paw paw!

October 10, 2008

exciting news! i found a yard in my neighborhood that has three large paw paw trees, full of fruit. i’ll update once i ask them if i may partake…

the paw paw is a temperate climate version of the most delicious fruit i can think of — cherimoya!

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Here I go ’round the mulberry tree

September 5, 2008

I moved into my current place August of last year. When Fall rolled around, an overgrown corner of my back yard revealed itself to be primarily comprised of tangled, unkempt blackberry bushes. The berries were plentiful for at least a couple of weeks.

It’s great having fruit growing in one’s own yard, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Earlier this June, I started a garden right next to those blackberry bushes. Soon after clearing the ground, I noticed large, and apparently ripe, blackberries appearing on my garden’s soil. I scrutinized the blackberry bushes nearby, but didn’t see any berries — let alone ripe ones. Still, there were blackberries on the ground, so I chalked it up to birds stealing the few ripe berries…and dropping them two feet away.

After a couple of weeks, the ground was littered with berries. I remained mystified.

I’d probably still be mystified if my girlfriend hadn’t provided me with a crucial insight. When I told her about the mysterious blackberries, she didn’t look at the blackberry bushes — she looked straight up. Although this made perfect sense, it never occurred to me — I was so sure that they were blackberries. Above my garden is a huge tree, full of berries. I had to do a little research to determine that they are mulberries.

don't eat the green ones!

Mulberries taste like blackberries, basically. There’s less tart and more sweet, which is fine by me. The most stunning part is the sheer volume of fruit. I read that a large tree can produce 11 bushels of berries in a season. Woo!

Mamey/Sapote

September 5, 2008

I went to Orlando, Florida in June/July this year, and for some reason I was certain I’d find a mamey sapote. To my surprise, they weren’t around and nobody even knew what they were if I attempted to ask. Fate has seemingly plunked them down on my doorstep, however, as I recently found them at a local Wegman’s.

Despite my long search, I found myself at a slight loss when picking one out in the store. All the fruit were about the same size and shape (large mango with a hint of football), and none had major blemishes on their aesthetically pleasing light-brown, sand-papery skin. I picked a couple of firm, solid-seeming fruits and discarded those with soft spots.

I seem to have made the right choice — after a couple of days, mine became slightly soft, like a perfectly ripe kiwi. I cut one in half (beautiful orange-salmon flesh and large shiny black seed that was easily removed) and dug in with a spoon.

Its wikipedia article has this to say about the mamey’s flavor:

“… a combination of pumpkin, sweet potato, candied yams, maraschino cherries with the texture of an avocado.”

An intriguingly odd list, to be sure, but almost completely accurate (I initially perceived an almond-flavored sweet potato). One thing the above description glosses over is the sweet. Sweet, sweet, sweet. Too sweet to eat the entire large fruit in one sitting — fortunately my girlfriend April and my pet rat Penny both enjoyed the mamey and heartily finished their portions. I found its sweetness a bit too cloying and overwhelming as I ate. It certainly is one of the most dessert-like fruit I’ve ever had.

As for the texture, it was a little like bread pudding. The flesh is firm and easily scoopable with a spoon (ala avocado or papaya) but in the mouth it is not as thick, uniformly smooth/creamy, or as watery as that of an avocado. It’s actually a little mushy.

Its sweetness and texture made me think that it’d work far better in smoothie form, which I will be trying out today. It’s a delicious and interesting fruit, but possibly too sweet to much of in one sitting (hopfully I didn’t let mine get overripe).

UPDATE!

Smoothie wins! When I wrote my initial review yesterday I was eating the sapote right after lunch, and my fullness probably made it seem slightly less appetizing overall. I left what I couldn’t finish in the fridge, wrapped in foil. Half-expecting it to be brown and unappealing today (like an avocado), it was actually the same color, and the coolness from the fridge actually made it even better! Tasty! I finished that off and cut into the other one, putting half in the blender with some soy milk, ice, and ground flax. I didn’t add a sweetener because it’s pretty sweet already, as you may have gathered. The smoothie was delicious and even April asked for more! The best part: I still have half a mamey in the fridge for tomorrow.

I am made of papaya.

June 6, 2008

papaya cross-sections

I used to like papayas. Now, I’m starting to think I love papayas. I bought one a week ago after stumbling across a papaya-ginger smoothie recipe. The smoothie never got made, however, because I ended up eating the whole fruit for lunch. That was not my original intention — I was just going to eat half, make something else for lunch, and save the rest for the smoothie. But I was so hungry and it was so good and…

Gorging myself on papaya made me feel great. I don’t know what it was. I was full of cool, refreshing contentedness. I immediately bought three more papayas — another big one (a “Caribbean Red”) and two smaller ones.

