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There are hundreds and hundreds of varieties of fruit available in the United States, either grown primarily in California, Florida or imported. Some can be substituted with another type, and the recipe's author will usually specify, but many times you can be creative.
For more information about my Ugly Produce is Beautiful ℠ Educational Campaign, go to my site, Ugly Produce is Beautiful.
Decorate cakes or any baking recipe with fresh fruits such as whole raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, sliced kiwi fruit and orange sections. These are good choices because they do not brown, and can be placed on the cake or baked good just before serving. Dried fruit, such as raisins, currants, craisins (dried cranberries), etc. are also used in baking and are quite popular.
Ripe vs. unripe? Whenever possible, use fresh fruit that is ripe and in-season for the best baking results. Unripe fruit lacks the desired texture and taste. Baking won't help unripe fruit. Be patient or use prepared fruit filling. Buy fruit that hasn't been bruised or cut because it will ripen faster.
How does fruit ripen? "The fruit becomes sweeter as the starches are converted into simple sugars by amylases. The fruit changes from green to colorful as the chlorophyll (fruit = green) is broken down by hydrolases revealing anthocyanins (fruit = colored). The fruit becomes less tart as the acids are converted to neutral molecules by kinases. The fruit becomes softer as the amount of pectin is lessened by pectinases. And the fruit becomes fragrant as the large organics are converted to volatile aromatic compounds by hydrolases." Chemistry blog, 11-9-2013, 1pm
|Climacteric fruits; don’t store together in a closed container||apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupes, figs, guava, kiwis, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, and tomatoes|
|Non-climacteric fruits; will only get worse with time - they tend to overripen or spoil.||cherries, grapes, limes, oranges, pineapples, and berries (blue-, black-, rasp-, straw-, etc.).|
ABABAI: Ababai fruit comes from the Caricacae family of fruits which also contains the Mau Mau and some forms of papaya. It is an exotic new fruit in the U.S. imported from Chile. Chile is the only country in the world that exports this luscious fruit. Very few countries grow Ababai and then only for their local market. Ababai is a protected fruit in Chile and considered an agricultural priority by the Chilean Government. It is only recently available for export. The United State is one of only a few countries now learning to appreciate ababai because of its incredible flavor and extensive possibilities for desserts, entrees, and appetizers.
Fresh off the tree, ababai has a thin skin and looks like a small papaya. Ababai is never eaten fresh due to its high enzyme content. Ababai is cooked for several minutes and then jarred. Its pale yellow color turns to a brilliant gold after processing. It is one of the few fruits that will not dissolve when cooked. It is superb for sautéing with vegetables, broiling on fish, and grilling on the barbecue (shish kebob). The seeds look like small raisins. Ababai trees grow for 7 1/2 to 8 years and only bear fruit for 5 years. The tree is then cut down, recycled, and must be replanted on virgin soil.
APPLES: By some estimates there may be over 10,000 different apple varieties. Apples have been in cultivation for centuries and new varieties have continually arisen or been developed. HOW TO CORE AND CUT SLICES
Apples are so versatile and can be used in so many baking recipes and desserts. Don't be afraid to experiment.
Modern supermarket shoppers sometimes struggle with the 7 or 10 varieties typically offered, and there is much confusion. There are dessert apples (eating apples) cooking apples and good storage apples. Varieties are regional, so the availability of types will vary depending upon where you live.
But which apple to use for what?
BAKING APPLES, IN GENERAL - These hold their shapes their best, great for pies.
SARAH SAYS: It's a good idea to mix a few varieties for even better flavor, such as tart and sweet.
Braeburn: Sweet apple that when baked, takes on a pear-like mild flavor
Cortland: Tart apple, but not as complex than the Empire.
Empire: Tart and complex, with strong cider-like flavor.
Granny Smith: A good dense baking apple holds its shape when cooked in a pie, tart, or cake, such as a Granny Smith, which is vibrantly tart.
Golden Delicious: It may be the original all-purpose apple. With a firm texture that holds up to baking with a mild flavor, buttery and sweet, it does well in pies and tarts
Honey Crisp: Its firm texture also gives it integrity in a pie. Both sweet and acidic in flavor and taste.
Jonagold: A sweet apple similar to Granny Smith in its attributes, but more intense in flavor.
MORE (excerpted from the 2012 Associated Press, 9-12-2012)
But for big, bold flavors in your apple pie, go for a sweet-tart Jazz or a pear-scented Pink Lady, also known as a Cripps Pink.
Flowery Galas and honey-sweet Fujis have a perfect medium firmness for cakes and muffins
Think about using heirlooms for cooking. Their flavor blooms when they're heated. Of those, Ashmead's Kernel is a tart, juicy apple that gets sweeter with heat. The rough-skinned Roxbury Russet is way too sour to eat raw, but shines when cooked. And the Calville Blanc d'Hiver, a very firm, citrusy French apple that dates back to the late 16th century, is the classic apple for making tarte tatin.
Red Delicious has a yielding texture and balanced sweetness that makes it a perfect salad apple. For something that will stay bright white longer (and not brown easily when cut) go for an Empire or a Courtland, with its thin skin and mild taste.
Pork and duck both do well with slightly sweet apples that also have good acid. Sweet, crisp Golden Delicious, tarter Jonagold, or the big, exuberant Pink Lady work particularly well.
For beef, a very tart apple like a Granny Smith works best.
Red Delicious and its yellow namesake, Golden Delicious, are the classic snacking apples with a mild flavor and thin skin. But when you want a great big apply apple, go for Honey Crisp, one of the juiciest, crunchiest apples around. Tangy sweet Jonagolds - which mix the tartness of Jonathan and the gentle flavor of the Golden Delicious - offer layers of flavor.
