An apple sized pear that is almost perfectly round. There are several varieties, with skin ranging from speckled green, to yellow to golden brown. Its speckled nature accounts for its alternative name, the sand pear. The white flesh is crunchy like an apple but has a sweet flavor like a pear. Asian pears are extremely succulent and can be eaten like an apple or sliced as a garnish. Native to China and Japan, it is now grown widely in Southern California and available in late summer and early fall.

Also known as a dwarf banana, nino or datil, this miniature banana should be fully ripe, almost brown, to achieve the best flavor. The flavor is more concentrated and sweeter than a regular banana. Native to Southeast Asia, the earliest record of their cultivation is from India in the 6th century BC. In the 4th Century BC Alexander the Great encountered it on the tree in India and brought it back to Greece. Bananas reached China around the 2nd century AD and Africa around the first millennium. Because the climate of Europe is too cool for the plant, it remained unknown to most Europeans until 1402 when Portuguese sailors found it in West Africa and brought it to the Canary Islands. The Guinean's called the fruit "banema" which is how we came to call it a banana. The international banana trade was started by two Americans, Lorenzo Baker and Minor Keith, who began to ship bananas from the Caribbean to New Orleans, Boston and New York in the Early 1870's. Their organization, the United Fruit Company, grew to have great influence in Central America and its islands as most of their economy depended upon the company's business. It is from this that we get the term "banana republic".

There are several varieties, all with a reddish-purplish skin and a squatter finger than a regular banana. Ripe when the color of the skin brightens and the banana becomes softer. The flesh is creamy white to pink. They have a stronger banana flavor and some varieties contain a hint of strawberry. Two types grown in the East Indies are the Adam's Fig Tree and the Paradise Banana. These names come from the Muslim belief that bananas were the true "forbidden fruit" of Eden and that the banana skin was used to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness.

Also know as a mountain papaya although it is not a true variety of this species. The plant is not known in the wilds which suggests that it may be a hybrid of the traditional mountain papaya and another fruit form Ecuador which was breed by an ancient civilization. Its Latin name is Carica Pentagona, which refers to its five sides. Green when on the tree, the skin turns golden when it is completely ripe. The cream colored seedless flesh is aromatic and juicy which a slightly acidic, tropical fruit flavor which is often compared with that of a melon. It is native to the South American Andes but is now grown commercially in New Zealand.

Mark Twain pronounced this fruit "deliciousness itself." The name is derived from the Incan word "chirimuya", meaning cold seeds, because the fruit grows in altitudes of up to 6,000 feet. Shaped like a pine cone with a thick shingled pale green skin, it is highly perfumed. Ripe when skin turns darker green and fruit yields to gentle pressure. The creamy white flesh melts in your mouth, which is why it is sometimes called a custard apple. The distinctive taste is a blend of pineapple, banana, mango and vanilla. Cut into wedges and spoon out the fruit, discarding the seeds. It is best when slightly soft and served chilled.

Similar to a tangerine in appearance, although squatter. The thin loose skin makes it easy to peel. The tangy red-orange flesh is usually seedless and is eaten in sections like an orange. Cultivated mostly in Spain, Morocco and Algeria, it is considered the connoisseur's tangerine along with the Satsuma (although the Clementine is not, in fact, a tangerine but more closely related to the mandarin orange). Available from November through May.

Pronounced "fee-jo-ah", this egg shaped fruit comes from an ornamental evergreen tree. It is strongly scented when ripe with tones of pineapple, strawberry, lime and mint, similar to sweet-tarts candy. When slightly soft and ripe, the creamy white flesh is smooth but crisp, like the texture of a pear. The small seeds are edible. To eat, halve and scoop out flesh. Native to South America, it is now grown commercially in New Zealand and is starting to be cultivated in Southern California. Available from spring through fall.

A teardrop-shaped soft fruit in shades of white, purple, green and red. There are over 600 varieties, but only three common varieties are grown commercially; the black mission, calimyrna and kadota. A staple of ancient Mediterranean civilizations, it was held sacred by some tribes and symbolized peace and posterity for others. Figs have the highest sugar content of any fruit. There is a saying that a perfectly ripe fig has "the cloak of a beggar, and the eye of a widow," in that the skin may be tattered and the fig weeping juice. The flesh is soft, almost gooey, extremely sweet and slightly nutty. A fig can be eaten whole or sliced and added to salads, deserts or sauces for meat, poultry and game. Proscuitto and figs are a classic Italian combination and offered by Fraiche as one of our Epicurian Hampers.

Also called a kiwano. While it wins prizes for its unique appearance, many feel the flavor is unremarkable. The spiky, bright orange skin contains a gooey, jelly-like green flesh. The flavor is somewhere between a banana, watermelon and cucumber (in fact it is full of edible seeds reminiscent of a cucumber). It is mainly eaten fresh by slicing in half and scooping out the flesh. The emptied shell can be used as a dramatic serving container. Available year round, it is native to Africa but is now grown extensively in New Zealand and California.

Also called a Chinese gooseberry. An egg-sized fruit with fuzzy brown skin. The flesh is jade green with a center starburst of dark, edible seeds, has a delicate, sweet and slightly tart flavor combining banana, peach and strawberry tones. Ripe when the fruit gives to gentle pressure. To eat, peel and slice cross wise. It can be used in fruit salads, compotes, ice cream, preserves and as a garnish. Indeed, as the "poster child" for Nouvelle Cuisine, the Kiwi was somewhat overused during the 80's. Kiwi are rich in vitamin C, containing ten times more than an equal weight of lemons. Native to China, it was first commercially grown in New Zealand, hence the name. Seeds from the Yangtze valley were taken to New Zealand in the early 20th Century but it wasn't until the 1950's that it began to be exported to Europe and the United States. Oddly, the Chinese still do not regard it as a culinary item but use it as a tonic for children. It is now grown extensively in Southern California and available year round.

