I made a batch of membrillo yesterday, so I was amused to find quince at the Grand Army Plaza this morning, courtesy of Treelicious Orchards. The quince looks like a cross between an apple and a pear, but it’s usually too hard and too astringent to eat raw. It really benefits from long, slow cooking (with plenty of sugar). If you’re willing to put in the time to make membrillo, it’s completely worth it — although it’s traditionally paired with manchego cheese, if you’re already at the Farmer’s Market go ahead and pair your membrillo with the Womanchego from Cato Corner cheesemakers.
On Sunday I was down by Chinatown with my parents when I spotted a fruit I’d never seen before. The scaly green thing was had a sign that read “suger apple” (which I knew couldn’t be right) and sold for a whopping $8/pound. The lady at the fruit stand picked out a nice ripe one for me and I brought it home to try out. As soon as I cut it open I recognized it as something I’d heard of before — the custard apple. The sugar-apple is a variety that’s native to Southeast Asia, and I’m sure the high price is a reflection of how difficult it must be to ship this delicate fruit. The interior tasted like an Asian pear that had been put through the blender — not quite custard-y, but sweet and mushy (though full of hard black seeds). A unique experience, to be sure, and if you get the opportunity to taste it I highly recommend it.
Orchard Street is so named because in the 1700s the Lower East Side of Manhattan was home to an apple orchard (apparently named by a farmer named Delancey). This past Sunday saw the annual celebration of NYC Apple Day, in which a block of Orchard St was closed off to traffic to make way for a stage, some arts & crafts, and (more important to me) local restaurants. I sampled lots of apple-flavored items, almost to the point of palate exhaustion.
Grapes have arrived in their full glory at the Farmer’s Market, and after extensive research (read: tasting) I have settled on my favorite variety: the canadice. Canadice grapes are a red, seedless variety, and have a great blend of sweetness and acidity. Through a providential accident last week I ended up eating some that had gotten a sprinkling of lemon zest over the top — and it was a winning combination that I’m going to do on purpose next time.
There was more than a hint of autumn in the air at this morning’s market, and winter squash sat uneasily next to its summer brethren. This may be the last week to enjoy the unique flavor of ground cherries, a fruit you won’t find at your regular supermarket. Despite their name, ground cherries are more closely related to cape gooseberries, tomatillos, and tomatoes, which explains their other name: the husk tomato. Once you remove the papery husk the small orange fruit is revealed, and although many people compare the flavor to pineapple I’ve never found that to be the case. Their flavor is so unusual that you’ll find yourself popping them compulsively just to try and figure out what it is they do taste like.
It was hard to pick one thing to write about this week, especially considering that in the two weekends that I’ve been away almost all of the summer produce came into season. There was corn, okra, currants, apricots, and more (I arrived around 8:30am and was too late for the baby artichokes). However, these New Jersey peaches were so perfectly ripe and fragrant that I just had to feature them.
The official start of summer may be a couple of weeks away, but don’t tell that to the fruit. There were three kinds of cherries available, as well as these perfectly ripened raspberries and blueberries. I couldn’t help but grab a lot of each; I’m just not sure what I’m going to do with them. Any ideas?