_4 The Perfect Produce: How to Select, Prepare & Store Fresh Fruit A-Q

Serves: 5



Why settle for the ordinary o.j. when so many other fruit juices, alone and in combination, make for a zesty refreshment any time of day? Here's a sampling of the bounty awaiting you in the fruit department of your favorite grocery.

Apples are believed to have originated in Central Asia and Caucasus, but they have been cultivated since prehistoric times. They were brought to the United States at the beginning of the seventeenth century and later to Africa and Australia. Today, over a hundred varieties of apples are commercially grown in the United States.

The apple is a small, round fruit that can be red, green, or yellow, with a firm, crisp flesh. Some apples have a sweet flavor with a hint of tartness, while others are less sweet and more tart. Unpeeled apples are high in fiber. All apples are delicious when made into a juice, but your flavor preference will determine which one is best for you.

When choosing an apple, look for one that is firm and crisp with a smooth, tight skin. Most important, the apple should have a sweet-smelling aroma. Avoid any apple that has bruised or blemished skin. Another consideration when choosing apples is to buy those grown organically, whenever possible. Most nonorganic apples are heavily sprayed with pesticides and later waxed to preserve them to be kept looking fresh, while the organically grown variety are not. Because of this, you might encounter a worm in some organic apples, which can be removed when the apple is cut, thereby removing any health or aesthetic concerns. Wash apples well, whether organic or not, and refrigerate.

To juice an apple with a waxed skin, remove the skin first. All apples should be cut into eighths or wedges, depending on the size of your juicer.

Because of the vast number of apple varieties, I have included several of the more popular ones that I feel are an excellent choice for juicing.

These apples are newcomers to the apple arena but have become immensely popular because they are very sweet in flavor and juicy. These apples are available October through December.

The Golden Delicious apple has a pale green to yellow skin. Those with yellow skins are sweeter and most delicious. Although harvested in October, these apples are available year-round. Because of this timetable, Golden Delicious apples should generally be avoided in the spring and summer, when they tend to be soft.

Granny Smith apples are more tart than most other varieties. Those with a paler green skin are usually riper, sweeter, and more mature. These apples are harvested in October and are available year-round.

These sweet and juicy apples are harvested in late September and are at their best when just picked.

McIntosh apples are very sweet in flavor. They do not keep as well as other apples so they are best eaten or juiced soon after they are harvested in September.

This apple lives up to its name. It is deep purplish red and has a distinctive, five-knob base. It is considered to be the world's leading variety of apple. Its harvesting time is similar to the Golden Delicious.

The apricot is a round or oblong fruit, measuring about 2 inches in diameter, whose skin and flesh are orange-yellow. It is very sweet and juicy and has a single, smooth stone. The apricot is native to northern China and was known to be a food source as early as 2200 B.C. Apricots are an excellent source of vitamin A, potassium, and iron.

When choosing apricots, look for those that are well colored and firm but yield slightly when gently pressed. Avoid any that are green or yellow because this may indicate they are not ripe, while soft ones are probably overripe. Wash apricots and keep them refrigerated until ready to use.

To juice an apricot, remove the stone and cut the apricot in half before adding to the juicer.

The fruit of a tree that originated in Asia, the Asian pear is believed to be the ancestor of all the pears we eat today. It has a distinct pear-like taste but is crisp in texture like an apple. Many also have a round shape resembling an apple. Because of this similarity in taste, appearance, and shape, Asian pears are often called "apple-pears."

Asian pears are round with a pale, yellow or golden-brown skin. Whether eaten raw or juiced, the skin should always be removed. Wash the pears and store them in the refrigerator for up to two months.

To juice an Asian pear, peel the skin and cut into wedges just large enough to fit into a juicer. Asian pear juice is especially delicious when combined with the juice of other fruits.

The banana is not a good fruit to add to a juicer because it is too soft, but when combined with other fresh fruit juices in a blender, you can add a sensational banana flavor to your juice. If you blend a frozen banana with chilled fruit juice and some ice, you can create a luscious smoothie.

The banana has been around for so long that, according to Hindu legend, it was actually the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden. It is also believed that the banana was widely cultivated throughout Asia and Oceania before recorded history and that the Spanish colonists introduced banana shoots to the New World in 1516. Bananas are a rich source of vitamins A, B, C, and B2, as well as potassium.

