I love it when I can upgrade a fruit I eat on the regular with one that has a similar flavor profile, but tastes much better. Farewell tangerines, hello Gold Nugget Mandarins.
If you’ve been following along on my quest to taste 1,000 fruits, you’ll know that I’m a fan of this Seasonal Fruit poster by The Sweettooth Co. It tells you when you should be eating what, which is easier here in California where everything grows, but harder information to come by when you don’t have fruit stands every few feet. Do not bother with the December strawberries, team.
I’m a sucker for useful info graphics like this. Do you have a favorite one? If so, give a link in comments, and if we get enough of them I’ll make a Pinterest board.
My Taste 1,000 Fruits Project began as part of my Life List, but my mom passed on an interest in botany, so fruit has always intrigued me. Plus, it’s pretty much all I ate as a kid. Here’s a little background on the project from an interview with Bon Apetit:
My childhood home was on a half acre of land in California, and my mom was always planting fruit trees. I’d help her dig and say, ‘Could this tree be mine?’ She always said yes. So all that fresh fruit early on taught me that grocery store varieties of apples and lemons and other fruits were just terrible. Practically inedible, really.
Around the time I was making the list, I was reading Fruit Hunters by Adam Leith Gollner. I found it so inspiring, the idea of people obsessively pursuing new flavors. Once you’re an adult, you have so few opportunities for genuine novelty, to feel something you’ve never felt before, or taste something you’ve never tasted. The book said there were over 1,000 varieties of mango alone, which sounds so mythical doesn’t it?
I started tracking the fruits I was trying in 2009, nerd-style, and on a recent trip to Hawaii, I crossed off my hundredth fruit. Of those, these are the ten you must try if you get a chance. Do it. Put them in your mouth:
1. Mountain Rose Apple
One of the nicest things about trying all this fruit has been the surprises you find under mundane exteriors. Mountain Rose Apples are among my favorite fruits just because they’re so gorgeous. The unusual color makes you think more about the flavor. I love that about food, how eating better focuses everything and makes it easier to stay present. Maybe that’s why some of my happiest memories are of great meals.
This was actually my hundredth fruit, and I’ve never seen one outside of this fruit stand in Hawaii (you?). I described it as eating a baked apple plucked directly from the tree, and that’s the dominant memory. It tastes like fresh brown sugar.
3. Lemon Cucumber
Last year, my sister grew Lemon Cucumbers on her farm. So far, they’re the only kind of cucumbers I crave — very crisp and much less dense than the supermarket variety. Also slightly salty.
I tried these for the first time in the backyard of my childhood friend Liz Carter (hi, Liz!). This photo was taken in New York, where my friend Sarah Brown said they smell like a scented plastic babydoll. Feijoas taste a bit like kiwi with a pineapple edge.
Kiwiberries still seem magic to me. They’re grape-sized Kiwis without the fuzzy exterior, and you can just pop them in your mouth. It doesn’t seem like they should exist.
It used to be that you couldn’t get Mangosteens in the States, but recently the laws have relaxed so it’s not necessary to take a trip to Asia to try one. Click through on that link to see the interior, Mangosteens are gorgeous. The purple outer shell is like a thin layer of carrot over a wide hunk of red pith. The white sections inside taste like juicy, peach-perfumed pineapple candy. The flesh is a lot like a very ripe peach.
Tendrils attached to orange goo with bright green crunchy seeds that pop when you chew them. The goo tastes a little like a perfectly ripe, tart mango, but with more depth of flavor. With the pleasant crunch of the seeds, it reminded me of orange flavored Pop Rocks.
I tried these in Jamaica where they’re called Guineps and in Puerto Rico where they’re called Quenepas.You smash or bite the outer shell, which cracks open to reveal a jelly-like fruit inside with a large pit. They taste like citrusy peaches. You suck the fruit away from the pit, and the texture is a little like slimy algae. Much of the fruit pulp will stay on the pit. I’d love to freeze a bunch and use them as ice cubes in a tropical drink.
Tamarind grows in a hard pod with paste-like brown fruit around its seeds. It doesn’t look particularly appetizing. The fruit is very sour, but not like a lemon, there’s sweetness there too. It tastes almost like Crystal Light powder, but less chemical of course. You suck the fruit away from the seeds.
Cherimoya is one of my favorite new fruits, which is good because you can often find it at fancy grocers in California. Like a cross between a banana and a pineapple with texture a little like a peach. The flesh inside is white with large brown seeds in it. If you see one anywhere, try it.
Thanks to the Kahuku Land Farms Fruit Stand in Hawaii, I’ve officially hit 100 fruits. Milestone! Bam.
