What Is It?

I don’t know.  Try it.

Every once in a while, someone would give us something to eat in Asia, and we wouldn’t know exactly what it was.  It could be identified as a chip-type snack, or a meat product, or a fruit or vegetable, but we wouldn’t know the name or what the flavor would be.  For the kid who wouldn’t eat green things growing up, this was a challenge.

I am a big fan of the seasonal way they eat in China, especially the fruits.  Little oranges in winter, perfect Dandong strawberries in spring, gorgeous peaches and expensive cherries in summer, crisp and just sweet enough apples and pears in fall, etc.  There are also giant pomegranates, sweet grapes, different watermelons, colorful tomatoes (yes, fruit), persimmons, blueberries, clementines, big and small bananas, pomelo and all manner of citrus, passionfruit and more.  I’ve eaten lychee, longan, mangosteen, Hami melon, berries I don’t know the name of, kumquat, hawthorn, apple pears, star fruit, yangmei, durian, rambutan, jackfruit, dragonfruit and loquats.  Loquats are, by far, my favorite.  I have not tried the reptilian-like custard apples or bitter cucumber fruit, but there is still time.  There is still time for quite a few tries.  And these are just the fruits!  We benefit from what is grown in China, and also what is easily and quickly imported from India, the Philippines, Thailand and beyond.

Over the years, Chinese friends have introduced me to many Asian fruits and snacks.  They can usually tell me the name in English, but maybe not.  At home, T asks, “What is it?” Then I say, “I don’t know.  Try it.”  That’s how it often goes when people try new things.  Sometimes, you like it.  Sometimes, you don’t.  Sometimes, you’ll discover a new favorite that you will crave when you can’t find it anymore.

Join me in this taste test of two Asian fruits.  To begin, we have a small melon.  It is about four inches wide and tall, with a thin, variegated, edible skin.  It grows on a vine and ripens in July/August.  The only English names I could find were green melon or Asian green melon.  Many eat it like an apple, or you can skin it and seed it too.  On the inside, the fruit is pretty green with a pale, seeded center.  It is soft with just a slight bite to it.  It tastes a bit like honeydew, but not that hard, out of season honeydew you get at salad buffets and breakfast meetings.  It tastes like sun-ripened piece of summer.

Second, we have a small snacking fruit called husk cherry, husk tomato, husk cherry tomato, physalis, ground cherry, cape gooseberry, and a cousin to the tomatillo.  They turn yellow and are harvested from the ground once they fall.  Easily peel the thin, papery husk away from the fruit and chomp.  One bite.  The skin has the texture of a cherry tomato, though the inside is thicker than one.  They have an interesting flavor that varies on your tongue between sweet and savory.  Perhaps depending on when you buy them, they might be sweeter or more savory.  They are perfectly good to snack on, and I’m imagining the more savory ones in a breakfast casserole with sausage and egg and some herbs I haven’t decided on yet.

That’s it for our latest installment of “What Is It? I Don’t Know. Try It.”  Enjoy.

For a funny view on Asian fruits, check out the Fung Brothers video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgfegiWS3Ds

 

Real Food

I went pumpkin hunting, and found so much more.  I always do.  I love market days.

It’s the season when cabbage and leeks are everywhere.  I’m told that, years ago, the Chinese would set out cabbage and leeks during this season to dry so they would have vegetables during the long, harsh winter.  Though we can buy fresh produce year-round now, this tradition continues.  Why wouldn’t you want to eat vegetables picked in season?   Right now, they are on nearly every landing in the stairwell, and there is a stack of cabbage outside our building too.  Once in a while, we’ll see a resident choose the best one for that night’s meal.

Let us not forget the apples.  Gorgeous apples streaked in red, yellow and green.  Perfectly crispy and slightly sweet.

And winter is coming, so the smell of roasting sweet potatoes fills the streets of Shenyang.  Choose the one you want. They’ll put it in a plastic bag and you can eat it as you walk along.  They very well may be a perfect fast food.  My latest 地瓜 purchase led me to the sweet gentleman pictured below.  For sure, this will be one of my favorite photos for a very long time.

Enjoy the pictures and beautiful food prose by Mary Oliver.

Beans by Mary Oliver

They’re not like peaches or squash.
Plumpness isn’t for them.
They like being lean, as if for the narrow path.
The beans themselves sit quietly inside their green pods.
Instinctively one picks with care,
never tearing down the fine vine,
never not noticing their crisp bodies,
or feeling their willingness for
the pot, for the fire.
 
I have thought sometimes that
something―I can’t name it―
watches as I walk the rows,
accepting the gift of their lives
to assist mine.
 
I know what you think: this is foolishness.
They’re only vegetables.
Even the blossoms with which they
begin are small and pale, hardly significant.
Our hands, or minds, our
feet hold more intelligence. With
this I have no quarrel.
 
But, what about virtue?

For more beautiful poems by Mary Oliver, visit http://peacefulrivers.homestead.com/maryoliver.html.  Her poem, The Journey, is truly a work of art that speaks to me and for me.

A staple in our winter home – Potato Leek Soup from Pinch My Salt – http://pinchmysalt.com/a-hearty-potato-leek-soup-recipe-for-the-last-days-of-winter/