Braeburns and Galas give good crunch with delicate aromas, and a nice balance of sweetness and acid. For nature's equivalent of a candy bar, grab a Fuji.
The Golden Delicious may be the original all-purpose apple. With a firm texture that holds up to baking and a mild flavor and sweetness, it does well in pies and tarts, as well as alongside your peanut butter. Ashmead's Kernel, a great baking apple, also has a juiciness that earns its popularity with cider makers and a mild acidity that makes it wonderful to bite into.
Honey Crisp, with its big, juicy bite, makes a great snack and a fabulous cider. Its firm texture also gives it integrity in a pie. Though they're great for cooking, they can also be expensive, making them best for enjoying raw.
With all pairings, acidity is the element to keep in mind. For richer desserts - pies, tarts, buttery cakes, go with more acidic apples. For more delicate sweets, go with a sweeter apple.
With cheese - a classic apple pairing - join strong cheeses, such as Parmesan, cheddar and even Roquefort, with big acid and big sweetness, such as Jazz or Honey Crisp. For softer, milder cheeses, such as Camembert or brie, go with the more delicate Fuji or Gala.
If you like sugar and spice, try pairing a Granny Smith with chili powder or merken, salt and a squeeze of lime.
Some apple buying and storing tips:
- Buy in Season: Apples are generally are harvested in mid to late August, with some being done in January. This is when flavor, freshness and nutritional value are at their peak. Modern refrigeration has caused one unintended and unfortunate consequence, that being that the average consumer has lost a sense of season. Everything looks good on the shelf, everything is available at any time in any area, and it is easy to forget that fruit is seasonal and is actually being grown somewhere.
- Buy Locally: Shipping and storage both can have adverse effects on fruit quality, even under the best of circumstances. Every region has its own distinctive varieties, and a visit to the orchard will help you discover which ones are best in your area.
- Keep Apples Cool: Apples continue to ripen after they have been picked. Keeping them cool retards this process. Never leave apples out at room temperature. Nothing can ruin an apple's flavor more than letting it sit out at room temperature.
APPLESAUCE AND PUREES: I always bake with a smooth, high-quality supermarket brand such as Mott's. I like its thick consistency, which is perfect for healthy baking. I like to bake with unsweetened applesauce, but you can also use other types such as chunky, sliced or cinnamon, cranberry, or raspberry. You can make your own Homemade Applesauce, but make sure it is nice and thick before using it in a baking recipe.
For sauces and other purees, the spicy, supple McIntosh will melt like ice cream when baked, but creates a smooth, flavorful applesauce. The soft, tangy Jonathan and the sweet, crisp Empire will also deliver a flavorful puree. The Cox's Orange Pippin, is a wonderful juicy heirloom for sauce.
Apples also pair beautifully with vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, cauliflower and sweet potatoes, adding complexity and acid to delicate purees that make an inventive alternative to mashed potatoes. (excerpted from the 2012 Associated Press, 9-12-2012)
Fruit purees, especially applesauce, are often used as a substitute in oil in recipes (do not use it as a substitute for butter, shortening or margarine because it won't work). The pectin from the fruit forms a film around the tiny air bubbles in the batter, similar to what occurs when you use oil or cream solid shortening with sugar, but not as effectively. In addition to substituting the oil with applesauce, I add back 1 - 2 tablespoons of oil for a better taste and texture; a little goes a long way.
APRICOT: The apricot, a native of China, has been cultivated for over 4,000 years. Today close to 90% of world production is in the U.S., most of that in California.
BABY FOOD FRUIT PUREE: Even though it may contain other fruits such as pears or apples, can be used in any recipe that calls for applesauce or prune puree. I prefer baby food to other prune purees that are sold as fat substitutes for baking.
BANANAS: The banana is the most popular tropical fruit. It can be found in a variety of colors, with yellow being the most popular. Each one has its own particular taste, shape, size and texture. For eating, select plump, unblemished, firm and bright bananas with unbroken skin and no soft spots. Leave unripe bananas at room temperature until ready to use. Ripe bananas can be refrigerated for three to five days. Mashed bananas are a great fat substitute and lend flavor as well as bulk to a recipe.
SARAH SAYS: For baking, I like to use bananas that start to get covered with brown flecks; I find they work best for baking. It's because it has a higher pectin content than one that is riper. Pectin is an indigestible soluble fiber which, when combined with water, forms a colloidal system and gels, which helps baked good bake with a better structure. In other words, I have found that the less pectin a banana has, the more apt the recipe will sink in the middle. But, everyone has their own opinion as to what degree of ripeness is the best. HOW TO MASH BANANAS
BERRIES: Fresh berries make a lovely accompaniment for any dessert. Their slight acidity helps balance the sweetness of fillings and icings. Even a dessert made of fresh strawberries topped with freshly whipped cream is always welcomed.
The problem with berries is that they bleed color and water, especially when overripe. Blueberries or strawberries are the more durable ones; try and leave them whole as long as you can. Raspberries and blackberries tend to be more fragile. So the less they are handled, the better.
Ripe berries are so tender they burst in your mouth - if they don’t get squashed in the carton first.
Dessert chefs have a secret for keeping them intact: As soon as the berries arrive in the kitchen, scatter them on a baking sheet lined with several layers of paper towels, then store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to clean and use them. If using for baking, be sure not to wash your berries with water, instead wipe them with a damp paper towel so they do not give off too much moisture. If using strawberries, take off their tops after cleaning, otherwise the berry's insides may become too soggy or damp.