I told Mike, our trip lead, how close I was to being centufruitarian, and he went out of his way to find new fruits to try. Thanks to Mike, and the rest of the Hawaii Five Oh team for being so patient and enthusiastic with my quest.
These are the fruits that pushed us past the 100 mark:
When I asked the woman at the market what Chicos tasted like, she said, “brown sugar.” She had a bit of an accent, so I thought I’d misunderstood her.
She was exactly right. They’re soft inside, the dominant flavor is brown sugar, and they even seem to have little crunch granules in the flesh.
It was like eating a baked apple plucked directly from the tree.
More tiny snack fruits, hooray! These bananas are about as big as my palm, maybe a third of the size of a banana you’d find at the grocery store, and much, much tastier.
The ice cream banana is light and creamy, apt! The apple banana has a pleasant tartness that offsets the sweetness.
Both were fun to eat because you can shove the whole thing in your mouth, and then walk around beating your chest like King Kong. Which I recommend.
No. 103 Mountain Apples
These are a lot like Jamaican Apples, only smaller and tangier.
They’re less dense than a conventional apple, the crunch is more like a really crisp, seedless cucumber. Mmm. Quenchy.
This Friday, we’ll celebrate the century mark with a roundup of my top ten favorite fruits so far. You cannot wait. Fruit nerds, unite!
Can’t you almost smell that color?
When I first saw a Mountain Rose Apple, my breath caught. It reminded me of a professor who said that one of the Impressionist painters — I think it was Matisse — brought an apple as a gift when he visited friends. And that’s exactly what these apples are, tokens of affection. The best way to bring something simple and sweet to someone you love.
This year, my sister Raina started a little farm in Sonoma County and we visited this weekend. There wasn’t enough room in the fridge for all the veggies she sent home with me, so I’ve been putting up sauces and soups and eating too much salad for the last few days.
That photo up top is a lemon cucumber, one about as big as a man’s fist. It’s pretty, but apparently too old to be delicious. You want ones that are whiter and more the size of an apricot. I’m not generally a fan of cucumbers, but these are so crisp and light, not nearly as dense or tough as the supermarket variety. They taste like slightly savory cucumber water.
My sister planted Huckleberries out of curiosity, having never tried them. They have a similar consistency to blueberries, but they’re juicier, tart, and refreshing.
Raina described them as tasting like cucumbers to her, and these did have that aftertaste. I liked the flavor, but there was a richness to it. I didn’t really want more than one. Does anyone know how to prepare these in a way that makes them more appealing? I bet they’d make amazing jam.
I choose apples the same way I’d choose a puppy, by looking for the one with the prettiest spots. The Black Arkansas apple on the left is so gorgeous. So red, it truly is almost black, except for the mottling on the side. It’s tart and firm, seems like it would make a decent pie apple. The Davisson is flavorful, but a little sweeter.
With the addition of these two, we’re up to 96 fruits. Only 904 to go!
I just added a bunch of fruits to my Taste 1,000 Fruits Project. A few of my favorites:
I finally realize where artificial grape flavoring came from. Concord grapes taste like the fruit version of grape candy. They’re small, and have an exquisite texture. The outside peel isn’t solidly attached to the fruit inside, so you can squeeze one between your teeth and the interior fruit pops out. That’s how I ate the whole bunch.
Yali Asian Pears
Crisp and light, the flavor is almost like an essence, the way cucumber can scent water.
Sweet and juicy — if you’ve had Muscat wine, you know what these taste like.
I didn’t get a great photo, but this is one of my favorite new fruits. Like a cross between a banana and a pineapple with texture a little like a peach. The flesh inside is white with large brown seeds in it. If you see one anywhere, try it.
Winter citrus! These are Mandarinquats, tiny Kishu Mandarins, and a Fremont Mandarin.
Kishu Mandarins are so wee that the segments are about half the size of a quarter.
They’re very sweet, with barely enough tang to feel like you’re actually eating citrus.
Fremont Mandarins tasted similar to the Kishus, but larger, with a brighter peel that would make lovely zest. Also, they have seeds.
I was most excited about the Mandarinquats, which are a Mandarin-Kumquat hybrid. They’re supposed to be similar to kumquats, which have a super sweet peel and tart fruit. Kumquats are about the size of grapes, so you just pop them in your mouth whole, and I love them.
I do not love Mandarinquats. They’re pretty, but the peel is nowhere near as sweet as a kumquat, which means you’re just eating an orange peel. But! If you’re a bartender who wants to make a kumquat drink, these would be less time consuming to juice I guess. Also pretty in floral arrangements?
Meh. Mandarinquat, you are no friend of mine.