Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I'm Loco for Loquats!

This Monday I headed out to the Homestead Farmers Market (Mondays 2p-6p @ Losner Park on Krome Ave) for the weeks fix of local goodness, and as usual, it didn't disappoint. The Bee Heaven Farm tent was filled with fresh organic greens, vegetables and fruit. Hani from Redland Mediterranean Organics was on hand with plenty of Falafel, goat cheese and tabbouleh to go around and since it was Presidents Day, they had a band up on stage jamming out. Not a bad place to get your greens if you ask me. Here are some pics of this weeks edible highlights.
Farmer Margie of Bee Haven Farm handling some urgent farm business on the phone
Edible flowers! A really nice way to dress up your salad or dining room table

My latest obsession - Redland Red Skin Potatoes

Heirloom pole beans 

Nope, those aren't carrots, those are radishes!

Free-Range Organic Chicken eggs - I was SO happy to see these

More radishes, these are the red & green "Watermelon" variety

Things were buzzing at the Bee Haven Tent!
Among all of the above, I stumbled across a little box with a big surprise inside. There, sitting on the table at the Bee Heaven Organic Farm tent alongside all the usual awesome organic produce was what looked like a box filled with tiny golden pears. They were about the size of a small egg, firm for their ripeness and possessed a thin, deeply yellow skin. In short, a quietly beautiful piece of fruit. 

Being abnormally attracted to strange things, I immediately asked Farmer Margie what they were. "Loquats" she answered. Ah, that most unfortunately named fruit. I had heard about them on occasion but at last it was nice to "put a face to a name". And WHAT a name, LOQUAT...I mean, come on...Loquat rhymes with "squat"...and nothing good ever happened in a sentence that contained the word "squat". Not being one to turn down an opportunity to sample an unfamiliar flavor, I looked beyond the name and picked up a box to take home.

Originally from southeastern China & southern Japan, Loquats are also known as "Japanese Plums". It is a fruit with a long and globetrotting history. Horticulturists have had a field day with the Loquat, creating, discovering, cataloging and promoting over 800 different varieties since the 1700's. Alas, like most things from abroad, Loquats found a welcome, sunny home in the fertile soil of South Florida sometime around 1867. For more "specific & scientific" information on this curious fruit, visit the Perdue University - School of Horticulture site.   

Meanwhile, back at the lab...I put my paring knife to work and sliced into one. Whats inside? Two to three shiny seeds and from there...nothing but firm, juicy golden colored flesh, ripe (pardon the pun) for the snacking. The flavor and consistency is very much like a plum except with a beautiful hint of citrus flavor, it's tangy and sweet at the same time. My mouth was very happy... 

That was it, I was hooked, I am now officially "loco for loquats". Being as Loquat season is just kicking off, my palate is on the long, delicious road to Tasty-Town for the next few months. The wheels in my brain are now turning as to what to do with this new found treasure. Jam? Ice Cream? Sweet & tangy BBQ sauce? Maybe a simple little Loquat gallette? Who knows!...these ideas will "transmogrify" themselves into local goodness in the coming weeks so stay tuned...(my thanks to Calvin & Hobbes for the questionably used vocab word...I knew those hours of reading would pay off!) In short, these tangy, sweet & delicious fruit have found a home in my kitchen for many seasons to come and for that, I am happy.

Now mind you, Loquats aren't the kind of thing you find at your local grocery store and this is due to various reasons. Among them are consumer demand, possible shipping & storage issues and the publics general lack of familiarity with the fruit. The good news though is that down here in South Florida, it IS the sort of thing you can encounter at your local farmers market with relative frequency.  

As consumers we are so used to thinking of fruit as "grapes, apples, bananas & oranges" but luckily down here in South Florida we are exposed to a universe of different fruits and vegetables, many of which are available year round.

This is what shows up when you Google "Fruit"...tell me Loquats aren't sexy now!
Things like Carambola, Lychee, Longans, Sapote, Canistel, Dragonfruit and many other "out of the ordinary" fruit are seasonal staples of our local fields & groves. So why not explore these flavors and expand your knowledge of what grows in your community while supporting growers who dabble in the unique. Who knows, you might just enjoy it.

Canistel or "egg fruit" - a creamy, sweet orange colored fruit that's worth a taste
Dragonfruit in bloom
Bumpy, lumpy, sweet and delicious Dragonfruit
The softer side of the Dragonfruit - edible, seeds and all
 So if there is one takeaway from all this, it's to be open to new flavors and don't be afraid to explore. A good way to do this is to make a point of picking out one thing you wouldn't normally buy, look for the odd, the strange and go for it. Ask the farmer what to do with it and take it home and try it. Whats the worst that can happen? You are out five bucks and you have something to throw in your compost do compost don't you?...(no worries, that's a future post and easier than you can imagine.)

Nine times out of ten, what happens is you "discover" something new and delicious and all of a sudden, the unfamiliar becomes familiar. You now have new tastes to savor and new ingredients to experiment with, plus you'll have something cool to show your friends from up north when they come down to visit. In the meantime you've helped sustain variety in our markets as well as contributed to the livelihoods of farmers in your community. All for eating a simple piece of fruit. Just goes to show that small gestures can often make a big difference.

Looking for unfamiliar AND delicious, scoop up some Romesco - it's like a very tender broccoli and so good
This weeks haul - Fresh eggs, radishes, collards, Rangpur limes, lettuce, parsley, grape tomatoes, red skin potatoes & turnips. All organic and all under $40 bucks. Compare that to your next grocery store receipt
That's all for today readers, thank you for taking the time to enjoy Redroots and I hope you get excited about exploring more about the food you eat and the people that grow it. 

Keep it local, keep it fresh, keep it on Redroots! 


No comments:

Post a Comment