08 Jun2006

afr1

No, this post isn’t about three sisters whose parents named after fruits… can you imagine naming three brothers Liempo, Pigue and Tenderloin? Heeheehee. One of the things I really miss food wise from living in temperate countries are some of the spectacular fruits that hit the markets from the Spring to the Fall each year. The nature, quality, taste, intensity, sugar levels, tartness are extremely unique for fruits whose trees or bushes or vines must get through a cold winter every year. This post gives you a run-down of some of the terrific fruits I found in the markets of Barcelona. afr2First up, the earliest harvest from the annual cherry crop. Probably from the warmest regions of Spain, if not, God forbid, imported, these piles of cherries were just too attractive to ignore. I like good fresh cherries, a touch firm, either super sweet or tartly sweet. Turns out there are two broad categories of cherries: sweet and sour. These ones had a nice shine, were clearly freshly picked, sweet but wickedly pricey at nearly Euro10 a kilo. I took half a kilo home, washed, stuck in the fridge and quickly consumed a few hours later. When they are abundant and more reasonably priced, they make great jam or better yet cherry clafoutis, one of the French desserts that I really enjoy. Don’t eat too many at one time, they are a laxative…

Strawberries were in the Spanish and Italian markets big time. I have written up afr3strawberries in Manila/Baguio before and I love them. Almost certainly they fall into my top five fruits list. The ones in the markets in Europe were big, plump, red, firm and fragrant. I wondered if most of them were raised in greenhouses given the temperatures but I suppose many could have come from outdoors in warmer regions of Spain. We bought them many many times over the course of the trip. My daughter loves strawberries and cream and they were a nutritious and delicious breakfast or snack. I like to mix them with other berries for a simple and satisfying dessert. I was thrilled to get this picture of the berries still attached to plants that were for sale at a small nursery out of town. Sometimes referred to as “false berries,” their fruit grow from the base or bottom of the plant rather than forming in from the ovary or flower of the plant. afr4While these commercial, highly bred berries were superb, the smaller “forest berries” were also in season and since I like them so much, they will be the subject of a separate post. If I had a Spring lunch or brunch I would buy several of these pots of berries and use them as a centerpiece…then guests could pick their own! One medium sized potted plant had as many as 15-18 fruit! By the way, if you want strawberries to last longer, do not pre-wash them and stick in the fridge – wash them only before you are about to eat them.

There were several other berries also on offer in the markets. Spectacular blackberries that were plump, tart and incredibly good. If you get the really black or darker ones, they afr5are the sweetest of the bunch…the slightly burgundy or red ones can be lip-puckeringly tart. I like them fresh by themselves or mixed with other berries with a nice dollop of whipped cream but they are also used in tarts, spectacular ice creams or gelatos or helados and jams and preserves. Very closely related to the blackberries are raspberries that usually have smaller fruit but sweeter and more delicate. You can also find these in white, yellow and other colors but that is highly unusual. Paired with a nutty crust and sweet pastry cream, they make a perfect tart. Also at the markets were red currants. Oddly, I didn’t see any blueberries.

Not sure if these were local as again the timing seemed a bit off but there were some pretty good peaches on offer. They smelled really good and after a day or two out on the afr6counter they tasted reasonably peachy. Having U.S. peaches straight off the orchards in late August at the peak of the season spoils you for most other peaches but since I haven’t had good ones in a long time, these ones did just fine. They were a bit firm when I bought them and though they won’t ripen more once picked, they do soften if left out at room temperature. Also in the markets were delicious apricots that were sweeter than I have ever had them. Ahh…if I had the time and equipment, an apricot tart would have been a really nice way to use this bounty.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. renee says:

    i actually know siblings nick-named, cherry, apple and peaches hahahahah

    Jun 8, 2006 | 1:28 pm

     
  2. Marketman says:

    renee, so do I, probably the same set. And they are somewhat related to another family with kids named scarlet, rhett, o’hara, butler… mother must have been a Gone with the Wind fan…

    Jun 8, 2006 | 3:37 pm

     
  3. sister says:

    Blueberries come a few weeks later than the red berries but have a longer season, usually from late June through early September. At Union Square in NYC strawberries have been available for 2 weeks now and they will be gone by the 4th of July. Rasperries, with the hulls intact, have been available for a month now and be around until the end of July. I only buy these berries in season as long transport definitely affects their quality. I agree that these berries are such a wonderful introduction to summer in the temperate countries.

    Jun 8, 2006 | 6:24 pm

     
  4. millet says:

    i have a doctora friend who named her daughters shigella, rubella and candida..no kidding! the first two are the bacteria/viruses that cause shigellosis (a serious diarrheal diseases)and german measles, while the last one is a yeast infection totally unrelated to breadbaking. i’d rather be named siniguelas, macopa or durian…hehe..

    Jun 8, 2006 | 6:40 pm

     
  5. Apicio says:

    It is only in the last few years that flavour has come back to temperate zone fruits and berries. From the sixties to until the early nineties the main consideration for growers was their shipping survivability, shelf longivity and visual appeal which left me the impression that temperate zone fruits all look deceptively better than they taste unless you have access to local growers who care. I therefore enjoy their flavour intensified in the form of eau de vies. A favorite work-day digestif is Poire William broken only from time to time by an occasional Kirsch, Framboise or Cassis which leads me to my overwhelming question, did you try any wine, sherry or brandy in situ?

