By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

White Peaches—Yum!

What I like best about the summer months are the fruits that are available in the markets. By the end of May, I get very tired of apples and oranges and look forward to the arrival of peaches, apricots, and cherries. The apricots and cherries are available for only a short time, but the peaches last until the end of August or the beginning of September.

I particularly love white peaches. At this point of the year, they are not quite freestone, but they are delicious even if you have to cut around the stones.

Every day, I try to eat two or three different types of fruit. The most frequent are limes, which I squeeze into my hot and iced tea. Occasionally, I squeeze a lime into a glass, fill it almost to the top with water, and finish it off with a glug of tequila. Few drinks are as refreshing on a hot day.

In really hot weather, I make a pitcher of iced tea with lemon, a little dark rum, and several packets of artificial sweetener.

Later in the summer, the peaches become easier to divest of their stones, and tasty plums of different varieties become available. In September, I regret the passing of the summer fruits and look forward to fuyu persimmons. After persimmon season, it’s strictly apples and oranges until strawberries become available in February.

Strawberry Fields Forever

At a certain point in autumn, many fruits suddenly become unavailable—unless they are flown in from Latin America or grown in greenhouses. Apples and pears still abound, and there are always oranges and grapefruits, though initially, these are not at their best.

One characteristic of my own diet is that I must eat fresh fruit every day. Sometimes, I’ll eat figs or dates or other dried fruit, but nothing quite matches the experience of biting into a piece of fruit at its best. Fortunately, February has great oranges and tangerines, and you can start getting really good strawberries from Ventura County.

From now until November, a new fresh fruit season has begun. It will reach its height in June, when cherries and apricots are at their height. And later in summer, the freestone peaches and plums are there, at least until September. Then, I must wait for the Fuyu Persimmons to come into season. And after the persimmons, I am back to apples, pears, and dried fruit.

I suspect I became addicted to fresh fruit because, In Parma Heights, Ohio, we had about twenty fruit trees in our back yard. They were great eating, though a misery when it came to mowing the lawn around all the fallen fruit. If my health can be said to be good, I owe it largely to eating habits developed when I was very young.

Pursuing the Uncool #2

Smart Phones: Bonus or Onus?

This post grew out of a conversation between my brother Dan and me. He noted that I tended to distance myself from anything that smacked of the popular and acceptable. Agreeing with him, I thought I would formulate my somewhat strange philosophy of life. Distilled down to its essence, it is to at all times avoid bragging rights—across the board—and avoid the endless search for prestige, wealth, and everything in their train.  This is the second part in a series.

Smart Phones

They’re everywhere. People are actually surprised when I tell them I don’t have one. All I have is a flip phone which I never answer because most calls I receive on it are robocalls in Mandarin Chinese. So my cell phone is always turned off and used only for emergencies. Being always available to receive phone calls makes me feel more like a slave than someone in control. I would rather be aware of my surroundings than checking my e-mail several hundred times a day. (In fact, more than 90% of the e-mail on my computer is trying to sell me stuff.)

Eating Take-Out All the Time Is Not My Idea of Fun

Food Delivery Services

Not showing up in person is now considered the height of cool. That applies to restaurants, but also to other food delivery services such as those sponsored by supermarket chains and recipe of the week services like Blue Apron. My former neighbors in the apartment below used to receive a Blue Apron box every Tuesday—and for the rest of the week, we smelled the same identical food smells.

At Ralph’s Supermarkets, where I do most of my grocery shopping, there are legions of young people employed in shopping for others. Would I trust a young person who doesn’t know how to cook to select my meat and produce for me? Not on your life! My mother was raised on a Hungarian farm. As the oldest child, I learned at her side how to shop, especially for produce. I know how to tell male from female eggplants, and I’m surprisingly good at picking sweet watermelons with thin rinds.



The End of Summer

White Peaches

White Peaches

I do not regard Labor Day as the end of summer. Instead, I track the fruits that are in season. My favorites—cherries and apricots—have a short season lasting scarcely more than a month or so. Lasting about two or three months are when white peaches are in season. (I prefer them to yellow peaches, which I find to be too sweet.) When white peaches become pulpy, as I have observed at several places this week, summer is over.

Coming up is the season of Fuyu persimmons and pomegranates, which will last until some time in December. Then, or even before, I will have to switch to apples—preferably Honeycrisps. The worst time of the year for fruits is January and February, until the new season strawberries are ready for harvest.

As a diabetic, I am dependent on fruits for natural sweetness that does not tear down my health. And that’s why I am so fastened on fruit. I love going to places like Oak Glen in San Bernardino County, past Yucaipa, for fresh apples. There is a fruit stand called Cornejo’s near Fillmore where I can find wonderful fresh-picked fruit (though right now they are into Valencia oranges). The best fruits I have ever eaten were purchased from orchards in Tulare County on the road to Sequoia National Park.

So it goes, the year in fruit.


Crisp and Lightly Sweet

Fuyu Persimmons

For someone like me who cannot get through the day without fresh fruit, November provides some interesting alternatives. Because I am in Southern California, some of what I describe may not be available to those of you who inhabit colder climes.

Specifically, I am talking about two fruits that come into their own around now: the Fuyu Persimmon and the Asian Pear. Today, at the Westwood Farmers’ Market, I bought a couple of pounds of each.

Unless you are familiar with them, Fuyus look squat, hard and unripe. If you’ve ever bit into a hard Hachiya Persimmon and got a mouthful of alum, you are unlikely to experiment with Fuyus lest you repeat the negative effects. Fortunately, Fuyus taste good hard. Plus, having no inedible seeds or pits, you can just slice off the stiff top leaves and bite into the whole fruit like an apple without seeds.

You will notice two things right off: First, the Fuyu is quite crisp. And second, it is only lightly sweet. In contrast, a ripe Hachiya is, to my mind, too sweet. I rather like fruits that are not too sweet; that’s why I prefer Deglet Noor dates to the grossly sweet Medjools. Fuyus will keep for a week or more in the crisper of your refrigerator.

Asian Pear

Asian pears are very similar: They are crisp (somewhat like a Honey Crisp Apple) and lightly sweet, though they do have seeds like normal apples and pears. The main difference is that they taste best when peeled.

Predictably, Martine does not like either fruit; though I can’t seem to get enough of them. Not everybody likes the variety of fruit that I eat.

Just to show you how much variety there is in the produce throughout the year, check out this month by month list of what’s in season put out by the Southland Farmers’ Market Association. In contrast, here is what I imagine the offerings are in the Midwest, from which I originally hailed:

January – French Fries
February – French Fries
March – French Fries
April – French Fries
May – French Fries
June – Cherries, French Fries
July – Lots to Choose From
August – Lots to Choose From
September – Melons, French Fries
October – French Fries
November – French Fries
December – French Fries

Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, considering that California and Florida are busy shipping fruits all around the country—especially citrus fruits during the winter months—but the picture tends to be pretty bleak in general.