¿Pistachee?

 

 

There is a row of beautiful trees lining Avenida Mexico in front of Parque Hidalgo here in Puerto Vallarta. I walk by these trees several times each week and right now they are heavy with a fruit I mistook for olives.

I asked an old man sitting in the park what kind of tree this was—“¿Qué  tipo de árbol es este?

Arrayan,” he replied.

I thought he was wrong. So I took a couple of pictures and pulled down a high branch to examine the fruit.

A short woman from a shop across the street ran up and asked me if I would pull down a branch for her. I did and she began filling her apron with the fruit.

Up close the fruits she picked still appeared to me to be black olives.

“¿Qué tipo de frutos son?—What kind of fruits are these?”

“Pistachees,” she replied, “Hacen una muy buena aguas frescas.—They make very good cool or sweet waters.”

Aguas frescas are common here. They are made with fruits, flowers, nuts, seeds mixed with sugar and water. The result is a light non-alcoholic drink.

Some of the more common aguas frescas are Jamaica—Hibiscus, Tamarindo—Tamarind, and Horchata—a mix of ground almonds, rice and barley in many variations.

Pistachios? Is that what she meant? I didn’t think so. So I bit into one I judged was ripe by its dark purple color. It was sweetish, but was certainly nothing like the hard-shelled pistachio nut I am familiar with. It had a pit in the middle a bit like an olive, but it sure didn’t taste like an olive.

When I got home, I wrote a note to Bob Price at Jardín Botaníco Vallarta. I sent him my pictures and asked for his help identifying the tree.

His reply:

That is a pistashio tree, or as they call it here, pistachee.

 It is not the Mediterranean pistachio but a local variety.  I have never tried the nuts to know if they are edible.  Good luck!

 Robert Price
Curator
Vallarta Botanical Gardens

 That made me wonder what part was the ‘nut’. The seed?

Does anyone out there know what’s what about this tree and its fruit?

Please let me know.

Way Down Yonder in the Pawpaw Patch

Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.

– Charles R. Swindoll

I suppose my first grade teacher deposited this one.

 

My son recently sent me a note with a couple of photos he took of Pawpaws he picked “in the wild” from an island in the Potomac River near Washington, DC.

When I looked at his pictures, a flood of memories from the public elementary school I attended hit me. And this song we sang magically reappeared:

                         Where, oh where is my dear sister Bethy?
                         Where, oh where is dear sister Frances?
                         Where, oh where is my dear Mother Mary?

                         Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch

                         Pickin’ up pawpaws, puttin’ ’em in a basket
                         Pickin’ up pawpaws, puttin’ ’em in a basket
                         Pickin’ up pawpaws, puttin’ ’em in a basket

                         Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch

After working through the words and melody, I realized I really never knew what a Pawpaw was—except that it’s a fruit, maybe like an apple. I’d never knowingly seen one.

So I Googled it. I read about them, and then thought, Maybe I do know what these are.

I looked out of the window from the room where I write here in Puerto Vallarta and there—directly in my sight-line—is a tall evergreen tree. Right now, near the end of February, it is heavy with ripe and ripening Guanabanas. They look suspiciously like Pawpaws, just not smooth-skinned.

Back to Google.

Guanabanas, I found, are native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America. They are called Soursop in English. Their dark green to whitish-green speckled skin has a diamond pattern with each diamond sporting a soft, curved spine. The white to yellowish interior pulp is full of large seeds surrounded by soft juicy flesh with a unique sweet flavor. I drank a big cup of aguas frescas made from Guanabana and Chia at my favorite fish taco stand yesterday. 

Aha! Now I see. The Pawpaw is the smooth northern cousin to the bumpy delicious Mexican Guanabana. Both  belong to the same plant family, Annonceae

 

Guanabana from the tree outside my window