It is the smallest citrus fruit averaging only 1.5 inches. In Cantonese, kumquat means "golden orange." Eaten whole, it is the only fruit whose edible skin is sweeter than its tart flesh. Native to China, it is grown commercially in Japan and the United States and available from fall through the spring.

A smaller version of the lychee but with a smooth, leathery, light brown skin. It contains an off white, translucent sweet flesh that has a somewhat spicy, musty flavor with a large black seed that is inedible. It is not quite as juicy as the lychee. They can be frozen in their skins and thawed for use in cooked deserts. A native of China and Thailand, it is now grown in Southern Florida. Available in summer.

The size of a large grape with a rough, slightly spiky, leathery shell that is pink to deep red or brown. Peel the shell starting at the stem and eat the white, slightly translucent meat from around the large inedible seed. Some find the highly aromatic flavor similar to Muscat grapes, although most consider it more melon-like. Native to Eastern China were it has been cultivated for thousands of years, it is now grown in Southeast Asia, Australia, Israel, South Africa, Florida and Hawaii. It has a short growing season and is available mainly in mid-summer.

There are Over 500 varieties of mangos, with different shapes and sizes. They vary from a red oval the size of two fists to a flat yellow paisley-shape. The most common varieties are Tommy Atkins, Haden, and Kent. When ripe, the thin smooth skin turns red, orange, or yellow, and the fruit is soft to the touch. The flesh must be cut away from the large oval pit in order to be eaten. To separate the flesh from the seed, stand the mango on end and draw a knife through the fruit along the contour of the center seed. The luscious flesh is very juicy and can be messy to eat. Mangoes have been grown in India and Southeast Asia for thousands of years. It is now grown widely in all tropical and subtropical regions. While it is available year round, the peak season is summer and fall.

Named by early missionaries who saw all the elements of Christ's crucifixion depicted in its flower. To many it looks more like a rotten plum with leathery skin. The color varies from purple, to red, to brown. The tough skin becomes very wrinkled when ripe. To eat, cut in half and use a spoon to eat the highly fragrant yellow pulp and edible black seeds. The flavor is both sweet and sour. Native to Brazil.

Also called a melon pear or tree melon, it is the fruit of a small herbaceous bush. It is oval with a pointed end. The skin is light yellow when picked. As it ripens, purple stripes become pronounced and the skin tone darkens to a golden brown. To eat, cut into wedges like a melon, remove inedible seeds, and cut flesh from skin. The flesh is soft, dense, and very juicy. Flavor and aroma are melon-like. Native to Peru and the South American Andes, it is now grown as a major commercial crop in New Zealand.

The name comes from the Algonquin Indian tribe. This fruit grows on a large ornamental deciduous tree. It has a smooth orange, aromatic skin. The flesh has a tangy, sweet flavor like a cross between a pumpkin and a plum. Because of the high tannin level, it must be eaten fully ripe or it will taste astringent. There are two major commercial varieties, the Hachiya and Fuyu. The Hachiya is peach sized and shaped like a heart with a pointed bottom. Often there is a streak of purple or black on the skin. Ripe when very soft to touch, almost like a tomato. To eat, halve and scoop out with a spoon, or quarter and serve with lemon. The fuyu persimmon is light orange with a flat bottom, in contrast to the darker and pointed hachiya persimmon. Also unlike the hachiya, the fuyu is eaten while it is still hard. The flavor is sweet and slightly spicy. Eat like an apple with skin on or quarter and peel. Native to China and Japan.

A member of the berry family, it is an ancient fertility symbol because it has so many seeds. Indeed, the name itself refers to the many "grains" or seeds the fruit contains. Native to Persia, southern parts of the Soviet Union and across Afghanistan to the Himalayas. It was well known in ancient times and there is evidence that Moses had to assure the Israelites that they would find pomegranates again in the Promised Land. In ancient Greek mythology, Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of fruit, was carried off to the underworld by Pluto. She vowed not to eat while in captivity but eventually succumbed and ate a pomegranate, spitting out all the seeds except six, which she swallowed. When Pluto finally gave in to Demeter, he was allowed to keep Persphone for six months of every year on account of those seeds. These six months became winter.

The thick, leathery, crimson shell contains a pinkish pulp (very bitter) and edible scarlet seeds that are crunchy, sweet and tart. To eat, cut off the top stem low enough to expose the tops of the seed chambers. Insert two thumbs and pull apart being careful as the red juice contained in the seeds is indelible. Pick out the seeds either individually or in clusters. Pomegranate juice makes a refreshing drink. Grenadine is a concentrated syrup made from the juice.

Also known as a cactus pear. Like the pomegranate is actually a member of the berry family although it grows on a cactus bush. The thin spiny thorns should be removed before handling. It is orange, garnet or purple when ripe with a watermelon like aroma and intense flavor. It should be allowed to ripen at room temperature and then chilled before eating. The seeds are edible but if they are too large they can be strained out. It is native to Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Peak season is fall and winter.

Known as such because of its unique shape when sliced. Its formal name is carambola. As the fruit ripens the skin turns dark golden and the ribs start to become brown. The fruit has a thin waxy skin with a mild, sweet to tart, slightly acidic flesh that is both soft and crisp. Tartness can be minimized by cutting off the ribs which is where most of the oxalic acid is stored. Native to Java, it is now grown in Taiwan, Malaysia, the Caribbean, Hawaii and Florida.


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