When choosing a banana, look for one that is completely yellow. Green bananas will ripen at room temperature in two days. Once ripe, they can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Native to North America, the blueberry is the second most popular berry in the United States. It has been around for thousands of years but wasn't cultivated until the turn of the century. Today, 95 percent of the world's commercial blueberry crops are grown in the United States. Blueberries are at their peak in flavor from mid- April to late September. They are available in the southern states first and gradually move north as the season progresses. Blueberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber.

When choosing blueberries, look for ones that are deep-purple blue to blue-black, dry, smooth-skinned, plump, and firm. Avoid any that appear to be dull or soft and watery because this may indicate that the fruit is old. Store the blueberries in the refrigerator for up to 10 days and wash them just before using.

Blueberry juice is especially delicious when combined with other fruit juices, such as pineapple, apples, or pears.

Cherries are small, round, red to black fruit that grow on a tree. There are numerous varieties, but all of them fall into one of three categories: sweet, sour, or a hybrid of the two. Cherries grow in the temperate zones of Europe, Asia, and the Americas. It is believed that they originated in northeastern Asia and later spread throughout the temperate zones in prehistory, carried by birds who ate the cherries and later dropped the stones. Sweet cherries make the most flavorful juice. They are a source of vitamin C and fiber.

When choosing cherries, look for those that are dark, plump, and firm. Store the cherries in the refrigerator and wash them just before using.

To juice a cherry, remove the stone before adding it to the juicer. Cherry juice is delicious on its own but will also combine nicely with most fruit juices.

Citrus fruits growing in Southeast Asia have been recorded by Chinese agriculturists some eight hundred years ago. During the expansion of the Roman Empire, citrus was cultivated in Italy. Later it spread with the Arab Empire into North Africa, Spain, and the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. In 1493, Christopher Columbus brought many varieties of citrus to Haiti on his second voyage to the New World by 1525, they were widespread and abundant. In the early part of the sixteenth century, Spanish explorers brought citrus with them to trade with the Indians. Citrus trees soon began to grow wild in Florida near rivers and lakes from seeds that were dropped by the Indians.

The first seedless grapefruit (nine seeds or less) was discovered in Florida in the 1800s, while the first pink seedless grapefruit was also found in Florida in 1913. In the early 1920s, seedless grapefruit began to be cultivated in the richly subtropical Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas, where in 1929, the Ruby Red grapefruit was discovered as a volunteer limb mutation on a pink grapefruit tree. This new variety was renown for its deep ruby red color, exceptionally sweet flavor, and superior quality. Today, most grapefruits are cultivated in Texas and Florida, with such varieties as Ruby Red and Star Red from Texas and Indian River and Orchid Island from Florida. Grapefruits are very high in vitamin C and fiber.

Grapefruits grow in clusters that hang from trees with glossy, dark green leaves. Because they are clustered, they resemble grapes, except that they are much larger. The three main varieties are the white, pink/red, and Star Ruby/Rio Red. All grapefruit have a similar tangy-sweet flavor and are exceptionally juicy.

When selecting a grapefruit, look for one that is round, heavy for its size, springy to the touch, has a skin that is smooth and thin, and exudes a lovely sweet fragrance. Wash grapefruit and store them in an open container in the refrigerator.

Grapefruit juice is delicious on its own but also combines nicely with oranges, apples, and other fruits. Before juicing, remove the skin but leave as much of the white pith as possible. Cut or tear the grapefruit into segments.

The lemon was cultivated in India at least 2,500 years ago. It has an acidic flavor, but its skin contains an essential aromatic oil. This oval, yellow citrus fruit can range from small with a thin, smooth skin to large with a rough, thick skin. Although there are different varieties of lemons, it is very difficult to tell the difference between them. Lemons are a rich source of vitamin C.

When choosing a lemon, first identify those with a fine-textured skin, and then select a medium to large fruit that is firm and heavy for its size. The deeper yellow lemons are usually more mature and will have a less acidic flavor, while coarse-skinned lemons will yield less juice. Wash lemons and store them in the refrigerator.

Lemon juice is very sour when not mixed with other ingredients. Before juicing a lemon, remove the skin, leaving as much of the pith as possible. Cut the lemon into quarters or segments and combine with other fruits. It may be necessary to sweeten the juice with a little sugar.

The lime is a small aromatic fruit with a flavor similar to the lemon except that it is less acidic and more aromatic. It has a smooth, light to dark green skin and measures about 11.2 inches in diameter. The lime is native to India and grows in most subtropical regions, such as Mexico and the West Indies. Limes are an excellent source of vitamin C.