    Jun 8, 2006 | 8:08 pm

     
  6. Marketman says:

    Apicio, unfortunately, while I enjoy wine, I am not well versed in it. As much as I try, it just doesn’t float my boat…I think I can tell a good one from a mediocre one, but that’s about it. I once hosted a dinner for a great boss that was taking on a nice new job and I told the 8 guests to bring wine for a blind tasting. I would cook the dinner, the 8 guests would each bring a “special bottle” with a minimum price of USD100 (today’s dollars, about $200). When the bottles arrived, we wrapped them in cloth and conducted a blind tasting throughout the meal. My colleagues were brilliant, some could narrow down the bottle to region, vineyard/house, and YEAR! I got to good, not so good and grotty. Actually, I figured out the most expensive to the least expensive (which I thought was impressive in and of itself) which means you can tell the difference when pitted against each other. But I couldn’t get the nuances that everyone else seemed to figure out (like specific type of oak?!). So the long answer is, we didn’t do much wine tasting but we did some on this recent trip. Having the Kid along also made it less likely. But I will tell you that I am one of perhaps only a few houses in the vicinity with a cabinet stocked with two kinds of Poire William (for pear clafoutis mostly!), 3 kinds of cassis (mostly for Kir Royales), Gran Marnier (for souffles) and several brandies an cognacs (for fruitcake) etc.!!! We do have some good friends who are mad about wine so we cook and they bring the wine…it works superbly. Oh, and I did bring back three kinds of sherry vinegar home in my hand carry!

    Jun 8, 2006 | 9:01 pm

     
  7. fried-neurons says:

    Mmmmmm, cherries! I love ’em, love ’em, love ’em. Fortunately for me, the southern Bay Area is also cherry heaven. Even in this high-tech age of office parks and suburban sprawl, we still have dozens of cherry orchards right here in the valley.

    Every late spring and early summer, they sell beautiful, big, and delicious cherries to the public. Mostly bing, but also some rainier and some other less-popular varieties. Pricing varies from year to year.

    Usually we drive down to one of the orchards, by boxes and boxes of them, and eat them till we get sick. LOL.

    And the nice part of this jet age is that in the winter, we also get cherries flown in from Chile, although I have to say taste-wise they are inferior to Bay Area cherries.

    Jun 8, 2006 | 10:16 pm

     
  8. tinsywinsy says:

    I actually know someone named Rambo. I was flabbergasted when I found that Rambo was his nickname. His full name is Rambutan. Seriously! :)

    Jun 8, 2006 | 11:34 pm

     
  9. Kate says:

    Schoolmates of mine were named Oxygen, Nitrogen, etc. by their scientist parents. Of course, we called them Oxy, Nitro…

    For this asthmatic, one major redeeming factor of living in California’s allergen-rich central valley with its 100+-degree summers are the freshest, sweetest, juiciest cherries and strawberries I’ve ever had anywhere. Just went through a flat of cherries (embarrassingly quickly, though with help from the rest of the family) that my husband picked up at a roadside fruit stand next to cherry orchards and strawberry fields. Cherries haven’t had too laxative an effect on me. Just makes one regular. :-)

    The small but sweet, dark red strawberries he brought home yesterday are nearly gone, too. Hulled, halved and strewn over French vanilla ice cream and drizzled with melted dark chocolate, it makes one forget one’s own name. I can understand why a lot of folks who want to get lucky on Valentine’s Day roll out the chocolate and strawberries.

    When we can’t get ahead of a flat of strawberries, we make smoothies out of them with yogurt, sometimes with a banana, vanilla ice cream, crushed ice and a little sugar to taste. Um-mm good!

    Jun 9, 2006 | 8:38 am

     
  10. Mila says:

    I heart cherries. And yes, I learned first hand, never eat one kilo of cherries all by oneself, laxative indeed.

    Last year in Munich, there were a good number of open stalls selling black cherries, darker than blood red, and very sweet. Friends told me not to eat them before a meal, but I couldn’t resist. The only after effect was the dark red stain on my lips and hands.

    On my recent N. America trip, I found the cherries to be a bit anemic, friends at the USDA said that all the rain has had a negative impact on the fruit and good cherries and peaches will be hard to come by this year. I haven’t had a really good white peach in three years…. Gosh, my salivary glands are going full out just thinking of the delicious fruit!

    Jun 9, 2006 | 11:20 am

     
  11. ShoppaHolique says:

    My mom told me about these apple-sizes strawberries they had in cali… I didn’t believe her until i saw the photos!

    I love the fresh cherries from hk, sadly they dont last very long (2 days tops!)

    Does anyone know how to keep fresh cherries longer?

    Jun 10, 2006 | 1:03 am

     
  12. purplegirl says:

    fresh cherries continue to be one of the most expensive fruits here in the south — $3.99 a pound! but, oh, so, so worth every penny.

    for Mila — i live in the Peach state. yes, the best, juciest, sweetest peaches are found here. all year round. not to mention over 50 roads in the metro area with the word PEACH in it! so, if you’re ever back in N. America, let me know, i am more than happy to send you a bushel!

    Jun 10, 2006 | 11:38 am

     
  13. Marketman says:

    purplegirl, they were USD14.00 a kilo so about USD6.40 a pound in Europe!

    Jun 10, 2006 | 11:50 am

     
 

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