For the past several months I’ve been intermittently reading The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession by Adam Leith Gollner, a fervent fruit fanatic if there ever were one. He speaks of blackberries the size of billiard balls; the pitabu, which tastes like orange sherbet with hints of almond and raspberry; a bright yellow egg-sized charichuela, tasting of lemonade-infused cotton candy; nam-nams, bembangans, taraps, dukus, giant sapodillas, scarlet gac fruits, bignays, mombins, jaboticabas and countless other ultra-exotics not to be found in our local markets. Fruits that I can dream about, but will likely never get my mouth around. In his books, he quotes fellow fruit hunter, Har Mahdeem: “There are thousands of plant species that produce edible fruits. No one has ever tasted even a fifth of them.” Imagine that!
“Nowadays, fruits have become part of the daily grind. We have unlimited access: they’re sold year-round, they’re cheap, and they shrivel into moldy lumps on our countertops. Eating one is practically a chore. Many people even dislike fruits [what?!]. Perhaps that’s because, on average, fruits are eaten two to three weeks after being picked. Our global economy demands standardized products: dependable, consistent and uniform. Having commodified nature, we’re eating the shrapnel of a worldwide homogeneity bomb. I’ve purchased identical apples in Borneo, Brazil, Budapest and Boston. Many of the fruits we eat were developed to ship well and spend ten days under the withering glow of fluorescent supermarket lights. The result is Stepford Fruits: gorgeous replicants that look perfect, feel like silicon implants and taste like tennis balls, mothballs or mealy, juiceless cotton wads.” Sound familiar? Even in a climate where fresh fruit should be abundant, the selection here is run-of-the-mill.
It’s no secret that I’m sweet on fruit – no perfect day can be complete without at least one type of fresh or dried variety. This book is putting a wanderlust in me that is almost uncontrollable. I can’t wait for the day when fruit importing regulations ease up, and we see some of these dream fruits in suburbia.
Having nothing whatsoever to do with fruit [unless you count the dreadfully ordinary red grapes], our supper may become a regular around here. I modified the Chicken Shawarma with Green Beans and Zucchini recipe from this month’s issue of Food & Wine by replacing the chicken thighs with fresh ground pork breakfast sausage. We mixed the spices into the meat, formed four small logs and then flattened them to neatly fit inside four pita pockets after pan-frying. He dubbed them “poor man’s gyros” and I agree, although we dined like royalty on these, cucumber-dill-onion salad and the grapes.
Enjoy the book and the recipe, please!