froot!

April 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

That’s right, bell peppers are a fruit. I snapped a photo of these beauties at a farmer’s market in Austin last summer. I did not enhance the color of the photo in any way. GAH they’re so gorgeous – I can’t wait for the markets to begin in Minneapolis! Anyway.

Fruit is delicious, easy to eat, and healthy (DUH). But a lot of people don’t know how best to choose and prepare some of the most familiar market staples. This is a simple overview to help with cantaloupes, kiwis, and pineapples to begin.

Cantaloupe
Touch, look, smell! Choose a melon with ideal ripeness, which will ensure that the cantaloupe is moist, not soggy, and sweet. Pick up a few melons and choose one that feels surprisingly heavy, firm, and consistent across its skin. Most fruit is designed to attract attention/eating when it’s ready – and cantaloupe is no different. So, you want to choose a cantaloupe that was harvested after it’d fallen off its stem or was cut close to that time. Although a melon might get more tender after it falls, it’s sweetness depends on vine-ripening. Look for the cantaloupe’s “belly button” (also known as its butter spot, or field spot) and make sure it’s just a little yellow. The area around that spot may be a bit soft and that’s alright. Finally, a good melon wants you to eat it, so it will emit its cantaloupe-y perfume to grab your attention. If a melon doesn’t smell delicious, it’s probably not delicious.

Kiwi
A ripe kiwi will be slightly firmer than a ripe pear. Press lightly against its skin and if it gives easily, it’s ready to be eaten. The skin should feel and look dry, not moist. Kiwis, like cantaloupes, will smell great when they’re ready to be eaten. Although they’re pretty easy to choose, kiwis can be a pain to prepare efficiently if you don’t know the trick. That trick is: a spoon. Cut the top or bottom of the kiwi off, fairly close to its end (you can eat the non-seedy flesh of the kiwi so save as much as possible). Getting as close to the skin as possible, insert a spoon so that it hugs the curve of the kiwi, and slowly work your way to the bottom and then around the fruit. If you occasionally break through the skin, that’s alright, just start again from the top – it means you’re saving more of the kiwi flesh. If this is difficult to visualize, check out this video which uses the same trick. Once you’re finished removing the skin cut the kiwi in half, lay the flat portion down, and slice.

Pineapple
Touch, look, smell! Like a good cantaloupe and kiwi, a ripe pineapple will smell tasty, but sometimes their scent is more subtle. To get a good whiff, inhale at the base of the pineapple’s leaves. Those same leaves should be very green and healthy in appearance. The pineapple’s eyes (or scales) should be fairly even and coherent in size. While pineapples will generally be harder to the touch, one that is good and ripe will still give under the pressure of your squeeze – a little less than the kiwi, which is a little less than a pear. To prepare a pineapple easily, cut off the top and bottom as wastelessly as possible, and then quarter the fruit vertically. Stand those quarters straight up, like totem poles, and run a sharp knife down the back to remove the skin, and then slice the remaining flesh into chunks.

You might read/hear of other ways to prepare a pineapple, but during my 5-week stay in Costa Rica this is how I watched many locals eat the fruit and it has always worked well for me. The man next to me in the photo above had many talents, he was a fantastic scuba diver and competitive karaoke singer, but he could also cut a pineapple with the speed of God – in the way I described above. Good luck and happy eating!

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