Because berries bleed, when making a tart filled with pastry cream and topped with them, assemble it as close to the event as possible. Also, if you glaze the fruit, it seals in the fruit.
Blackberries: are found all around the world, mostly but not limited to the Northern Hemisphere. However most commercial cultivation is limited to the United States. There are literally thousands of varieties, including an albino 'white blackberry,' and the dewberry, which bears a smaller fruit. See also Marion Berries or Boysenberries.
Always refrigerate blackberries immediately. Temperatures between 34 F and 38 F are best. If you plan to eat them fresh, be sure not to freeze them! (Fresh blackberries are very sensitive to freeze damage). Do not wash your blackberries until you are ready to prepare and eat them. Moisture will hasten decay of your blackberries, so keep them dry in storage. Under ideal conditions, blackberries should keep for 1-3 days in your refrigerator. For best results, consume your blackberries as soon after purchase as possible. If you plan to freeze your blackberries for jams and jellies, be sure to wash your berries carefully in cold water. Pack berries into freezable containers, or freeze them on a tray and then pack them into containers as soon as they are frozen. Seal the container and keep frozen until you are ready to use them.
Blueberries: When buying fresh blueberries look for firm, dry fruit that is smooth and relatively free of stems and leaves. Look for plump, fresh berries of good blue color with a waxy bloom. Avoid purchasing any leaky baskets.
Avoid containers of berries with juice stains, which may be a sign that the berries are crushed and possibly moldy. Soft, watery fruit means that berries are overripe, while wrinkled fruit means they have been stored too long.
Always refrigerate covered blueberries immediately. Temperatures between 34 F and 38 F are best. If you plan to eat them fresh, be sure not to freeze them! (Fresh blueberries are very sensitive to freeze damage). Do not wash your blueberries until you are ready to prepare and eat them. Moisture will hasten decay of your blueberries, so keep them dry in storage.
Under ideal conditions, blueberries should keep for 5-7 days in your refrigerator. For best results, consume your blueberries as soon after purchase as possible. If you plan to freeze your blueberries for jams and jellies, remember not to wash your berries before freezing. Washing, prior to freezing, will make the blueberry skin tougher. Pack berries into freezable containers, or freeze them on a tray and then pack them into containers as soon as they are frozen. Seal the container and keep frozen until you are ready to use them. Be sure to wash the thawed blueberries prior to using them.
SARAH SAYS: Don't be shy of adding sugar when you cook blueberries, food writer-scientist and television personality Shirley Corriher told a recent gathering of food media. Sugar can act as a structural preservative and help the berries keep their shape when they're cooked and when the heat would otherwise break them down. If you sprinkle sugar on sliced fruit, it will help your fruit pies not to boil over, she added.
The presence of other ingredients can sometimes cause blueberries to lose their blue color. Corriher suggested countering baking soda, for example, with the acidic effect of lemon: "A trace of lemon juice will take care of weird colors," she said. On the other hand, if the recipe tends to the acidic side, a tiny bit of baking soda will help keep the berries blue." A Blueberry Bonanza, The Associated Press, July 12, 2006.
Boysenberries: Developed by Rudolph Boysen in the early 1930s, the boysenberry is a cross between a loganberry, red raspberry and blackberry. Like dewberries and logan berries, they are classified as a trailing type of blackberry. Plants grow horizontally, compared to the erect habit of most blackberries. To grow, most plants are tied to supports or wires to limit their trailing habit. Fruits are sweeter, ripen sooner and are in looser clusters.
Cherimoya: (chehr-uh-MOY-ah) - The heart-shaped cherimoya is sometimes referred to as a custard apple which describes its appearance and texture. The taste, however, is uniquely its own. Cherimoya combines the flavors of pineapple, mango, banana, and papaya into a slightly fermented flavor of the tropics. They are available November through April with the largest supply in February and March. Ripe cherimoyas are dull brownish-green in color and give to pressure when gently squeezed. Eat within a day or two. If fruit is pale green and firm, store at room temperature until slightly soft and then refrigerate, carefully wrapped individually in paper towels, for up to 4 days. Peel fruit with a sharp knife and cut into cubes, discarding the dark black seeds. Add to fruit salads or puree and incorporate into a mousse, custard, or pie filling.
Chinese Gooseberry: See Kiwi.
Cranberries: Of all fruits, only three - the blueberry, the Concord grape and the cranberry can trace their roots to North American soil. And of those, none is as versatile as the cranberry.
The cranberry helped sustain Americans for hundreds of years. Native Americans used cranberries in a variety of foods, the most popular was pemmican - a high protein combination of crushed cranberries, dried deer meat and melted fat - they also used it as a medicine to treat arrow wounds and as a dye for rugs and blankets.
Cranberries grow wildly from the Carolinas to the maritime provinces of Canada, but prefer areas that have sandy soil, an abundant fresh water supply, and a growing season that lasts from April to November. Suited for these conditions, southeastern Massachusetts embraces its most famous indigenous fruit.
Contrary to popular belief, cranberries are not grown under water. Cranberries are grown in a sandy, peat soil on dry land. The common misconception comes from the picturesque cranberry harvest scene which has become a standard for artists.
Huckleberry: Blueberries and huckleberries although related, are not the same. One obvious difference is that the blueberry has many soft, tiny almost unnoticeable seeds, while the huckleberry has ten larger, hard seeds. Blueberries are also more blue, while huckleberries are blackish blue or reddish black. This red/black variety is also called southern cranberry.
