They appear as curious creatures in the farmers market. You barely know their names. By the time you see them, take a picture with your phone, and query Google, they’re gone…The season is short and there is no time for doubt. Just buy those strange autumn produce items. We’re here to help:
The typical school snack of my childhood in Chile was a whole, big, fat pomegranate so ripe, it was already cracked by the desire to spread its own seeds. Today, I still love pressing the tiny juicy pockets between my tongue and palate to make them explode, one by one. Some think eating a pomegranate is too much work, and instead buy the seedless variety in a plastic box. Pomegranate eaters are patient, detailed, but adventurous at the same time: my favorite people. Try eating them just like that – raw, opening the fruit by yourself. It’s messy, but there is so much joy in it, especially while watching a movie. A shortcut: cut the crown with a knife, as if you are going to break it in quarters. Then soak the pomegranate in water for five minutes to loosen the seeds. Next, pull apart the quarters and gently start separating the seeds. Want the sophisticated option? Add the seeds to your favorite martini for a super original fall garnish, or add some juice and seeds to your champagne for a fancy drink.
The quince may appear tough and even insensitive, but when you cook it, it transforms into pure creamy sweet goodness. Try my favorite thing: cook them savory. Add quinces to any pork, duck, or chicken roast, diced in slices or cubes, and see what happens. It’s absurdly good. Quince absorbs all the spices and the juices from the meat to create a tart and savory contrast, which works particularly well when the meat is high in fat content. Having problems finding fresh quince? In the cheese section of the grocery stores you can usually find Spanish-style quince paste. Combine it with some strong blue cheese, and you will find yourself writing a thank you note to (614).
Wild (Heirloom) Apples
Often small and irregular, they hold an ancient, imperfect beauty. Cut them in half, carefully pit them, and poach them in your favorite pumpkin ale, adding brown sugar to taste. Once they are cooked, take out the apples and add two or three tablespoons of butter to the beer and reduce until it becomes a medium-thin sauce. Serve warm with a vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. It’s a fantastic dessert, and, in all sincerity, a great way to get rid of those 128 ounces of pumpkin ale that someone left in your fridge.
This one is the weirdest. It tastes like all the fall fruits jumbled into one big ball of sweetness. The complex flavor makes Asian pears the perfect accents to a salad; slice them and toss with arugula, some Gorgonzola cheese crumbs, pecans, and a honey mustard vinaigrette. Add a poached egg on top and a slice of good bread on the side, and your fanciest fall lunch ever is ready in like 10 minutes.
To be honest, persimmon fans aren’t abundant due to the fruit’s astringency, which requires it to be eaten extremely ripe – almost mushy – in order to be pleasant. Fortunately, the most common variety that can be found in most Asian grocery stores during fall is the Fuyu, sweet like honey and smooth even when firm. It is usually eaten as a dessert fruit for its freshness and sweetness, cut in quarters and spooned. The creative options are endless: mix it with Indian spices in a chutney; juice it and mix with a good aged rum; wrap it in bacon and throw it in the oven until crunchy; or prepare some persimmon and prosciutto skewers. Yeah, I’m hungry, too.
Find these strange fall fruits in your favorite farmers market or in grocery stores with good fruit selections like Whole Foods, Lucky’s Market, or Giant Eagle Market District. For the best persimmons and Asian pears, take a look at Asian grocery stores like Tensuke Market.