March is the start of fresh fruits for Spring
Also called Custard Apple or Custard Fruit, this delicious heart-shaped fruit is a delicacy in the exotic fruit arena. They are a hand-pollinated fruit, which makes them a time-consuming commercial crop. However, since they are grown in so many areas now, supply is not a problem. The flesh of the cherimoya is cream-colored with large, black, inedible seeds. They have a flavor similar to a blend of strawberry, mango and pineapple. To eat one, simply cut it into wedges and spoon out the creamy flesh, while discarding the seeds. They are generally eaten as is, but they can also be used in drinks, fruit salads or desserts.
Cherimoyas should be kept at room temperature until ready to eat, and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days after ripening. Cherimoyas are not a low calorie fruit, containing about 94 calories per 3½ ounce serving. They are also a source of vitamin B and fiber.
Passion Fruit originated in South America, most likely Brazil. Now, it is grown worldwide. The fruit comes from the passion flower, which is a beautiful tropical flower with a wonderful fragrance. Passion fruit is generally purple, but can also be golden, and has a jelly-like golden flesh, filled with soft, edible seeds. Passion fruit is round or egg-shaped, with a thick, hard shell that gets wrinkled as it ripens. Contrary to popular belief, Passion Fruit is named for the passion flower – this bloom is thought to symbolize various parts of the Passion of Christ (such as the crown of thorns and the nails of the crucifixion) – and not because of the passionate powers it was once believed to contain. Passion Fruit is generally eaten fresh, but may be cooked for use in sauces and fillings. Simply halve fruit and scoop the pulp and seeds with a spoon.
Passion fruit can be purchased with smooth skin for later use, or with wrinkled, dimpled skin for immediate use. The more wrinkles, the better it will taste! Passion fruit can be frozen once the flesh is removed from the shell. It is best stored at room temperature. Passion fruit is very low- calorie, with about 18 calories per medium fruit and contains vitamins A and C.
Also known as the African horned melon, this very interesting piece of fruit contains a lime green, jelly-like inside with the texture of a cool cucumber. The taste is a subtle combination of cucumber, banana, melon and lime. The outer shell is spiky golden-orange and is often used as a serving dish filled with fruit salad, dip or other delicious recipes. Kiwano melons are also used to create exotic tropical drinks or delicious sauces for seafood, poultry and vegetables.
Kiwano melons last for several weeks without refrigeration. Once they “give” to the touch, they are ripe and ready to eat. Do not store them near apples or bananas, as these fruits will shorten their shelf life. They are low in calories with only 24 calories in 3½ ounce, and contain more potassium than a banana. They are also high in Vitamin C.
Sweet Young Coconuts
Melissa’s delicious sweet young coconuts are a fun way to enjoy the tropical flavor of coconut! These young coconuts don’t have the hard husk like a mature coconut making them popular for snacking and cooking. The refreshing milk in the coconut is often used in exotic drinks, curry dishes or even by itself for a delicious treat. The inner flesh of a sweet young coconut can be easily scooped out to eat as a snack or to use in recipes. It is wonderful in salads, soups or desserts.
Sweet Young Coconuts are very perishable, so it is important to keep them refrigerated. They are available year around and should last about two weeks in the refrigerator.
This delicious fruit from California is also known as the Guayaba. It is often mistaken as a Feijoa, but it is actually a true guava. Guavas are ripe when soft and creamy in texture. They have a firm and crisp texture with an edible rind and small edible seeds. Guava’s have a mildly sweet-tart flavor. They are very aromatic and have a delicate floral aroma. Guavas are generally eaten fresh in fruit salad, desserts, preserves, sauces or juice.
Melissa’s Guavas are available all year around. They can be stored at room temperature or the refrigerator for a longer shelf life. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and are low calorie with on 30 calories per fruit.
Melissa’s strawberry papayas are the sweetest, most flavorful of all papayas. They are beautiful green on the outside, with a salmon-pink inner flesh. They are very fragrant and juicy. Strawberry papayas are delicious when cut in half and the flesh scooped out… great in fruit salads, tropical drinks or even grilled. Papayas also make a delicious marinade as they can help tenderize meat. Try them sliced for breakfast, or scooped over ice cream for dessert… any way you eat them, you will love them!