Marion Berries: Marion blackberry, or “Marionberry” as it is known by consumers and marketers, is a distinctly American berry with worldwide appeal. Grown exclusively in Oregon, it is a cross between the Chehalem and Olallieberry blackberries, the Marionberry captures the best attributes of both berries and yields an aromatic bouquet and an intense blackberry flavor for which it has become known. This premium quality flavor, described by tasters as “earthy cabernet” and “sweet with notes of tartness”, makes the Marionberry a superb choice for canning, freezing, pies, jams, jellies and ice creams and has earned the Marionberry an outstanding reputation worldwide.
Since the Marion is considered of premium quality, it is usually sold under the Marionberry name, whereas other blackberry varieties are sold under a generic “blackberry” label. Marionberries are sold to the consumer fresh during harvest season (typically July 10-August 10), and frozen in 16 ounce poly bags, during the rest of the year.
Pumpkin: A pumpkin is not a vegetable; it's a fruit! In fact, it's a berry. See PUMPKIN, Below.
Raspberries: Fresh raspberries of all colors are low in calories—one cup of berries contains only about 60 calories. Raspberries add fiber to the diet and are a fair source of vitamin C. The most used raspberry is red, but other colors can be purple, golden and black. Raspberries can be harvested from early summer through fall.
Raspberries are very perishable. Use fresh berries within one to two days after picking or purchasing to ensure the best flavor, appearance and nutrient content. Proper handling is easy and will help to insure that yours remain fresh and delicious. Always refrigerate raspberries immediately. Temperatures between 34 F and 38 F are best, but be sure not to freeze them! (Fresh raspberries are very sensitive to freeze damage).
Do not wash your raspberries until you are ready to prepare and eat them. Don’t soak raspberries; lift them gently from cold water and drain well. Let berries air dry, or gently pat them dry with a paper towel. Moisture will hasten decay of your raspberries, so keep them dry in storage. Under ideal conditions, raspberries should keep for 1-2 days in your refrigerator. For best results, consume your raspberries as soon after purchase as possible.
Strawberries: The cultivation of strawberries goes back to the 1600s when early settlers enjoyed strawberries grown by local Native Americans.
Always refrigerate berries immediately. Temperatures between 34 F and 38 F are ideal. Sort and remove any bruised or damaged berries as soon as possible, being in contact with spoiled fruit can cause good fruit to go bad quicker.
Strawberries are in season March to June, but are grown in hot houses and can be purchase year round from grocery stores. They should be juicy red all the way through.
Choose berries that are brightly colored, form and have hulls (green caps) attached. Check underneath the top layer of strawberries in the box or basket for smashed or moldy ones. Do not buy boxes that are stained or leaking. For best results, store your strawberries in the original clear clamshell container you purchased them in. For berries purchased in plastic pint containers, transfer them to a large container with a dry paper towel on the bottom.
Don't wash your berries until you are ready to use them. Under ideal conditions, strawberries should keep for 2 - 5 days in your refrigerator, but for best results, consume your berries as soon after purchase as possible.
Rinse strawberries before cutting; do so before you remove their green tops and stems. Your berry will not get as water-logged and mushy if you do. Arrange on paper towels to dry.
1 pound of fresh strawberries... equals 2/3 quart
One pint of fresh strawberries equals...about 3 1/4 cups whole berries, 2 1/4 cups sliced berries or 1 2/3 cups pureed berries
A quart container of fresh strawberries equals...1 1/2 pounds and 4 cups sliced berries
CANDIED FRUIT: Candied (crystallized) fruit has been around since at least the 14th century. Whole fruit or pieces of fruit can be preserved in this manner. Basically the method is simply to place the barely ripe fruit in increasingly stronger solutions of heated sugar syrup, and the syrup gradually replaces the water content of the fruit. Coat knife or scissors lightly with flour or spray with vegetable oil before chopping candied fruits. I like place what I need in the freezer until very cold and then cut with kitchen shears; it works the best for me. Find candied fruit in your local grocery store or online.
CANTALOUPE: (See also Melons) Look for a nice rounded shape. Golden colored melons are at the peak of ripeness.
Green melons will ripen at room temperature in a couple of days.
Choose a cantaloupe with evenly distributed "netting" or the markings on the fruit's surface.
A ripe cantaloupe should give off a mild melon aroma.
CARAMBOLA (STAR FRUIT): (Indonesia) Capture a star sensation - the carambola. Also known as starfruit, this tropical fruit ranges in taste from sweet to tart. The flavor of a sweet carambola is likened to a combination of orange and pineapple. Tart varieties are similar to a lemon.
Generally speaking, most tart varieties have very narrow ribs, while the sweet varieties have thicker ribs. However, there are many different varieties, so this is only a guide. One medium carambola has just 40 calories and provides vitamin C and dietary fiber.
Carambolas are golden yellow when ripe. Store green-tinged fruits at room temperature in a fruit ripening bowl or paper bag until they turn golden and have developed a fragrant aroma. When fully ripe, they can be kept a day or two at room temperature, or refrigerated up to two weeks.
Carambolas are easy to prepare. Their naturally glossy skin requires no peeling and provides a delicate contrast to its juicy, yet crisp flesh. The edges of the ribs often are brown when ripe. If desired, remove the brown edges using a paring knife.
Bring a star quality to your meals with carambolas:
Either tart or sweet varieties work beautifully in composed salads; toss slices into leafy green combinations or fresh fruit salads.
Tart varieties are best for cooking purposes. Sauté these golden star shapes with chicken, shrimp, or meat for an elegant yet easy entree.