To choose a lime with the most juice, look for a medium to large fruit that is firm and heavy for its size. Wash the lime and store it in the refrigerator.

Lime juice is very sour when used alone. Before juicing a lime, remove the skin, leaving as much of the pith as possible. Cut the lime in half or in segments and combine it with other fruits. It may be necessary to sweeten the juice with a little sugar.

Fresh oranges are widely grown in California, Florida, and Arizona and are available all year long. The two major varieties are the Valencias and navel. Two other varieties grown in the western states are the Cara Cara navel and the Moro orange (similar to the blood orange), both of which are available throughout the winter months. Oranges are very high in vitamin C.

When selecting an orange for the highest juice content, look for one that is heavy for its size and firm. Avoid an orange with a bruised skin because this may be a sign of fermentation, as well as oranges with a loose skin, indicating they may be dry. Although oranges can be stored at room temperature for a couple of days, their flavor is best when kept refrigerated. Wash oranges before storing them.

To juice an orange, remove the skin but leave as much of the white pith as possible. Cut or tear the orange into segments.

Blood oranges are very juicy and have a slightly sweet flavor with strawberry and raspberry overtones. They have a thin skin that is smooth and finely textured and does not peel as easy as some of the other varieties. These oranges are in season from December though the middle of May.

These small to medium-size oranges have an orange skin covered with a red blush and a deep maroon interior. They are slightly tart in flavor with a hint of raspberry. Moros are available from December to May.

Navel oranges are easily identified by the navel (or button) formation on the end opposite the stem. Fruit specialists believe the navel is a smaller fruit attached to the main orange, which becomes visible after you peel the orange. Navel oranges are seedless, easy to peel, and very juicy. These oranges are available November though May.

Valencia oranges are late-ripening and are available from early summer through October. These small to medium-size oranges are an excellent choice for juicing. They usually have a thin skin and do not have many seeds.

Tangerines, also known as mandarins, are a close cousin of the orange. They have a light orange, smooth skin and are sweet in flavor. Comparing tangerines to oranges, tangerines are smaller and have a looser skin. However, any tangerine with a very loose, puffy skin should be avoided because this indicates that it is probably passed its prime. Always wash tangerines before storing them at room temperature or in the refrigerator. To juice a tangerine, remove the skin, leaving as much of the pith as possible. Cut or tear the tangerine into segments.

Clementines are members of the mandarin family. These glossy-skinned fruits are very petite yet firm. They are known for their tender and sweet flavor, as well as being virtually seedless and very juicy. Clementines are available from late November through April.

Dancy tangerines are sometimes referred to as the "Christmas" tangerine in the United States because they are available in December and January. They have a reddish orange exterior and a deep orange interior. Their flavor is distinctively sweet-tart, and they have many seeds.

Honey mandarins have a high sugar content, making them aromatic and richly sweet in flavor. This slightly flattened mandarin has a thin and glossy exterior and a very sweet and juicy flesh. Honey mandarins are available from mid-January though April.

Mineola tangerines are a cross between a Duncan grapefruit and a Dancy tangerine. This hybrid is sometimes referred to as a tangelo. They stand out from other tangerines because they are larger, have a deep, reddish exterior, and have a knoblike formation on one end. They are available from mid-December through April.

Satsuma mandarins are the first variety to appear in the supermarket, from mid- October through December. Their skin and interior is bright orange, and they are sweet, very juicy, and virtually seedless.

The cranberry is a small, round, ruby-red, acidic fruit that grows wild on a vine in the marshes and bogs of northern Europe, and it is cultivated in the United States. They are available in November and December. Cranberries are rich in vitamin C.

When choosing cranberries, look for those that are plump, red, and firm. If you buy the prepackaged variety, wash them well just before you are ready to juice them, and remove any that are soft and mushy.

Because cranberry juice alone is very tart, it is best to combine it with the juice of a sweeter fruit. If necessary, add sugar to taste.

Grapes are berries that grow in clusters on a woody vine. They are usually small, round, and smooth-skinned and range from black, blue, green, red, and golden, to purple. There are two main types of grapes: Old World or European and North American.

The grape is considered to be the most widely cultivated fruit in the world. Grapes were first cultivated about eight thousand years ago. In 1769, Spanish explorers established missions throughout California and planted a European grape variety, known as the mission. About 95 percent of all grapes grown today are European in origin. In the United States, these grapes are grown mainly in California, and their varieties are classified as wine, table, or raisin grapes. There are two main types of North American grapes: fox grapes and muscadine grapes, both of which can be eaten fresh or made into wine or jelly. Grapes are high in vitamin C.