Strawberry papayas are available year around. They can be stored at room temperature to ripen, and then moved into the refrigerator until ready to eat. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and contain only 50 calories per cup.
Originally introduced to the U.S. in the mid-19th century, this ancient fruit has been familiar in Japan and China for thousands of years. These tiny citrus are bright orange and shaped like an egg. They are completely edible. The sweet, thin rind offsets the tart flesh. They are great as a snack or even when candied. Kumquats are generally available year-round with a few gaps in growing regions.
Kumquats are best when kept refrigerated. They should have bright orange skin with no blemishes. They are very low in calories and have about 50 calories in a 3½ ounce serving. They are also an excellent source of Vitamin C.
Pixie Tangerines are very sweet tangerines. They are a cross between a King and a Dancy tangerine. These tangerines are not only sweet and delicious, but they are also seedless and have very low acidity. They make delicious juice or snacks. Pixies were once considered a backyard fruit; only grown in small gardens and local areas of California. They were not commercially grown. Because of their great taste and attractive characteristics, they have grown in popularity. They are now available from Melissa’s throughout the U.S.
Like most tangerines, they are an excellent source of vitamin C and they also contain potassium, vitamin A and folic acid. They can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks, but they are best when eaten immediately.
Melissa’s Key Limes are small, delicious citrus fruits that are available year around and are very versatile. Key Limes are smaller than a common lime, and look rounder than a common lime. They have several seeds and are very fragrant. Key Limes are used in many tropical cuisines throughout the world; limes are a staple of Mexican, Caribbean, Central and South American, African, Indian, Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian and Pacific Island cooking.
Generally limes are used to flavor or enhance recipes. They are also used as a tenderizer for meats or as a marinade. Key Limes are delicious in drinks, adding a touch of flavor to whatever you add a fresh squeeze to. Try a squeeze in your favorite dish and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Key Limes can be stored at room temperature or stored in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life. Always rinse any citrus fruit before slicing and using in recipes or drinks. Limes are a good source of vitamin C.
Cara Cara Oranges
Cara Cara Oranges are an unusual navel orange with a beautiful pink colored flesh. They look like a regular orange on the outside, but once cut open, have a rosy colored flesh with a sweet, juicy flavor; they are a superior tasting orange. Cara Cara oranges originated in Venezuela and are now available to enjoy in the U.S. They are great as a snack and make a beautiful presentation in salads because of their extraordinary color. Also, cara cara oranges are generally seedless.
Cara Cara oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, a good source of potassium and are low in calories. Keep them at room temperature for about one week, or store them in the refrigerator for best flavor. The juice and zest can be frozen for up to 3 months. Use them immediately for the freshest flavor.
Oro Blancos are very similar to a Chinese Grapefruit, or Pummelo. They are often referred to as a white flesh pummelo. They are large and round or pear-shaped and have a very thick rind surrounding a regular sized fruit. They are deliciously sweet/tart and are very juicy. Oro Blancos are generally eaten like a regular grapefruit. They are also great in salads or when juiced.
Oro Blancos are best when eaten immediately, but can be stored at room temperature for about a week. They are high in vitamin C and are a source of potassium.
Meyer Lemons are also referred to as cooking lemons. They should not be confused with the regular lemons you find in the grocery store; Meyer Lemons are rounder in shape, have thinner skin, and the skin may have an orange blush. They are thought to be a cross between a lemon and an orange.
The Meyer Lemon tree was brought to the U.S. from China in 1908 by an employee of the U.S. Agriculture Department named Frank Meyer. It was first used as an ornamental tree until about 20 years ago. Some California chefs discovered their delicious flavor and fell in love with them, hence creating the need for a few small commercial growers to produce them. Meyer lemons are sweet tasting, and can be eaten whole including the skin and seeds. They have a nice tartness that gives a kick to everything they are used in. They are well suited in desserts because of their flavor. Meyer Lemons should be used immediately after purchasing (within 2-3 days). Keep them stored in the refrigerator for best flavor.