Decorate cakes, pies, cheesecakes, or cupcakes with slices of carambola.
Use slices to garnish beverage glasses, or float slices in punch bowls.
Garnish entrees like baked hams, poultry, or seafood dishes with these festive slices.
CHERRIES: There are more than 1,000 varieties of cherries in the United States, but fewer than 10 are produced commercially. HOW TO PIT
There are two main groups of cherries ¬ sweet and sour, with about 250 different kinds which vary in color, size, and taste. Some of the primary cherry products at supermarkets are, of course, fresh cherries, cherry pie filling (both regular and light), unsweetened canned tart cherries, unsweetened frozen tart cherries, dried tart cherries, tart cherry juice and cherry concentrate. Other popular cherry products in supermarkets are cherry jams and jellies, frozen cherry pies, cheesecakes and turnovers, assorted cherry-filled cookies and pastries, and many other products.
SARAH SAYS: Fresh sour cherries may be the best option for baking. When not in season, use jarred Morello cherries packed in sugar syrup.
Health Benefits - Cherries contain an extremely significant quantity of melatonin, enough to produce positive results in the body. Melatonin is by far the most potent of the antioxidants, much more so than vitamins C, E and A. The reason: melatonin is soluble both in fat and water and can therefore enter some cells that vitamins cannot. For example, vitamin E is soluble in the lipid part of the cell only and vitamin C in the aqueous part. Melatonin is soluble in both. For this reason, eating cherries with high melatonin concentrations will increase the antioxidant capacity in the body.
One pound of frozen cherries equals about 3 cups .
There are about 2 1/3 cups cherry pie filling in a 21-ounce can.
There are about 2 cups of tart cherries in a 16-ounce can.
Package sizes of dried tart cherries vary; one pound equals about 3 1/2 cups.
Sweet cherries - It is the larger of the two types and they are firm, heart-shaped sweet cherries. The most popular varieties range from the dark red to the black Bing, to the golden red-blushed Royal Ann. Some varieties are Bing cherry, Rainier cherry, Lambert cherry, and Van cherry. Sweet cherries primarily are grown in the Pacific Coast states, but Michigan joins the top four producers, harvesting about 20 percent of the crop each year. Michigan produces about 50 million pounds of sweet cherries. The total U.S. production of sweet cherries is about 370 million pounds; about 175 million pounds of that is processed and are packed as frozen or canned sweet cherries or as maraschino or glacé cherries.
Sweet cherries date back to the Stone Age in Asia Minor They were dispersed throughout prehistoric Europe and brought to America by ship with early settlers in 1629. Cherries are named after the Turkish town of Cerasus (now called Giresun). Cherry stones found in the ancient lake dwellings in Switzerland attest to the prehistoric growth of this fruit. The early Romans cultivated several varieties of cherries. Modern day cherry production in the Northwest began in 1847, when Henderson Lewelling transported nursery stock by ox cart from Iowa to Western Oregon and established orchards. The Bing variety was developed on the Lewelling farm in 1875 from seeds and was named for one of his Chinese workmen. The Lambert started as a cross on the same farm. The Ranier originated from the crossing of the Bing and the Van by Dr. Harold W. Fogle at the Washington State University Research Station in Prosser, Washington.
Sour cherries or tart cherries - Tart cherries, which are sometimes called pie cherries or sour cherries, are seldom sold fresh because they ate too tart to eat out of hand; they generally are canned or frozen shortly after harvesting for use in products throughout the year. They are smaller, softer and more globular than the sweet varieties. The leading producer of tart cherries is Michigan, producing 70 to 75 percent of the crop each year. Utah grows about 8 percent of the crop; New York, about 5 percent; Wisconsin, 4 percent. Washington, Oregon and Pennsylvania also have commercial crops of tart cherries.
Unlike their more common sweet cousins, sour cherries, also known as tart cherries or pie cherries! There are two major kinds of sour cherries, amarelle and morello. The ones we see (when we see them) are known as Montmorency and are part of the amarelle classification. Their skin is bright red, but the flesh inside is pale yellow. Morello cherries, which are more prevalent in Europe, have darker skin and garnet red flesh. Sour cherries should not be confused with their sweet cousins, such as the deep-red Bing and the yellow and blush Rainier, which are bigger, firmer and great for eating out of hand but make mediocre baked desserts. Sour cherries are too tart for most people to enjoy raw, but they make superb preserves, pies and cobblers. They hold their shape better in cooking than sweet cherries do, even though they are softer and more delicate in their raw state. When cooked, their tartness mellows into a complex sweetness. They pair well with everything from vanilla ice cream to roast duck.
Their season is brief —- a few short weeks at the end of June and beginning of July — and the fruit itself is highly perishable. But if you can get your hands on them, they make excellent pies and preserves and pair well with anything from vanilla ice cream to roast duck. Because sour cherries are so perishable, you never see them in supermarkets, except as jars of preserves or canned pie filling. Sour cherries happen to freeze beautifully. I pitted them, arranged them on baking sheets and set them in the freezer for a couple of hours, until they were hard. Then transfer them to zipper-lock freezer bags and returned them to the freezer. Stored this way, the cherries will keep for one year.
CURRANTS, FRESH AND DRIED: Fresh currants are small, tart red, black or white berries in the gooseberry family. Dried currants are not the same thing as fresh ones. Dried currants are actually small raisins - the dried fruit of the Zante grape, originally from Corinth, Greece. Fresh currants (red, pink, black and white) are the fruits of plants in the gooseberry family, genus Ribes.
