But of course, only the finest things do.