Local Bounty: October 22
Asian Fruit from 99 Ranch Market
Posted Monday, October 22, 2012, 10:30AM
From left: Asian Pears, Dragon Fruit, and Longans at 99 Ranch Market
Poking around the produce department at 99 Ranch is always an adventure. And this time of year we get into the silly season of fruit. The raw jujubes—that look like tiny crab apples—are in play. So are persimmons in their vibrant orange cloaks. And gi-normous jack fruit weighs down the displays. But I was drawn to three distinctive fruits. Time to play show and tell.
A Trio of Asian Pears
Yes, I recently wrote about Asian pears. And then I stopped by 99 Ranch and found several varieties there, which is very unusual since they tend to be marketed in grocery stores as a single product. So, here we go again, with perhaps more enlightenment. All are big as softballs, crispy and juicy. But they do have slightly different flavor profiles. The russet brown Shinko pear from Korea ($2.59/lb.) is most like the Asian pears you find at places like Sprouts or the mainstream supermarkets. It has a rich sweetness to it and is quite juicy. The Golden pear ($2.69/lb.), which is dotted with freckles, seems to have the most neutral flavor, almost like jicama. Add these to a smoothie or even a stir fry. The 20th century pear ($2.49/lb.), the lightest in color of the three here, has a lovely honey flavor to it. It’s very meaty and would be splendid sautéed, baked into a pie, or poached.
I first encountered Dragon fruit years ago at 99 Ranch, but have since seen it at various local farmers markets. With its vibrant scaled pink skin and white flesh inundated with tiny black seeds, I think of it as the art deco fruit. In both flavor and texture, it’s reminiscent of kiwis, although it’s said to be native to Central America and Mexico. Typically, it’s peeled and the flesh is diced and added to salads or desserts, but given the texture, it is terrific pureed into a sweet tropical cocktail or combined with other tropical fruits to make a sorbet. ($2.49/lb.)
If you’ve ever eaten a lychee, you’ll get a sense of the texture and flavor of longans. They grow in big drooping clusters on large (30 to 40 feet) trees, native to southern China, but are found through out Asia. The fruit is about the size of a marble with a thin brown skin that’s easy to peel. There’s not much fruit inside, thanks to a large black seed that monopolizes the package. A fellow shopper said they’re basically just eaten as snacks, but in China they’re usually canned in syrup or dried. So, snack on them and enjoy the sweet floral flavor, or use them as you would a lychee—pit them and add to fruit salads, dessert soups, or cocktails. ($1.49/lb.)
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