October 18th, 2012
The Grapes are harvested and pressed to make delicious Spanish wine, the Figs have all been picked and made into jams and conserves, the Mulberries have fallen and stained the ground below until it finally rains again. The remainder of the Almonds continue to be harvested, with the gentle Thwack Thwack sound of stick against tree audible in the countryside.
But the Spanish countryside here in Andalucía still has more to offer in the way of edible harvest. What’s next on the seasonal menu? Well, four fruits that are hard to get into, but delicious… let’s take a walk in the Campo…
Sometimes known as Kakee or Chinese Persimmon, Diospyros Kaki is one of our favourite fruits for this season. But it took us a while to deal with this giant orange tomato! At least that’s the first impression…!
To bite into a fruit from the tree will leave you with a lasting impression, a dry mouth and a horrible astringent taste will be the result – but like the Olive, a little work and a you’ll have a fruit fit for a King.
The secret is, place the fruit in a circle, ideally in a steel saucepan, around a small glass of clear alcohol, vodka for example. Place the lid on and leave it to ripen and all of the astringency will disappear – a delicious juicy fruit is what you will be left with. Alternatively, top tip thanks to my neighbour Annick, slice a hard fruit into thin rounds and dry it out in a low oven – or on top of your wood burning stove – and you’ll have a dried sweet slice of fruit that’s packed full of vitamins and is a better alternative to sweets! Note that if you want to pack them into sterilized jars that they must be totally dry, or you’ll also have a supply of bacteria.
The emblem of the province of Granada, as seen on the ubiquitous blue and white ceramic ware in every Andalucían gift shop. Ceramic versions on gateposts for good luck to the house, and a delicious fruit to boost. Again, there’s nothing straightforward about eating one! The Granada, or Pomegranate, Punica Granatum, was the apple assigned to Aphrodite, that most beautiful of the Greek Goddesses. It is a plant that has been cultivated since the beginning of time, and deserves it’s reputation as a heavenly fruit.
To eat the soft, jewel like fruit – sorry, went all Nigella there – the ladylike way would be to pick each seed out with a pin. Or, like me, slice the fruit in half and give it a good bash over a bowl. The seeds may be boiled up and simmered with sugar to make Pomegranate Molasses, keep it in the fridge and add to stews for that authentic Moroccan flavour. Or add the seeds raw to a glass of Cava to impress. Add to sorbets, milkshakes and ice cream or to top a cheesecake. The pith is bitter, but the bark and the rind provide Tannin and the dye is used in the making of Moroccan leather goods.
My informative neighbour Annick – again! – tells me the rind when dried and made into a tea is also good for Constipation, or was it Diarrhoea? Oh well, one or the other, I guess you’ll find out…
Best place to eat one? Granada of course! Browse through these Granada places to stay, and cook, and eat…
Membrillo, Quince, Cydonia Oblonga – or as my kids call it – the Hairy Pear!
A golden, oblong, pear like fruit which for me signals the start of colder evenings and the scented evenings filled with wood smoke spiralling from the whitewashed village houses with their square Alpujarrean chimney pots…don’t the chimneys look like little Don Quixotes with their tilted hats? Or maybe that’s just me….!
Bite into one of these – the Membrillo, not the chimneys – and you’ll break your teeth. But slice them into a chicken casserole, add cinnamon and spices and you’ll be in seventh heaven. Or stew them for a very British crumble, with thick pouring custard to put hair on your chest on a Winters evening….
The classic recipe for the Quince has to be Dulce de Membrillo itself, that jelly like spread to eat with Manchego cheese, a real Spanish tapa. Just peeled and cored, boiled with sugar and set into a rich red block, a fridge must have!
In Persia, the fruit is boiled to a jam, the left over syrup is then mixed with cold water and fresh lime to make a refreshing drink – Farsi style!
Even a literary reference….Think back to your Edward Lear and in particular the Owl and the Pussycat…‘They dined on Mince and slices of Quince…’ You don’t even have to go to sea in a pea green boat, just check out these Alpujarras places to stay to make your own Membrillo…
From hairy pears to prickly pears. Chumbo, Prickly Pear, Opuntia Ficus-indica. The last on this list is the most difficult to get into. Two words of warning with this one. Thick Gloves. Personally, I blame Columbus.
The most common cactus in these parts, in fact a bit of a pest. If you’re a home owner and actually want one in your garden, then just push a piece into some soil and hey presto. the edible fruits are just ready now, with up to 9cm long red spiny coats, Getting near them can be a bit of an adventure, if you don’t fall down the hill you’ll surely be stabbed by the rest of the plant, then the spiny fruit will drive long thorns into your palms and fingers.
The name of the Prickly Pear in Arabic is Saber, which means Tenacity. Oh yes indeed.
Having said all that, there’s said to be a fair amount of nutrition inside, if you can stand to pick out the hundreds of black seeds, although if you have got this far you’ll just eat them.
So next time you are at the market and you see an old gypsy lady with a wheelbarrow and thick oversized gardening gloves you will know what she is selling.
That’s it – my 4 most difficult to get at, but possibly some of the tastiest Spanish fruits around for late Autumn – so go scrumping!