There was not a big difference between the two varieties I purchased (don’t worry, I didn’t eat all three in one sitting). The smaller ones were sweeter and more flavorful, and the big one was more watery and mild. Papayas are interesting in that there’s not even a hint of tartness. Their flavor is subtle and complements the soft, smooth texture very well. I find them unrelentingly easy to eat.

It’s hard to tell when papayas are at the perfect ripeness. In fact, I was waiting a few days for them to ripen before I decided to just take my chances with one of the small ones. Turns out it was perfect, even though I thought it would be a bit under-ripe. Sometimes you just have to take a chance. This papaya ripeness chart here seems to confirm that there’s always a bit of guesswork involved. Oh well.

I guess I’ll have to pay a bit more attention to papaya varieties in the future. Maybe I can find the perfect one.

Blood Orange – moro

April 14, 2008

I didn’t plan this, but almost exactly a year ago, I wrote my first entry about the tarocco variety of blood oranges. Today I’m writing about another variety, moro. Only this time, I have a snazzy picture:

Before and After

In short, deliciousness. Distinguished itself from other oranges by its deep, mildly bitter overtones. The taste combined a really good orange with a hint of fruitiness (I often read “raspberry flavor,” but I disagree with this). The level of tartness may be a little low, but the other unique flavors temper the sweetness. I recommend the deepest, darkest ones you can find, even though these are the least attractive.

In search of the *really* good strawberry.

March 27, 2008

When’s the last time you had a REALLY good strawberry? Seems like all you can get around here are big ones whose predominate flavor is “tart” and with only a watered-down hint of strawberry essence. I know I should avoid these attractively enormous grocery store strawberries and try to find some from local farms, and that’s what I’ll do whenever strawberry season rolls around. I’m on a mission: eat some really good strawberries. I know they exist. The last really good strawberry I had was a pea-sized wild strawberry found by the side of the road in the French countryside. That’s my only real lead right now, but I also have inside information that Poland is home to the best strawberries. I will remain dubious until I experience that for myself.

So, anyone have any insight?

Rambutan

February 4, 2008

How could you not like a fruit that looks a bit like a deep sea creature on the outside and some sort of eyeball on the inside? The answer is that you can’t, but rambutans — which are actually quite beautiful — have a lot more going for them than their appearance (unlike, say, a kiwano melon).

rambutan 2

Rambutans are related to litchis and longans, so if you’ve had experience with those fruits, this isn’t too different. Rambutans are bigger, with a thicker, slightly rubbery skin. They seem to be becoming more common outside of Chinatowns and Asian markets — I picked some up at Wegman’s the other day.

Once you peel away enough skin (I use a fingernail to break it away in sections), you can cleanly remove the edible part, which is a slightly disconcerting translucent milky white. If you’re lucky, you might find a small sip of juice in the empty shell. The juice, like the fruit, introduces itself with a quick, subtle shade of young coconut and a hint of pear. It’s very mild and not too sweet, but very tasty and refreshing. The texture of the fruit is brilliant — soft and juicy, but firm and chewy; somewhere between a fresh grape and firm gelatin. They yield easily to the teeth, but provide a lovely fun bit of resistance. The flavor is aromatic and fruity, with the aforementioned young coconut and pear flavor mingling with sweet lemon. Nothing is tart about a rambutan, but neither are they very sweet. They strike a nice, subtle balance. For this reason, I don’t think rambutans would work very well in a fruit salad or smoothie, where their delicate flavor might easily be overpowered.

The flesh surrounds a relatively large seed, so despite being about the size of a small, oblong golf ball, there really isn’t a lot to actually eat. Although, according to Wikipedia, the seed is edible. Slightly dubious, I sampled a seed, which was bitter and nutty in a way that did not scream “eat me!” (though it was not disgusting). Wikipedia also says litchi seeds are poisonous, so I was a little wary from that as well.

So, apart from the disappointing not-enoughness of the yummy part, rambutans are good.

Little Tomatillo Things!

January 16, 2008

Tomatoes are one of my very favorite fruits. Some people seem to think the question of whether a tomato is a fruit of a vegetable is unanswerable. It’s not — tomatoes are a fruit, and if you try a wide variety of fresh tomatoes you’ll find nothing that will convince you otherwise. More on those later. Maybe.