Black currants are used to make Cassis liqueur. Most fresh currants are used in jams, jellies, and preserves, and also for their juice. Red and white currants are used to make the prized French Bar-le Duc jelly, from the town of the same name in Lorraine. Red currants are also the key ingredient of Cumberland sauce. White currants are an albino variety of the red currant and are not as tart so they can be eaten out of hand.
DATES: Historians generally agree that almonds and dates, both mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, were among the earliest cultivated foods.
There are 60 references to date palms in the Old Testament. Dates contain up to 70% sugar by weight. The United States produces over 35 million pounds of dates each year, mostly in California. A good date palm can produce 300 to 600 pounds of dates per year, and will produce for 100 years or more.
DRAGON FRUIT or DRAGONFRUIT OR PITAYA OR PITAHAYA: Dragon fruit, also known as dragonfruit, pitaya, or pitahaya, is finding its way into fruit salads, smoothies, or can be eaten alone. It's high in fiber and loaded with nutritious vitamins, such as B and C, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and iron. To enjoy the dragon fruit, the pulpy flesh is what is enjoyed; cut the fruit in half, and spoon the flesh out, which can be white or bright pink. Dragon fruits are common in Asia (particularly in Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines) and in Central and South America.
DRIED FRUIT: There are hundreds and hundreds of varieties of fruit available in the United States, either grown primarily in California, or imported. Organic, unsweetened fruits rehydrate the best while fruits cured with fruit juice or sucrose, such as papaya spears, may not reconstitute well. Soaking liquid can be used as a sweet addition to baked goods, hot cereals or dried fruit compotes. Store dried or rehydrated fruit in airtight containers in the refrigerator. HOW TO REHYDRATE BEFORE USING IN A RECIPE
FRUIT PRESERVES, JELLY AND JAM: What’s the difference between Preserves, Jelly and Jam?
See JAM, below
GRAPES: Grapes don't stay fresh and smooth very long. Once those berries start looking more like raisins than grapes, pluck them from the stems and place in the freezer. They'll plump back up and are a delicious treat.
HONEY DEW MELON: (See also Melons) A ripe honeydew has a creamy yellow rind that's slightly soft. If your melon is completely ripe, hold at room temperature for 2-4 days before cutting. As cantaloupe, ripe fruit will give off a mild sweet melon aroma.
JAM: What’s the difference between Preserves, Jelly and Jam?
From Bonne Maman:
Preserves are made from cooking whole fruits. Pieces of fruit are present in each jar. Preserves feature a fuller fruit flavor compared to jams.
Jellies are made from only the juices of fruits. Jellies offer a uniform texture, are clear, and firm compared to preserves and jams.
Jams are made from crushed fruit and fruit puree, not whole fruit.
JELLY: See JAM, above
KIWI FRUIT: Formerly called the Chinese Gooseberry, it is now known as the kiwi fruit. It was introduced into New Zealand in 1906 from China, where it originated, and has been commercially cultivated there ever since. Since Chinese gooseberry is a rather unenchanting name, they decided to rename the fruit "kiwi." This name not only identifies New Zealand but also describes the tiny New Zealand Kiwi bird.
Ripe fruit should give to gentle pressure but not be overly mushy. Look for uniform brown color and fuzzy skin. Juicy fruit will feel heavy for its size.
LYCHEE: This fruit is native to China and is now grown in tropical climates of the United States. It is available fresh in Asian markets during the summer months and canned year-round. The fruit is covered with a thin, brittle, slightly bumpy shell that is easily removed with your fingers. The fruit inside is white, soft, and somewhat like a grape. It also has a wonderful aroma.
MANGO: While fresh mangos are available in the U.S. year-round, but summer brings a bounty of mangos.
It is a flavorful, low-calorie food that provides many vital nutrients, being an excellent source of vitamins C and A, and folate, and a good source of dietary fiber. It also contains over 20 different vitamins and minerals.
Mangos are harvested when mature, but not ripe. Don’t judge a mango’s ripeness by color; it can range from green or green (sweet-tart and crisp) to very ripe with red and/or orange in color (sweet and ultra-juicy). A ripe mango will “give” slightly when gently pressed; the more give, the riper the mango. Look for smooth unblemished skin and avoid ones that have shriveled or bruised skin. Ripen all varieties of mangos at an ideal temperature of 54-60 degrees F, or on the cool side of room temperature. Once ripe, fresh mangos will keep refrigerated for about five days. HOW TO CUT AND CUBE MANGOS
MELONS: Over 20 types of melons are available on the market. The most common varieties are cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon. At certain times of the year, variety melons are also in season. Melons are usually served slightly chilled with just a squeeze of lemon juice.
When choosing any melon, look for firmness with no soft or moldy areas. A quick ripeness test is a good melon-like fragrance. Since most melons are sold slightly under-ripe, they need to ripen for a few days to develop maximum flavor. To speed up ripening, place it whole in tightly closed paper bag. Once cut, melons should be refrigerated in a tightly closed plastic bag. A whole, ripe melon should be covered and refrigerated.
NECTARINES: (See Stone Fruits)
PAPAYAS: Ripe papayas can range in color from yellow-green to yellow-orange. Look for smooth unblemished skin. Papayas are harvested unripe and green; however they will ripen in 3-5 days at room temperature. Ripe papayas will keep refrigerated for about a week.
