Name: Sierra Brown
Farm: California Tropics
Location: 6950 Casitas Pass Rd, Carpinteria, CA 93013
What They Grow: Cherimoyas, passion fruit, sapotes, feijoas (pineapple guava), and avocados.
Where to Buy: Farmers Markets, including Saturday in downtown Santa Barbara.
In Season Now: Several varieties of the farm’s famous cherimoyas, including the white meaty cherimoya, the soft and round bay cherimoya, and the “lisa” cherimoya, a California Tropics hybrid that was developed to have great flavor with fewer seeds. The sweet, fragrant sapote is also still available and is similar in taste to an Asian pear.
Their Story: Family-run for more than 100 years, California Tropics has been growing specialty cherimoyas in Carpinteria for nearly 30 years. Currently owned by Sierra Brown’s father and uncle, the family business is eager to educate area residents about their subtropical fruit.
“It’s great exposing people to new flavors,” said Sierra Brown. “We really try and educate people at the market and encourage them to try something unique.”
When comparing cherimoyas and sapotes, a sapote is usually much sweeter, similar to a pear with an avocado-like texture. The taste of the cherimoya taste is frequently compared to a pineapple, with larger seeds and a meatier texture.
“From ice cream and sorbet to cherimoya bread, this fruit is very tasty and very versatile,” said Brown. “And they are great for daiquiris!”
The 27-acre orchard utilizes sustainable farming practices, including use of the rove beetle for pollination. Resistant to most fungus, the cherimoya plant flourishes in the Carpinteria climate.
“We have really healthy old trees, as the first cherimoya tree was planted in Carpinteria over a hundred years ago,” said Brown. “They do really well growing with citrus, so we consider ourselves lucky.”
Working the Saturday market alongside her mother, Brown is a familiar face, eager to offer recipe suggestions or teach shoppers how to pick the perfect cherimoya (a slight give is key).
“We have regulars that have been coming back for years,” said Brown. “It’s a great business we’ve created. We love interacting with the local community.”
Featured Recipe: Cherimoya Cream Pie
4 cups graham cracker crumbs
6-8 Tbs. melted butter
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbs. sugar
3 Tbs. orange juice
2 3/4 cups coarsely chopped ripe cherimoya, about 2 pounds
Melt butter in sauce pan (10-inch X 2-inch pan). In medium-size bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with butter. Press mixture on bottom of the pan and 1 ½ inches up the sides of the pan. Chill crust thoroughly.
In another bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and orange juice and blend well and set aside. Peel and remove seeds from cherimoya and put pulp in medium bowl. Whip 2 cups of whipping cream and 1 Tbs. of sugar until stiff in a large bowl. Gently fold whipped cream into cherimoya pulp.
Remove pie crust from the refrigerator. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly on the bottom of the chilled pie crust. Spoon cherimoya/whipped cream mixture on top of cream cheese. Top with fresh sliced strawberries or fruit of your choice. Chill for at least 2 hours to set.