Yes, there was a bit of a chill in the air this morning, and sure, there were lots of winter squashes and pumpkins to be had. But there were also heirloom tomatoes, and plenty of fruit to be had. These yellow raspberries look like pale imitations of the red ones, they are incredibly sweet and only a little but tart. Get them while you can.
Biting into a gooseberry is almost like biting into a tomato — there are tiny edible seeds suspended in a sweet, acidic gel. Why, then, do I like gooseberries but not tomatoes? Perhaps because the gooseberry is related, botanically speaking, to the tomatillo and not the tomato. In any case I don’t think I’ve ever seen them at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket before today. To my delight they affixed a small piece of netting to the top of the container so I could take it to go without gooseberries rolling all over the place.
When I visited Vietnam back in 2004, we were warned not to drink the tap water. This warning extended to beverages with ice in them, as well as to fruits that may have been washed in the water. We were there for a few days before we realized that plenty of fruits we found there had outer husks or peels, and that those fruits would be safe to eat. This is when I first discovered things like longans and dragon fruit. Since then I’ve pounced on opportunities to eat usual tropical fruits when I find them here in NYC but there’s nothing quite like eating them at the source, where they’re as fresh and delicious as you can get. When my sister and I were in Singapore and Malaysia in June, we made sure to eat as much fruit as we could find. (You may recall my eating fresh durian.) In the basement of Singapore’s Chinatown Complex we found the fruit section, and picked up some fresh lychees (a first for my sister) as well as bell apples, a first for both of us. The lychees were wonderfully sweet and juicy, though the bell apples were hardly sweet at all.
I recently visited Singapore and Malaysia, and here’s a short video shot by my sister while we were in Kuala Lumpur. Jalan Alor is a busy street, lined with restaurants and fruit vendors, where we sampled many fruits of Southeast Asia. Here’s my reaction to eating fresh durian for the first time. If you’ve never heard of durian, the outside resembles a spiky football. Inside are creamy lobes of fruit flesh surrounding large pits. Oh, and it smells like rotting garbage and is an acquired taste. It’s considered a delicacy, but because of the stench it’s been banned in many places, including our hotel.
Not seen above: I actually went back for a second piece. Once you get past the initial flavor, it starts to take on notes of caramel, which is great. But it’s still a struggle to eat it, and two pieces was all I really wanted to eat.
I was at my favorite Korean grocery the other day when I spotted a tray of something that looked like tiny apples, with mottled red and white skin. They were, of course, fresh passion fruit, something I’ve never seen before. I do enjoy passion fruit juice so I picked one up to take home. Using a serrated knife I cut through the tough outer skin to reveal the bright yellow seed pods, which when scooped out left behind anemone-like stubs on the inner part of the husk. The seed pods are the edible part; slightly sweet and brightly tart, with a slightly slimy texture, the fruit was very good. Unlike some of the other exotic fruit I’ve tried, the passion fruit I picked up was grown here in the U.S. — I didn’t know that we grew anything like this here.
Another one for the freaky fruit files — horned melon, aka kiwano. The hard, spiny outside opens up to a bright green interior. The fruit is actually hundreds of tiny gel sacs covering edible (but tasteless) seeds. The gel has the grassy taste of an unripe banana. Not the best thing I’ve ever eaten, but I only picked up the fruit for the novelty of its appearance, so what can you do?
My sister always says that I eat weird looking fruit (see the sugar apple, see also the mangosteen), so I thought I’d keep the ball rolling. Rambutans are native to Southeast Asia, and not “The Outer Limits” as was claimed by the specialty food store at which I bought them. Once you crack open the outer husk (which does require a bit of pressure) you reveal what looks like a lychee or longan, with a similar chewy texture. They are sweet, slightly acidic, and completely delicious. I wasn’t thrilled with the long, crumbly pit in the center; I wonder if that was the result of the long journey the fruit made on the way from Asia to my belly.
On a side note, I think that it’s funny to reject food based on the way it looks. Sure, I’m a vegetarian, but as a curious eater I’m willing to try any (non animal) food at least once.