Peaches were first cultivated in ancient China, where they were considered a symbol of long life and immortality. In 1513, the Spanish introduced peaches to Florida where they quickly began to cultivate the extremely popular fruit. Peach farming slowly spread throughout the thirteen colonies and then westward towards the Mississippi River. In 1524, the Spanish introduced peaches to Central America independently. Beginning in Guatemala, peach farming spread north through Mexico and eventually, into California. In 1849, the gold rush initiated a population boom within California. As a result, eastern supply could no longer satisfy demand for peaches. California peach production began. Numerous varieties flourished in California's Mediterranean-like climate and an important industry was born.
There are two types of peaches, Freestone and Clingstone, both descendants of the first wild peaches from China. The Freestone Peach, usually enjoyed fresh, is distinguished by the ease with which the fruit separates from the pit. Conversely, the fruit of the Clingstone Peach "clings" to the pit. Clingstone Peaches are therefore processed (the pit is removed) and then used for canning or freezing.
Both freestones and clingstones are produced in California, but Cling Peach farming has been exceptionally successful. In fact, California produced nearly 100% of the 2001 US Cling Peach crop.
* Peaches aren’t as fuzzy as they used to be. Due to the consumer’s desire for “fuzz-less” peaches, most commercially grown peaches are mechanically brushed once they are picked. Peaches at local markets will be fuzzier than those purchased in supermarkets.
*Canned are okay, too. Canned peaches are comparable in nutrition to their fresh and frozen counterparts. They retain vitamins A and C throughout their canned life. Canned peaches can be substituted for fresh peaches in recipes such as pies, crisps and cobblers. Choose canned peaches that are in water or juice versus syrup because they will be lower in sugar and calories.
Selecting Peaches - Choosing peaches at the supermarket can be tricky because they are highly perishable and bruise very easily. Use these tips to help choose the best peaches:
If you expect to enjoy them within two days, look for peaches that are soft when light pressure is applied, not too hard, unblemished and possess a slightly sweet aroma. If you are purchasing fruit to eat later in the week, peaches that are firm to the touch will ripen within three to four days.
Storing unripe peaches in a paper bag at room temperature for a few days will ripen them. Store out of direct sunlight. Note: Peaches with a greenish color were picked before they matured and will never ripen. Once ripe, peaches can be stored in the refrigerator for three to five days, but it will change their texture and flavor. However, it’s best not to buy more peaches than you plan to use right away. Rinse peaches in cold water just before using.
Color is also an important indicator of quality. While the many varieties of fresh peaches vary in color, all should have yellow or creamy color tones and no green should be present. Red blush on peaches is not an indicator of ripeness.
HOW TO BLANCH, PEEL AND SLICE - PEACHES AND STONE FRUIT
Peaches must be peeled first before using as the filling in a pie recipe. This is best done by blanching them: slicing a cross in the bottom and then plunge them into boiling water. You will see the cut begin to peel, immediately remove them and then plunge into ice water to chill quickly. Then after a few minutes you can pick them up and with a paring knife, peel them. They are blanched, so you don't need to worry about them browning at this point.
However, unblanched peaches will turn brown once they are peeled. To prevent this, toss them lightly in lemon juice if you plan to serve them at a later time.
QUESTION: What is the difference between a peach and a nectarine? Is there a difference? Is a nectarine a cross between a peach and a plum?
SARAH SAYS: No, not at all. A nectarine is it's own fruit. No one knows for sure which came first, the nectarine or the peach, but one of them or actually both originated in China. In fact people claim big differences between the two, but the only important difference is that nectarines have smooth skins and peaches are fuzzy. They come from identical trees. Nectarines often originate from peach seeds and peaches from nectarine seeds
PEARS: When selecting fresh pears, choose firm fruit of good color for the variety. Surface blemishes and russeting are natural for some varieties and do not affect the fruit. HOW TO CUT AND CUBE / HOW TO POACH
Pears are picked mature but not ripe. They achieve their flavor when ripened off the tree. At home, ripen pears at room temperature until they yield to gentle pressure at the stem end. To quicken the ripening period, place fruit in loosely closed paper bag at room temperature for several days. Don't wait until a pear feels soft. Pears ripen from the inside out and should not be kept until they feel soft on the outside. When ripe, refrigerate pears or use right away.
Note: For cooking or baking, use firm, slightly under-ripe pears. For baking, my favorites are Bartlett and Bosc. The Bartlett is slightly sweeter and the more mealy of the two. The Bartlett's peel is tender so it does not have to be removed, but the Bosc's peel is bitter and tough. The flesh, however, is firm and holds up best when poached.
The most intense flavor resides just under the peel. The Bartlett's peel is far tenderer than the peel of an apple and also lends an attractive appearance. Removing it is a matter of personal preference. The most attractive way to remove the core is by slicing the pear in half lengthwise and using a pear-shaped coring device or melon baller to remove the core. Or the pear can be quartered lengthwise and the core removed with a paring knife
Because the flavor of a pear is more subtle than that of an apple, it requires less sugar (one-quarter less to my taste) and less spice. Rather than being overwhelmed, however, it is often enhanced by other flavors, such as cinnamon, almond, vanilla, caramel and even a hint of star anise or ginger.
Varieties of Pears:
ANJOU - This mild flavored, almost spicy pear has skin a deep shade of green at harvest that becomes lighter, flecked with yellow when carefully ripened. A short necked pear, the D'Anjou has a classic ovoid shape and tender skin. Harvested in late fall, D'Anjous keep well in cold storage from October to June. This French winter dessert pear is wonderful served fresh in the company of a good, robust cheese and ruby port.
BARTLETT - A sweet and juicy pear with green skin which turns yellow when ripe, Bartletts hold their shape well for baking. They're popular for canning as well as snacking. Peak season: July - Dec. Bartlett pear trees can still produce fruit after 100 years.
