What is a fruit?
A fruit is the matured ovary of a plant. They contain the seeds for the next generation of plant and by making their fruit taste sweet animals, including humans are attracted to them to eat and disperse the seeds. Most fruit is delicious to eat with no preparation, but through cooking they can be made into tarts, compotes, shakes, juices and many others things.
Citrus fruits have a stippled rind that is rich in vitamin C and other important nutrients. Most are first peeled and then the pulp is eaten or it can be squeezed and drunk as juice. The peel itself is full of fragrant oils and the zest can be used as flavouring.
There are numerous types of citrus fruit although the most common types include:
Oranges (several varieties including mandarins and tangerines)
Grapefruit (this includes the Chinese grapefruit also known as a pomelo or shaddock)
Lemon and Lime
Berries are a delicious but usually fragile fruit that grow on vines, bushes and runners. Berries have many qualities, they are colourful, good for you, easy to prepare and they taste delicious, they can be eaten as they are or used in many dishes. One downside of berries is that they are often quite expensive. This is usually connected to the difficulty in getting the berries to the market in one piece and still looking as good as they did when picked. They spoil easily and mould will quickly grow affecting the surrounding berries. The berries with the deepest colours are usually the sweetest tasting.
Berries come in all sizes and colours and include:
Blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, raspberry, gooseberry, cape gooseberry, loganberry and of course the strawberry
Boysenberry- this is a hybrid berry, a cross between a blackberry, a raspberry and a loganberry
Currant- this is easily confused with the dried fruit of the same name, the fresh currants are available in red, black and white
Grapes and Kiwi fruit
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The stone fruit family includes cherries, plums, apricots, nectarines and peaches. They are abundant during the summer months and more expensive imports are available in the off season. They are often picked before fully ripened so as not to bruise during transportation to the markets. The best fruits are chosen by colour and not how soft they are, they should be left to ripen for a few days at room temperature.
The aserola or the Barbados cherry is also known as the Puerto Rican cherry or the West Indian cherry is very rich in vitamin C but also very acidic. They can be eaten but are best used for making preserves or jam.
The aprium is a cross between an apricot and a plum, with the apricot being the dominating taste.
There are three main types of cherries, sweet, sour and choke. Sweet are best eaten as they are, sour should be used for making pies etc while the choke cherries have a very tart taste and are best used in preserves.
Common types of Tropical Fruit
There are several varieties of common tropical fruit we see every day including:
Bananas- most bananas we consume are yellow and either Cavendish bananas or the shorter chunky burro banana. Manzano bananas are smaller and drier while the red banana with a purple peel can be used in baking. The plantain is larger and used in frying, baking or can be mashed before eating.
Coconut- the most common type of coconut we see is the dry coconut with its hard brown shell. Green coconuts or water coconuts are young coconuts with very soft white meat inside. Never select coconuts that have cracks in them or mould. Coconuts that appear to be too heavy for their size contain lots of water and should be avoided.
Dates- you may sometimes find fresh dates in the late summer, they are crunchy and not as sweet as dried dates.
Figs- the Mission fig or black Mission fig has purple skin and pink flesh. Dried figs are not a good substitute for the fresh variety.
Mango- it is always a challenge to eat a fresh mango as the pulp clings to either the stone or the skin. By the time you succeed you are eating a pulpy mess. It is however one of the world’s most popular tropical fruits. It tastes sweet and juicy with a wonderful distinct flavour.
Papaya- also known as the tree melon, the papaya tastes wonderful in salads, as a pureed fruit drink or eaten as it is once peeled and the seeds are removed.
Pineapple- this common fruit is very versatile, juicy and a little acidic. They can be eaten raw, squeezed for juice, skewered and grilled, used sliced or into chunks as a garnish. They have so many uses. Pineapples are good for you as they contain vitamin C.
Various varieties of Melons
Melons are great to eat by themselves; the most common varieties are the cantaloupe or rockmelon which tastes very sweet. The honeydew melon is a large melon with green or orange flesh. The watermelon has around 50 varieties with each having a similar taste. They vary in size, the colour of their flesh and whether they are seeded or seedless.
The pome fruit family includes apples, pears, Asian pears and loquats. There are countless varieties of apples and pears available.