MORE FRUIT!

Talking of Pleasure, this moment I was writing with one hand, and with the other holding to my Mouth a Nectarine — how good how fine. It went down all pulpy, slushy, oozy, all its delicious embonpoint melted down my throat like a large, beautified Strawberry.  ~John Keats (1795 – 1821)


ONLY THE GOOD FRIDAY . . . AND ANY DAY
Nectarines, strawberries, melons – all fruit, actually – is best eaten as is.  No cookin’, no chillin’, no kiddin’!  In the morning, in the evening, at lunchtime and all points in between, you can’t beat a piece of ripe fruit or a bowl of assorted colors for a pick-me-up or snack brimming with a host of elements that Mother Nature provides.

Eat a piece of fruit just because it’s there, full of inherent sweetness, antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, minerals.  Fruit’s got it all!  You simply cannot go wrong with summer ripened fruit.  It is the sunshine of my day.

PEACHES AND THEIR COUSIN, THE NECTARINE

Peaches and nectarines ripen nicely in the fruit bowl and, if sweet, will fill your kitchen with a fragrance that is summer itself.  Peaches are close to nectarines in size, shape and coloration, but the peach is the one with the unique skin covering we call peach fuzz.  This fuzz washes off under running water and a gentle rub.

Most everyone is familiar with peaches and nectarines, and their similar characteristics, so I’m going to describe the flavor differences like this:  gather some people of all ages at your table, a plate of peach slices and one of nectarine slices in front of each.  Blindfold them.  The people, not the fruit.  Tell them to describe the differences, and see if they can tell them apart.  Children will delight in this little game of taste and tell.

MANGO
Selecting a good mango is not easy.  Oh, they may look good, with their  bright blush of yellow turning to red and only hints of green, but unless you pick it up and judge carefully by feel, you’re likely to get a white mango.  That is one that has been picked prematurely, and will never ripen.  The skin may turn almost completely red, but the fruit inside will not soften, and the flesh will not have developed any hint of sweetness or juiciness that are the dual  delights of a mango.  And let me tell you, friends, you do not want to eat a mango that has not ripened.  I pass up far more mangos than I buy.

SELECT
So how do you get a mango that is suitable for eating?   Practice.  Select one where the green is already turning yellow, the yellow already reddening.  Firm specimens that yield ever so slightly to the touch are just entering the final ripening stage.  Pass on the one that is hard, go for those that are already beginning to soften but with skins still smooth, not yet begun to wrinkle.  This is the mango you want, and your searching efforts will be juicily rewarded.

Avoid bruises and soft spots.  Especially avoid black dots; they are mold, the growth of which are often more developed on the inside than on the outside.  And there is nothing to guarantee disappointment than opening up a mango and discovering that it is black inside.

Rinse under cold running water to remove bits of dirt.  If it’s not an organic mango, warm water will remove most chemicals used while growing.  Store a mango in the fruit bowl at room temperature until it has fully ripened.  To speed ripening, place in a paper bag for a day or two.  When ripe, it will feel soft beneath the tough skin.

CUT
Cutting a mango is a little bit of a challenge but there’s nothing like doing it a few times to alleviate any mango-averse propensities.  You’ll need two knives and a bowl.  The large pit has fairly flat sides, so you can slice off each end easily – cutting parallel and close to the pit in one thick slice – with a bread knife.

If you’re right-handed, hold one slice in the palm of your left hand.  With a sharp paring knife in your right hand, score a checkerboard into the flesh of the fruit, stopping the blade before it pierces the skin.  You can feel the tip of the knife against the tough skin of the mango.  Then insert the blade of the knife as close to the skin as possible and run it around the edge, rotating the fruit in your hand, freeing the flesh from the skin, and letting the scored cubes fall into the bowl.  Scrape the juicy remnants of fruit from the skin – yours and the mango’s. Repeat with the other end slice.

Next,  peel the skin away from the center slice that holds the pit, and scrape any pulp with the knife.  The flesh closest to the pit will be more fibrous and difficult to cut away.  No matter, the final step is to squeeze the pit tightly in your hand, letting the juice from the fruit clinging to the pit run into the bowl.  There will be a lot of juicy pulp.  Mmmmmm.

STORE
If only part of it has been cut, store it, unpeeled, on a plate – cut side down – in the refrigerator.  The best place for a mango, and most fruit, is in the fruit bowl at room temperature.  Remember to cut up fruit for fruit salad just before eating.  No need to spend an hour peeling an slicing an enormous amount to last the week.  Just take a peach, a few strawberries, a handful of blueberries, and one end of a mango and you’re sitting before a bowl for yourself in less than five minutes.  No good can come of keeping a bowl of fruit salad in the refrigerator, as it shrivels and wilts with every passing hour.

EAT
The deep yellow color of a mango is good added to a bowl of any assortment of fruit, and especially satisfying cuddling next to blueberries.  Difference of color, taste and texture have fruits singing a culinary concerto.  Mango makes a fruit salad juicy and memorable, whether an individual serving or a large bowlful for many.  As far as I’m concerned, fruit rules.  It’s all good.  Brightens a bad day and makes a good day even better.  What’s your most frequently eaten fruit?

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