SPEND LESS, EAT BETTER: In Season: Enjoy Summer Fruit at Its Best
Fresh fruit is a terrible thing to waste, especially by spoilage.
The season is now -- strawberries waning but peaches, blueberries, apricots and melons coming on strong.
The life cycle varies from fruit to fruit: bananas are totally predictable but pears are deceiving since they rot from the core out and, unlike peaches and nectarines, are best while still quite firm. Maximize your summer fruit:
The old paper bag trick works on melons, stone fruits, kiwis and pears. Place fruit and a ripe banana in a brown paper grocery bag. Lay bag on its side to prevent crowding. Fold over top and secure with a clothespin. Fruit softens and sweetens in a day or two but may not have that tree-ripened flavor.
Never let ripe peaches touch each other; they will mold at point of contact in hours.
Know a ripe melon by its aroma; know a very ripe melon by shaking. You'll hear the seeds and liquid jostle.
Strawberries, like tomatoes, taste better at room temperature. Don't hull or wash berries until ready to use. Although strawberries do not ripen further after picking, if left unrefrigerated overnight or longer they lose some moisture that concentrates flavor and sweetness.
Kids eat more fruit if it's ready to go. Peel melon wedges, pop grapes off the stem and put in a bowl, peel and slice kiwis, leave front and center in the refrigerator.
Peaches, glorious peaches: For the most beautiful peach, submerge in boiling water for about 30 seconds and slip off the skin leaving the smooth blush -- often cut away with the peel.
Drop whole peeled peaches in cool water with lemon juice added, to prevent discoloration. Bigger peaches, plums and nectarines are a better value since the stone is about the same size as in smaller ones.
Blueberries are expensive. For a pie, stretch them with peeled and diced apple. The apple softens and absorbs color and flavor.
Macerating brings out the best in blackberries and raspberries. Mix berries with sugar, cover, leave at room temperature for about 8 hours, stirring occasionally. Eat straight up or pour over ice cream, pound cake, yogurt, waffles.
Inevitably, some summer fruits will wilt, develop brown spots or over-ripen. Cut away the bad, stew the good with lemon juice and cinnamon for a summer compote. Or brush with honey or maple syrup, broil and top with vanilla ice cream. Or make a mixed-fruit crisp. Or puree in blender with plain yogurt -- no sugar needed since very ripe fruit is usually very sweet.
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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