Late Spring Fruits (May through mid-June)
Apricots (Late Spring through late Summer)
- This old world fruit, native to China, is believed by some to have been the original "apple" in the garden of Eden.
- Apricots are extremely perishable, short-seasoned fruits. They are astonishingly good at their peak and not terribly distinguished at any other time, so many people prefer to stick with the more reliable dried version of the fruit.
- Apricots should be picked tree-ripened, when they are bright, glowing shades of orange-red. They should also be fragrant and slightly soft to the touch.
- Most of the apricots sold fresh here are grown in California. Turkey and Greece are famous for their apricots, which are particularly musky and flavorful and may be purchased dried in American markets.
- Apricots appear in fresh tarts, cooked into preserves, and as flavorings for soufflees. Look for dried apricots in Middle Eastern tajines and as flavor accents for wild game. They go particularly well with mild cheeses such as Brie, St. Andre
- Blood oranges were probably developed in Sicily after the orange was brought there in 1400, and the 19th century brought increased cultivation of them.
- These fruits often look just like regular oranges until you cut into them and see the deep red flesh, sometimes solid, sometimes flecked with gold.
- Most blood oranges sold here come from California, although a few are imported from Italy.
- Preparations tend to be simple and focused on the raw fruit. Look for blood oranges in fresh fruit tarts, served as ruby red orange juice, or in salads with slivers of red onions.
Cherimoya (custard apple)
- The cherimoya is a tropical fruit that originated in Central America; it is now grown in California. Cherimoyas have scaly green skin and look a little like irregularly shaped avocadoes.
- A ripe one should, also like an avocado, be a little soft when gently squeezed.
- The very soft, pale yellow flesh is truly custardy in texture. Each fruit has a few hard, shiny dark brown seeds. The best way to eat it is to chill the fruit, cut it in half, and use a spoon to scoop the flesh from the skin.
- Look for cherimoya in sorbets, ice creams, and tropical fruit salads.
Cherries (Late spring through late summer)
- Cherries are stone fruits related to the plum, peach, apricot, and almond, all of which, interestingly are relatives of the rose.
- Eating cherries tend to be from pale to very dark red, growing sweeter as they get darker. Royal Annes, for example, are very pale, almost golden, with red hints. Lamberts are bright opaque red, with a hint of tartness. Bings are red-black,
almost wine-like in their sweetness.
- Sour cherries are bright translucent red, and are generally used to make jam and pies, because they are considered too tart for eating.
- When buying cherries, choose those with the stem on because they will last better that way. Also be sure to watch for split fruit. The absorbent cherry, if exposed to water too long (either rainfall or the grocer's spritzer), will swell until
- Cherries combine very well with the flavor of almonds, perhaps because they have a bit of the same chemical that gives the bitter almond its flavor. Dried cherries have become quite popular in markets in recent years and make a colorful, tart
alternative to raisins.
Mangoes (Late spring through late summer)
- Mangoes are native to India, but those available here are grown in Mexico, California, or Florida.
- Mangoes are oval, rather flat and are at their best when their smooth skin is golden with hints of red. They should be soft but not mushy. Overripe mangoes acquire a flavor that resembles turpentine.
- Some people are allergic to the skin of a mango. They should not be the ones who peel it (or they should wear gloves to do so).
- Mangoes are eaten by peeling away the skin and cutting the juicy flesh from the large, flat seed, to which it clings tenaciously. Buy larger mangoes, because the size of the seed tends to be fairly constant, so the bigger the fruit, the higher
the proportion of edible flesh in relation to the seed.
- Look for mangoes in Mexican, Indian and Indonesian dishes: chutney, ceviche, spicy Mexican and Thai salads with cilantro and red onion. For dessert, you'll find mango sorbet, fruit salad, and mango compote spooned over ice creams or pound cake.
Navel Oranges (Early May)
- The Navel orange Americans are most familiar with is the Washington Navel, so named because in the late 19th century the US Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, obtained a few of the trees from Bahia, Brazil (where they had originally
been cultivated). The government dispensed the trees to whoever asked for them. Eventually, a few made their way to California, where they grew well, and an entire industry developed around them.
