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January, 2009

Winter's fresh fruits...

Cactus Pears
Cactus Pears
Also called Prickly Pears, Indian Figs or Tunas, cactus pears are a fruit indigenous to Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. They are now grown across the country and are becoming more and more popular among consumers. They are an egg-shaped fruit full of thorns or pricks, which are carefully removed before you purchase them. However, caution should still be taken when handling them. Cactus pears are delicious cut in half and scooped out. The vibrant red flesh is full of edible seed and can be used in jams, sauces, salads or drinks. Cactus pears are low calorie and a good source of vitamin C. They are also an excellent source of magnesium. Ripen fruit at room temperature, and then refrigerate until ready to use, no more than a few days. Cactus pears have a limited shelf life, so they are best when eaten as soon as they are ripe.


Meyer Lemons
Meyer Lemons
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.


Strawberry Papayas
Strawberry Papayas
Strawberry papayas are the most delicious papayas of all varieties. They are red-flesh papayas and are juicy with a hint of fresh peaches and berries. Strawberry papayas can be eaten plain, once ripe, or in fruit salads, in desserts or blended into drinks. Just cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and eat. You will think you are in the Tropics, once you taste one of these papayas. Strawberry Papayas are grown in several areas throughout their season. They grow in clusters at the top of the tree and are picked once they begin to streak with color. When you purchase a strawberry papaya, choose one that is soft to touch; it should have a slight blush of yellow as opposed to solid green. You can ripen fruit at room temperature in a paper bag in about 3 days. Strawberry papayas are low calorie and high in vitamin C. They have about 39 calories per 3 1/2 oz. serving.


Feijoas
Feijoas
Feijoas are sometimes referred to as 'pineapple guavas'. They are actually in the same family as a regular guava, cloves and the eucalyptus. Feijoas are grown around the globe with New Zealand being the top producer. Feijoas are small, oval shaped fruit that are generally used in desserts, fruit salads or jellies. They are often pureed for use in ice cream, sherbet, and pudding. Feijoas can be used in place of apples in many recipes. Feijoas should be stored at room temperature and are ripe when soft to touch. They will turn brown once cut open, so a sprinkle of lemon or lime juice will help prevent the oxidation. Feijoas are relatively low in calories with about 50 calories per 3½ ounces serving.





Blood Oranges
Blood Oranges
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.




Kumquats
Kumquats
Originally introduced in the mid-19th century to the U.S., 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 candied. Kumquats are generally available year-round with a few gaps in growing regions. Kumquats are best when kept refrigerated. They should have bright skin with no blemishes. They are very low in calories and have about 50 calories in a 3½ ounces serving. They are also an excellent source of Vitamin C.