Although Australia and New Zealand are relatively close neighbors, geographically speaking, they’re not really very much alike. Topographically, climactically, historically, biologically: all of these are dramatically different from one country to the other. I think in the larger world they tend to get lumped together in people’s minds, but both times that I’ve been to New Zealand I’ve travelled from Australia, and both times I’ve been struck much more forcefully by differences than I have by similarities.
Since I’ve been living in Canberra, I’ve been on the lookout for new and exotic foods to try, and have come across a few so far. It hadn’t occurred to me that a short hop over to NZ for a few days’ holiday would yield the opportunity to try three new fruits, two of which I’d never even heard of before. These were:
1. Custard apples: I’d seen something called this in the supermarket in Canberra, but hadn’t yet sampled them. The New Zealand version is smooth instead of lumpy, and research indicates that it is in fact a different variety than what is available in Australia. The “custard” part is very apt for their texture, but I think they got the “apple” part on looks alone. To me they taste like a cross between a pear and a honeydew melon, with, as mentioned, a very custardy mouthfeel and pale, creamy flesh. For a lover of things tart and acidic like myself, however, they paled in comparison to….
2. Tamarillos: these look like an oblong plum on the outside, and taste like a cross among a kiwifruit, a plum, and a tomato on the inside. Their flesh is deep orange, with a ring of edible black seeds in the center. They have a very distinctive texture and flavor, and I gather that they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. (I loved them.)
Last but not least were the elusive…
3. Feijoas: these came up in conversation over dinner the night we arrived, and we were on the hunt for specimens at the two farmers’ markets and the specialty Italian market that we visited over the weekend. None were forthcoming, but we did manage to procure some sparkling feijoa wine (reminiscent of hard cider or maybe a fizzy rosé wine), as well as some feijoa sorbet (thoroughly delicious). I was disappointed not to try the actual fruit, as tasting only the derivative products makes the flavor much harder to pin down descriptively. But, on the up side, it means now I have the perfect excuse to go back again: additional research is indicated. No--required.