BOSC - This pear has a long, tapering neck with golden-brown skin which is highly russeted. It's sweet, juicy, and aromatic. Bosc pears are very good for baking, cooking, poaching, or eating fresh. Peak season Sept. - May.
COMICE - A very juicy, chubby pear with greenish yellow skin often blushed with red. Smooth and sweet, this pear is great to eat out of hand. Because of its very juicy texture, it tends to lose its shape during cooking and poaching. Peak season: Oct. - May.
FORELLE - A small bell-shaped pear with a bright yellow skin blushed and dotted with red. Its tender flesh is sweet and spicy. Forelles are good in salads or for snacks. Peak season: Oct. - Feb.
NELIS - A small to medium-sized pear, round in shape with a sweet flesh. Its light green russeted skin becomes more golden when ripe. Nelis pears are good for canning, cooking, or eating raw. Peak season: Oct. - May.
RED BARTLETT - Sweet and juicy and shaped like regular Bartlett’s, this pear has a bright crimson skin. They are tasty and especially attractive in salads or fruit bowls. Peak season: Aug. - Oct.
SECKEL - The smallest of pear varieties, Seckel pears are red or yellow-green with heavily red-blushed skin. Seckels are well suited for snacks or pickling.
PERSIMMONS: Persimmons come in a few varieties, the best known are Hachiya or Fuyu.
Their skin color can range from orange to red depending on the variety. The heart shaped Hachiya variety isn't ready to eat until it's very soft. If not fully ripe, it can be quite astringent, so keep at room temperature until very soft to bring this fruit to its finest flavor. The Fuyu variety, shaped somewhat like a tomato is ready to eat when only slightly soft. Persimmons can have a few seeds or be seedless. HOW TO CUT AND POACH PERSIMMONS
Nutrition: One persimmon (1 68g) has 118 calories and is an excellent source of Vitamin A. Persimmons are free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
Preparation: This sweet and delicate autumn fruit can be enjoyed simply cut into halves and served with a wedge of lemon or lime, or eaten with a spoon like a melon.
Persimmons are best peeled. Add persimmon slices to salads; arrange with slices of other fresh fruits.
Puree persimmons and add them to a delicious sampling of sweet offerings such as cakes, breads, puddings, chiffons, and more. Always add 1 to 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the puree to cut the astringent taste.
PINEAPPLE: In selecting a fresh pineapple, choose one that is plump and fresh looking. Fresh, deep green leaves are a good sign. Contrary to popular belief, the ease with which the leaves pull out is not a sign of ripeness. Dark spots on the bottom of the pineapple are an indication of an overly ripe fruit that's starting to go bad. Store them at room temperature for up to two days.
The most important indicator of a ripe pineapple is scent. Pick up a pineapple, turn it over and smell the bottom - if it has a mild, sweet aroma of pineapple, you have a ripe fruit. The less scent, the less ripe the pineapple. If the scent is overpowering, the fruit may even be too ripe and won't keep long.
1 medium pineapple, peeled & cored = 3 cups chunks
2 pounds whole fresh = 3 cups cubed
1/4 pound = 1 serving
20 ounce can = 10 cored slices
30 ounce can = 8 large cored slices
8 ounce can chunks = 2/3 cup drained chunks
8 ounce can chunks = 1/2 cup liquid
8 ounce can crushed = 2/3 cup drained
8 ounce can crushed = 1/3 cup liquid
Pineapples do not ripen after they are picked, so it's important to choose a good one, because your stuck with it in that stage of ripeness, which ill affect the intensity and sweetness of the fruit. Pineapples will soften and lighten in color after picking, but not ripen.
Keep in mind that a lot of the fruit is wasted in the pineapple because of the peeling process. The larger the pineapple, the larger the portion of edible fruit.
Preparation and Cooking Tips: Pineapple can be prepared in a variety of ways. The most common is to cut a thick slice from the top and bottom, then pare form the top downward. Next, remove the eyes by cutting diagonal grooves. Finally, cut into quarters or eighths and remove the core section form each.
PLUMS: There are three different classifications of plums: Japanese, European and American. Italian plums are a European plum and native to the Mediterranean coastal regions of Italy.
Italian "Prune" Plums AKA Empress plums, botanical name Prunica domestica, are a freestone fruit that are indeed the fruit that is responsible for prunes. Italian plums are considered a multi-purpose plum. Their ability to create a high concentration of fermentable sugars makes them the ideal candidate to create prunes. It makes a great fruit snack or, because of its small size and low water content, maintains its shape for baking in dessert recipes. Choose fairly firm to slightly soft fruit. The coloring will be deep-purple with a red blush and will darken to black as they ripen.
POMEGRANATE: As brilliant as rubies, and rich with flavor. A pomegranate is about the size of an orange with a thin hard red skin. Inside are hundreds of seeds, each surrounded by juicy translucent red pulp. The seeds and their pulp are the edible portion of the fruit. Demand for fresh pomegranates comes largely from eastern markets supplied from California by regular shipments from September to November.
Besides the fresh fruit, you can also buy pomegranate juice and pomegranate molasses, usually found in Middle Eastern stores. Grenadine is bright red, sweet pomegranate syrup but often made with other fruit concentrates, is used in several mixed drinks. It can be found in grocery or liquor stores.
Look for large pomegranate fruits which feel heavy for their size. Their leathery rinds range in color from yellow to purple, but generally pomegranates are a deep rich red. When choosing pomegranates, reject any with a brownis