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U.S.P.S. "Tropical Stamps" Set

U.S.P.S. "Tropical Stamps" Set

I received a package from my friend in San Francisco a few weeks back and normally I don’t take much notice to the stamps on the envelope but this time, I noticed that the stamp looked like a picture of something edible and it was!  I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was a guava stamp!  Surprised to see one of my favorite fruits on a stamp, I looked up the specifics.

Seems that the United States Postal Service (USPS) issued a 27 cent postcard stamp set called “Tropical Stamps” on 25 April 2008.  It comprises of five beautifully illustrated stamps by Cuban-born artist Sergio Baradat and was revealed at the WESTPEX Stamp Show in San Francisco.  I have to admit, they are very aesthetically pleasing but here is what I DON’T get.  According to the press U.S.P.S. press release:

Baradat created art that visually slices or halves five tropical fruits – pomegranate, kiwi, star fruit*, papaya and guava – depicting them in eye-catching and mouth watering color.

OK, correct me if I’m wrong but last time I checked, pomegranates and kiwis are NOT tropical fruit – they may be “exotic” but tropical they are not – I know my tropical fruit!  I remember seeing guava trees growing wild all over the rainforest and papayas and starfruit in people’s yards.  I know that pomegranate trees can technically grow in the tropics but they don’t tend to get that really dark deep red and they definitely don’t thrive.  According to the California Rare Fruit Growers:

Pomegranates prefer a semi-arid mild-temperate to subtropical climate and are naturally adapted to regions with cool winters and hot summers.  A humid climate adversely affects the formation of fruit.

There you go, they don’t like humidity and do best in areas with cool winters and hot summers – i.e. anywhere with a “Mediterranean” climate – like in southern France, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sacramento Valley, Napa Valley…you get the idea.

As for kiwis, it is a native of China, from the Yangtze River valley of northern China and Zhejiang Province on the coast of eastern China.  Their seeds were taken out of China to New Zealand by missionaries and surprisingly today, Italy is the country that produces the most Kiwifruit in the world!  Kiwis grow best in areas where citrus and stone fruit grow and depending upon the cultivar, their needs vary dramatically but what’s certain is that kiwis need a certain period of winter chilling (for dormancy).

Although very pretty, I would honestly LOVE to find out who chose the fruits for the “tropical” stamps collection and why they chose the pomegranate and kiwi to be included!

*Starfruit is also known as Carambola and PLEASE don’t eat it if it’s green because it is not ripe!  I have seen some appaulling examples of starfruit sold at the supermarket.  I can just imagine someone who is curious to eat a starfruit and buys a green one and because they taste so horrible, thus writes them off for life!  Starfruit should be eaten when it’s a deep yellow color (when they are sweet and fragrant) and often when the outside edges (star tips) start to brown (as you see in the stamp illustration).  Those with kidney problems, gout or rheumatoid arthritis should avoid eating it due to its high level of oxalic acid.

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Remember how I mentioned the perfumed fragrance of Quince? Well, guavas are even more intense – more heady and intoxicating…just like the tropics.

About a month after we moved into this house, I had noticed a tree at one end of the car park that had an abundance of yellow round fruit on the tree as well as fallen and squished ones on the ground under it. It seemed as if every car that drove by this tree squished one on its way past. Upon closer examination, I must have gasped quietly when I realized that it was a guava tree and not just any old guava tree, it was the variety that I grew up with as a child in Hawaii – yellow on the outside and pink flesh on the inside. What other types of guavas are out there? One website, www.tropicalfruitworld.com.au on the Gold Coast in Australia has a great explanation on the different types of guavas (they list a total of 11) and I didn’t even know that there was one actually called “Hawaiian” which happens to be a green skinned, pink fleshed variety. Last year, the tree produced so much that I had enough to give away to people, to puree them and enough to make two batches of guava jelly. I don’t know what’s wrong this year but either the drought caused less fruit or perhaps it rained during flowering but there are very few on the tree and I am actually quite saddened by this. Ah well, this is nature and every year can’t be the same – I will just have to cherish the few that I do get this year. One of my favorite ways of eating guavas? Waiting until ripe and very fragrant, slicing in half and devouring it with just a tiny sprinkle of sugar.

A memorable childhood memory involving fresh guavas was going to my friend Sharyl’s house and making guava milkshakes:

Peel and puree guavas and pass through a mesh sieve to remove seeds. Add desired sugar to the guava puree and set aside. Then proceed to make a vanilla milkshake with a few scoops of good-quality vanilla ice cream, a splash of milk and add 2 to 4 Tbsp. of guava puree to taste. Enjoy!

Meanwhile, I’ve added some pictures of the bumper crop of guavas I had last year (since I didn’t have a food blog then). In bakeries throughout Hawaii, a regular feature is guava chiffon cake or liliko’i (passion fruit) chiffon cake. The chiffon cake is very airy and light and the sweet thickened guava puree on top and between the layers tastes amazing. My only complaint about commercial bakeries today is that to cut corners (in cost), so many use that “fake” cream that didn’t even get remotely close to a cow! I think so many people have forgotten what real whipped cream tastes like…and I digress (more on that topic another time). Anyway…I actually replicated the cake at home with REAL cream. The recipe I used was a basic chiffon recipe from The Joy of Cooking and the guava puree was thickened with corn starch (or arrowroot works too) and sugar, cooled and used to fill and top the cake – simple! Fabulous!

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