The Time is Ripe

Summer’s harvest begins to add fragrance to our shops and gardens in late Spring and just as Summer fruits start to taste their best, the price drops. So, now is the time to enjoy peaches, cherries, grapes, plums, apricots, nectarines, mangoes, raspberries, pineapples and strawberries.

Wild strawberries, whose Latin name Fragraria means “fragrance”, have been used medicinally since Roman times. They were grown from runners until new species from North and South America arrived in Australia in the 1750s. These species had larger fruit, so growers experimented with cross breeding. Initial plantings produced no fruit, until growers learned that some plants were male and others female.

The modern strawberry is a cultivar, first produced in France around 1766. Choose strawberries by their sweet fragrance and glossy exterior and check carefully for bruising or marking.

India’s national fruit, the mango, adds flavour to many different dishes. Add mango to a super-spicy chutney or curry, a smoothie, or simply enjoy it on its own. Grapes and chunks of sweet pineapple add interest to a summer salad.

The stone fruits chosen for easy transportation by supermarkets are probably the least flavoursome, so if you can grow heritage types at home you can enjoy their old-fashioned scent and taste.

Look for dwarf trees of many heritage fruits, some of which are small enough to grow in pots. Most fruit offers a broad range of vitamins and antioxidants; strawberries are particularly high in Vitamin C.

Many fruits are treated with chemical sprays to retain freshness. Strawberries top the list, but grapes, apples, peaches and nectarines are often sprayed too. Pineapples, mangoes, papayas, kiwi fruit and cantaloupes are hardier and less likely to be treated.

Don’t let that stop you eating fruit though – just make sure you wash it thoroughly, or buy or grow organic. Hunt down a pick-your-own farm and discover where and how your fruit is grown.

words Jane Canaway

illustrations Clementine/The Illustration Room

 

Cooking tip
The enzymes in fresh kiwi fruit,
papaya and pineapple can be used
as meat tenderisers in marinades

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Article by Jane Canaway

British-born, schooled in Holland and Wales, I worked my journalism cadetship in the Home Counties, escaped to London, then spent a couple of years travelling before settling in Melbourne, where I have written and edited for a range of publications, including Pacific Magazines [Your Garden, Home Beautiful, New Idea] and Fairfax Community Newspapers. Now a mother of two wonderful teenagers, I write about gardening, sustainability and people, when I can drag myself away from the vegie patch and my saxophone.
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