Melissa’s Blood Oranges are currently grown in California. These delicious sweet oranges get their name because of the red juice that turns the flesh, and sometimes the rind, a deep “blood” red. The juice is delicious and often served in fine restaurants instead of regular orange juice. Most blood oranges are seedless, but some varieties contain seeds.
Blood oranges are an excellent source of Vitamin C. They are best when kept in the refrigerator and eaten within several days of purchasing.
The pummelo is sometimes referred to as a Chinese Grapefruit or “shaddock” is a native fruit to Southeast Asia. Pummelos are often thought of as a “good luck” fruit, especially during Chinese New Year. They are thought to be a distant relative of a common grapefruit. Pummelos have a very thick rind with a fruit about the same size as a regular grapefruit in the center. They are delicious as a snack or even as juice.
Pummelos should be eaten as fresh as possible for the best flavor. They can be kept refrigerated or at room temperature. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C. In China, pummelos are thought to be an aid in digestion, making them even more popular.
The Buddha’s hand citrus is a very unique fruit. Known as fo-shou in China and bushukan in Japan, the impressive Buddha’s hand has a disputed history. Scholars cannot agree whether Buddhist monks carried it from India to China around the fourth century AD or if it naturally developed in the Yangtze Valley from another citron variety. It is a symbol of happiness, longevity and good fortune. It is very fragrant and has several “fingers” growing up from the base. This citrus fruit is generally used for the rind only, and can be substituted in any recipe that calls for lemon. It is often given as a gift during the Chinese New Year.
Asian pears are thought to be a cross between an apple and a pear, when actually they are closely related to a pear. They taste very similar to a pear, but resemble an apple, which is where the name derived. There are hundreds of varieties of Asian pears available today, making them available just about all year around. They are delicious eaten out of hand, firm and crunchy with plenty of quenching juice. Asian pears are great on fruit platters, in salads, in pies, or desserts, or where ever you may use an apple.
Most Asian pears will last about 30-60 days when refrigerated, but it is always best to eat as soon as possible. Store them in the refrigerator, wrapped carefully so they will not bruise. Most apple pears are handpicked and individually wrapped to prevent any bruising in shipping. Asian pears are a good source of Vitamin B and potassium. They are also low in calories (about 44 per 3 oz.) making them the perfect snack.
Also called niño, ladyfinger, or finger bananas, baby bananas are somewhat smaller than even the most popular yellow Cavendish banana, and are actually sweeter. They are native to tropical countries like Central and South America, the Caribbean and Mexico. Familiar in Latin American, African and Asian cooking, baby bananas are amazingly versatile. Shaped like a miniature slender banana, this small, crunchy specialty banana is usually eaten out of hand or sliced raw in fruit salads. Did you know… that the banana is considered an almost perfect food? The banana is very low in sodium, high in potassium, and contains approximately 6 vitamins and 11 other minerals.
The shape of this banana is flatter, smaller and squarer, yet just as versatile as other bananas. The burro banana is described as having a tangy lemony flavor. Once ripe, the soft flesh is creamy white or yellow with some firmness toward the center. Used when firm, the burro banana can be sliced and added to cereals or made into banana chips. The burro, softened, can also be mashed and used in cake and other dessert recipes.
A sweet banana with a touch of raspberry flavor, the short and plump red banana is easy to distinguish. The slightly pink and creamy flesh within a reddish-purple skin is often used to add flavor and color to many dishes. Similar to the traditional banana, this tropical fruit is imported from Central America, generally Ecuador. Red bananas are great in fruit compotes and salads or used in baking as you would any banana.
Larger and firmer than dessert bananas, plantains are commonly used as vegetables rather than fruits because of their lower sugar content. Extremely popular in Latin American countries, plantains are also favored in West Indian and African cooking. Plantains are rarely eaten raw unless completely black to insure ripeness, and are usually baked or fried and served like a potato. These “cooking bananas” have a mild, squash-like flavor and are used in a wide range of savory dishes.