3 Fruit Outcasts
Kris Holechek Peters is The Dinner Party’s web guru and resident food science geek.
In the world of fruit, as in the hierarchy of high school, popularity has a lot to do with appearance. Which is why, as we noted on last week’s show, the delectable but ugly-as-hell “dekopon” was long neglected as a potential export from its homeland of Japan, before finally making its US debut last week.
We wish we could say it’s the only acne-scarred, socially awkward fruit to be passed over by the masses. But many unattractive, poorly-named or simply uncultivated fruits have slipped through the culinary cracks. Our favorites:
THE PAW-PAW: In the U.S., most people are still unfamiliar with the indigenous pawpaw, despite increased visibility at farmer’s markets and, incredibly, despite this very program giving it worldwide exposure on our second-ever episode, three years ago. Sure it may look like a bruised, misshapen pear, but the tropical pawpaw isn’t called the “Indiana Banana” for nothing - its exotic flavor tastes like a guava/banana hybrid and it’s grown in the US of A!
THE CHOKEBERRY: Similarly left to sulk in the shadows of the fruit-aisle-turned-homecoming-dance is the chokeberry. What’s not to love about something that sounds like it will kill you? The chokeberry is a little on the bitter side (who wouldn’t be, with a name like that?) but is used in making jams and even wine.
THE MEDLAR: It’s not often that you intentionally let your produce turn into compost before consumption, but the medlar is not considered ripe until it resembles a brown bag of mush. And while its popularity began to fall with Rome, the custardy medlar is still enjoyed in parts of Europe and the Middle East and can be found in some import grocers in the US.
Of course, the new kids always have a hard time fitting in. But with time and exposure, their stocks will rise as they climb the gourmand social ladder- so long as they don’t start sitting at the lunch table with outsider weirdoes like persimmon and quince. Then all bets of apple-caliber popularity are off.