Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fruits of the Season

I love this time of year! Beginning in October, the food is wonderful, and I enjoy the holidays so much, partly because of certain foods that are not available in their freshest, most natural form the rest of the year. These are three of my favorites, and it's only coincidental that they all begin with the letter "P" (though that's kind of interesting, I guess).
 Persimmons, pomegranates, and pumpkins, oh my! There are two kinds of persimmons, Fuyu and Hachiya, and while both are delicious, they're quite different. The Fuyus, like the ones in this picture, look like squatty tomatoes, and can be eaten while they're still firm, though a deeper color indicates a deeper, sweeter flavor. Hachiyas have pointy bottoms and you must let them get quite soft (at which point you can cut them in half and scoop the flesh out of the peel with a spoon) or else they're very astringent - you've never really puckered up till you've tried to eat an unripe Hachiya! The color will change and cracks will begin to develop in the skin - just be patient enough to wait that long. Fuyus can also get pretty soft and keep getting sweeter and more delicious but you don't have to wait before eating them. The pumpkins in this picture go by different names in different countries, Muscat (or Musquée) de Provence in France, Calabaza Castiliana in Spain and Mexico. They're as decorative as they are delicious, for any of the many things you can make with ordinary pumpkin.
 We have a pomegranate plant and I thought we'd get a good crop this year at last. I sprayed them with insecticidal soap to keep the pomegranate bugs off, but then I became less vigilant and suddenly the bugs were attacking! By then the fruits were ripe, so I picked them and determined I'd caught them just in time - no harm done. The easiest way to separate out the seeds with their juicy, sweet, jewel-like surrounding is to quarter the fruit and then drop the sections in a large bowlful of water, where you can pull the seeds away from the membrane. The seeds will sink, the peels and membranes will float, and you can just skim off what you don't want and throw it in the compost.
When I was a little girl my grandmother always bought a few pomegranates around Christmas time and we just ate the seeds as a special treat. Since then, of course, all kinds of delicious pomegranate products have appeared on the market; juice is just the beginning. I still prefer them in their most natural state, though. The salad above was especially yummy, just mixed baby greens, wedges of peeled persimmon, and pomegranate seeds, with a white balsamic vinaigrette ( In fact, I think I'll make another one just like it for Christmas Eve dinner!

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