- The "navel" in the name comes, of course, from the small protrusion at the bottom that looks from the outside like a belly button.
- Navels are eating oranges rather than juicing ones. The skin peels off and the sections separate easily. They are usually seedless and they are very mild in flavor.
Peaches and Nectarines (Late spring through late summer)
- Actually, peaches and nectarines are botanically indistinguishable, nectarines being merely smooth-skinned peaches. If nectarine and peach trees are allowed to cross-pollinate, the result is that both kinds of fruit appear on a single tree.
- There are "freestone" and "cling" varieties of both peaches and nectarines. The terms refer to the whether the flesh is attached or not attached to the pit. Cling peaches tend to transport a little better and ripen to a better color, so they
are more common.
- Although the soft, juice-filled fruit seems especially decadent, peaches have fewer calories than apples.
- Peaches and nectarines should be ripened on the tree as much as possible, so buy them when they have good color and fragrance. Slightly unripe ones can be improved by placing them in a brown paper bag with an apple or a banana (both of which
release ethylene gas, a ripening agent).
Strawberries (Late spring through late summer)
- Botanically speaking, not only is the strawberry not a berry, it's not even a fruit. The sweet, fleshy part we eat is actually a cluster of stems, each of which leads to a fruit -- those things that look like tiny seeds. And each of those,
astonishingly, surrounds a single seed.
- Strawberries will grow in a wide range of climates, although they need a lot of watering, if there isn't sufficient rainfall. So they are available all across the country.
- What makes them such seasonal fruits is that they are very perishable, difficult to pick mechanically, and do not travel well. They are best when purchased from as local a dealer as possible.
- The large strawberries we are familiar with today were probably cultivated in Europe from wild plants during the 18th century, where they were much beloved by the inhabitants of the palace at Versailles.
- Look for fresh strawberries in tarts, pies, and ice cream. They are traditionally paired with rich dairy products: whipped cream, clotted cream, and sour cream (often with brown sugar), but they also go well with a sprinkling of balsamic
vinegar. Cooked, they are found in mixed berry pies or combined with rhubarb.
Related Site: http://www.jamm.com/strawberry/facts.html
Valencia Oranges (Late spring through late summer)
- Valencias belong to the sweet orange variety (as opposed to bitter), and they are very popular both for eating and processing into juice.
- Valencias are known as a "late season" variety, because oranges are winter fruits, primarily. In fact, it is cold weather that triggers the chemical reaction that causes them to be orange at all. In warm citrus-growing countries, oranges are
- Although oranges are native to Malaysia, the Valencia type, as its name suggests, is supposed to have been developed in Spain, although it doesn't grow there now. Our Valencia oranges come from the usual citrus centers of the United States:
California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida.
- The thin-skinned Valencia can be a bit difficult to peel, so it is less popular than a navel for kids' lunchboxes. However, its assertive tartness makes it perfect for inclusion in salads (say, with red onion, walnuts, and blue cheese) or for
flavoring cakes and cookies.
Rhubarb (Late Spring through late Summer)
- Rhubarb is native to Asia, where its earliest uses were medicinal. (It was -- and is -- especially noted as a laxative.) Rhubarb is mentioned in a Chinese herbal manual that dates from 2700 BC, the Pen-king.
- Only the thick stalks of the plant are eaten, and they are so sour that they must be stewed with plenty of sugar. The leaves contain a toxic substance that was believed to be oxalic acid until it was discovered that the stalks also contain a
great deal of the acid but don't cause the same adverse effects.
- Rhubarb is often called pieplant, because it is so commonly used to make pie. In fact, the strawberry-rhubarb pie is almost as American as apple, and certainly more common than just plain rhubarb. This is because the sweet perfuminess of the
berries complements rhubarb's tartness so well. In Britain, ginger is often the flavor pairing of choice.
- Look for rhubarb in marmelades, sauces for mild fish such as trout, and as an addition to wild rice, as well as in pies, cakes, and muffins.
Related Site: http://www.clark.net/pub/dan/rhubarb/rhubarb.html