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Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Fruit Hunters


The book just about jumped off the shelf.  "Read me!," it seemed to be saying, "I'm about all kinds of things that interest you.  Travel, food, adventure!"

I picked up The Fruit Hunters by Adam Leith Gollner and flipped through it.  Sure enough, it looked interesting, but I already had my arms filled with other books that I had picked up in the used books section of my local Barnes and Noble. 

A couple weeks later, I found the book again on the "New Nonfiction" shelf at the library.  This time, I wasn't about to let the book slip through my fingers.  I checked it out and took it home, filled with thoughts of my own experiencess with exotic fruits in China and Africa and wanting to see what Gollner had to add to my store of knowledge.

As it turned out, Gollner offered a multifaceted view of fruits, covering his own travels to places like Thailand, the Seychelles Islands, Borneo and numerous fruit markets and farms in the US and Canada.  He discusses apples, oranges, peaches and bananas, but also has extensive sections covering lesserknown durianscloudberries, grapples (which are pronounced "gray-pulls," are artificially grape flavored apples and seem truly foul) , gojis, dragonfruits and x-rated coco-de-mer (I warned you...).  I was particularly intrigued by the Miracle Fruit, which is practically tasteless, but which, for several hours after eating it, makes anyything sour taste sweet.  Of course a cranberry-sized fruit that sells for $3.00 each had better do something interesting.

While reading the book -- well, not actually WHILE reading it, but during the overall time that I was reading it -- I came across two of the fruits that Gollner discussed: pluots and dragonfruits.  Of course, I couldn't pass up the chance to sample them.  The pluots (crosses between plums and apricots) were delightful, with spotted skin and a rich, red flesh that was sweet and juicy.  I wish I could have said the same for the dragonfruit.  The dragonfruit was beautiful, sort of scaly and red on the outside in a dragonish sort of way, with a snowy white interior studded with countless tiny black seeds.  I'm perfectly willing to believe that, somewhere in the world, dragonfruit are eaten when at the peak of ripeness and that they have an intoxicating flavor and scent, but the specimen we got at the grocery was unimpressive.  In fact, in was quite disappointing as it was nearly unflavored and unscented.

I've always been a fairly adventurous eater and enjoyed trying durian while I was in China, even though it really does taste like rotten-onion-custard.  I've enjoyed eating jackfruit fritters made by a Filipina friend and also a variety of tropical fruit that is called an "apple" in Sierra Leone, but which is completely different from what I would call an apple.  I've always wanted to try breadfruit.  While the dragonfruit was disappointing, I'm looking at things a bit differently in the produce section, keeping an eye open for new adventure. 

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