Tomatillos are the cousin of the tomato. They are unique in having a papery husk that surrounds the fruit, but inside the husk you’ll find something more or less tomato-y. Recently it seems they’ve grown in popularity in the US, as I see them (big green ones, sans papery husk) more and more in grocery stores, mostly marketed as an ingredient in salsa.

The big green ones are tart and less juicy than a tomato, with a characteristic cilantro-esque tang. Pretty good out of hand, but much better served in guacamole, salsa, or other similar dishes. Far more delightful were these little ones I found at a farmer’s market this summer:

tomatillo

Tomatillos are there in the front.
One is peeled to see the fruit on the inside.
Behind them are some other random tomatoes. 

Unlike the big green ones or most tomatoes, it was sweetness that that was the predominant mood. Not a desserty sweetness, though. These things were just weird; their sweetness was dark and rich, with almost a caramelized tone to it. Fruity, but not fruit salad fruity.

More like…omelette fruity. Or something…

Suffice to say, I did not do any cooking with these little morsels. Their surprising and unique flavor was delicious and mysterious enough to enjoy just on their own, and I can’t wait to find some more next year.

Cocktail Grapefruit

January 16, 2008

I discovered this tasty citrus fruit in Wegman’s the other day — a cross between a Frua Mandarin (whatever that is) and a Pommelo (one of my favorite citrus fruits). The signs assured me that it was ripe whether yellow or green, and I picked out a mottled yellow-green specimen.

cocktail grapefruit

Here it is posed with mangosteen drink

I like citrus fruit because of the endless variations on a single theme, the way individual tastes can be combined endlessly and no matter how unique a result, it’s still citrus. In this case the cocktail grapefruit combined the sweet, honey-esque touch of tangerine with the distinctive spicy, bitter flavor of a grapefruit. The result is surprisingly complex, and I regret just buying one because it was a flavor that begs to be savored, analyzed, and experienced many times before wrapping one’s mind around it.

The pith (white stuff) was far more palatable than a regular grapefruit, which is a plus.

If grapefruit is a perfect breakfast citrus (tart, refreshing) and pommelo a nice evening, after dinner snack (mellow, satisfying), than the cocktail grapefruit is a perfect lunch side — sweet and energizing. A nice surprise.

Sweet tamarind

October 16, 2007

sweet tamarindTamarind is a popular drink flavor in many parts of the world, and it’s easy to see why — its flavor is as pure, delicious, and refreshing as lemon-aid. A really good tamarind tastes like lemon iced-tea, sour, yet tangy, and flavorful. Some are quite palatable, but most (which I picked up from Wegman’s) were far too sour to eat more than one or two at a time.

Fortunately, there exists a sweet tamarind, grown to be eaten as a fresh fruit. They come in a big purple box, which I found at the local asian market.

sweet tamarind box

Before I review the sweet tamarind, I should go into their appearance. They’re pretty odd-looking, like a large brown bean pod with a hard, brittle outer shell. Suspended inside the shell (but only attached at one point) is the dry, sticky brown flesh of the fruit, a bit like a date. The flesh surrounds a series of hard, squarish inedible seeds, and surrounding the flesh is a skeletal network of “veins” (sounds gross but I don’t know what else to call them) which are what hold the fruit in place inside the shell. To eat, one must crack the shell and extricate the fruit, then pull the veiny stuff off the flesh (the veins come off in one shot if you grab them up at the top where they are all connected). It’s not hard, but it’s nearly impossible to do without getting your fingers sticky.

If it seems like a lot of work, well it is: between the skeletal support system, sticky seeds, and shattered shell debris, there’s a lot of mess per fruit. And you’re still not able to just chow down — you must carefully eat the fruit off from around the seeds. Still the delicious flesh of a sweet tamarind, while lacking a bit of the zesty, refreshing element of the far less “eatable” regular tamarind, makes a great snack. I think it’s worth the trouble.

Incidentally, some people, unfortunately ignorant of sweet tamarind, give the fruit a bad name (this is how I first heard of tamarind, and of course I ran out and bought some of the product they wrote about — and liked it — though I found out it’s mostly used for cooking, not candy). I don’t think anyone would have anything bad to say about sweet tamarind. It may not be very exotic or supremely delicious in flavor, but has an almost universal yumminess.

Finally, Goya brand tamarind soda is my favorite beverage. Seek it out! I’m not a fan of tamarind juice, however. It tends to be thick, gritty, and lacking the good flavor of other tamarind products.