Sunday, May 1, 2011

Anacua Berry Feast

Despite an exceedingly dry season and a somewhat disappointing harvest we’ve still managed to forage from a number of native plants. This week I picked anacua (ah-nah-kwah) (Ehretia anacua) berries from a couple of trees heavily laden with the fruit. When I was a kid my grandparents had a large anacua tree on the corner of their lot next to the sidewalk. In the midst of berry production the sidewalk became a slippery mess of squashed berries and, in fact, the cement turned yellow-red until the rains came to wash the residue away in late May or early June.  My cousins and I would gather under that anacua tree picking and eating the fresh berries and all of us became connoisseurs of sorts in differentiating taste variances as the berries ripened from deep yellow to dark red. Yellow berries have a slight tartness while red berries are the sweetest. Depending on palate particularities one of us might concentrate on yellow while another might dally more in the reds.

Anacua berries are about the size of a pea. They contain a small seed that aficionados separate from the pulp using the tried and true tongue-and-tooth manipulation method. Skilled anacua berry eaters can handle several berries at once maintaining a constant seed from pulp severance with near simultaneous mouth to ground jettison all the while plucking new berries from the tree. When kids congregate to pick anacua berries the immediate area becomes reminiscent of a group of cedar waxwings or maybe even parakeets clustered for a feast. Yakking, eating, spitting out seeds; afterwards, a ground littered with seeds, footprints, and a cleanup crew of hordes of sugar ants.


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