When choosing grapes, look for those that are firm, well colored, and plump, and have a bloom, or a slight powder appearance. Avoid any that are soft and mushy or those that easily fall off the stem. Because grapes are heavily sprayed with chemicals, it is best to buy organic ones. Whether organic or not, grapes should be thoroughly washed. When dry, store them in the refrigerator for a few days.

Remove the grapes from the stem before placing them in the juicer.

The kiwifruit, or kiwi, is about the size of a plum and grows on a vine. It has a brown fuzzy skin and a luscious emerald-green pulp that surrounds a cluster of black seeds and has a sweet-sour taste. The kiwi originated in the 1600s in the Yangtze River valley in China and was called "Yangtao." In 1906, Yangtao seeds were sent to New Zealand, where the fruit was renamed Chinese gooseberry. In 1962, the Chinese gooseberry was shipped to the United States, where it was again renamed the "kiwifruit" in honor of New Zealand's famous national bird. Kiwi is high in vitamin C.

When choosing a kiwi, look for one that has a sweet aroma and is plump and firm yet will give slightly when pressed. Kiwi can be ripened at room temperature for three to five days. When ripe, store the kiwi in the refrigerator for a few days.

Kiwi juice is especially delicious when combined with the juice of other fruits. Cut the kiwifruit in half before adding to the juicer.

The mango was cultivated in India and the Malay Archipelago about four thousand years ago. In the 1700s and 1800s, European explorers introduced the fruit to other tropical areas. Mangoes were first raised in the United States sometime in the early 1900s.

The mango resembles a peach in appearance but is more elongated. It has a thin, leathery skin that can be yellow or red. The skin surrounds a very aromatic and juicy pulp and a hard inner pit. Mangoes are rich in betacarotene and vitamins A and C.

When choosing a mango, look for one that is very fragrant, plump around the stem area, and gives slightly when pressed. Mangoes can also be ripened at room temperature. Wash them well before using.

To juice a mango, peel away the skin and remove the pit. Cut the mango into cubes or wedges just large enough to fit in the juicer.

Melons, surprisingly, are members of the cucumber family. They grow on vines that can be up to 7 feet long. There are two distinct types of melons: muskmelons and watermelons. In the muskmelon category are the summer melons, cantaloupe and muskmelon, and the winter melons include the casaba and honeydew. All melons are high in vitamin C.

When choosing a melon, look for one that is unblemished, firm, and free of any soft spots. Pick up a few melons and choose the one that is the heaviest for its size. Also, smell the stem end of the melon to see whether it has a fresh aroma. If it has no aroma, then the fruit is not ripe. Melons should be washed and refrigerated until ready to use.

I prefer to remove the skin before juicing a melon. However, the skin is loaded with nutrients, and you may choose to leave it on. Cut the melon in half, remove the seeds, and then cut the melon into wedges or cubes that are large enough to fit in your juicer.

Many different kinds of melons are available, but I will include descriptions of those that are most likely to appear in your local farmer's market or supermarket.

Cantaloupes are one of the most popular melons, possessing a hint of a sweet nutty flavor. The Eastern style is large with a soft, thick, and juicy interior, while the Western style is smaller, with a crunchier, firm interior that is not as aromatic. All cantaloupes are ripe when the skin under the netting appears a light golden color rather than green or orange and when the stem end has a good aroma.

The honeydew melon is large with a smooth, creamy yellow rind and a green interior. When the honeydew is ripe, it should be firm with a small amount of softness near the stem end and have a slight fruit aroma.

The large watermelon can be round or oblong. It has a thick, green rind and a deliciously sweet, red interior. Because the watermelon consists of 91 percent water, it is an ideal fruit to juice. Today, seedless watermelons are also available. These watermelons may contain some edible white seeds but are free of the hard black seeds. Most watermelons are harvested between April and October. To test for ripeness, turn the watermelon over and look for any yellow color on the underside. Also, the rind should be void of any soft spots.

From ULTIMATE JUICING: delicious recipes for over 125 of the best fruit and vegetable juice combinations. Copyright © 2000 Donna Pliner Rodnitzky. All Rights Reserved.

This _4 The Perfect Produce: How to Select, Prepare & Store Fresh Fruit A-Q recipe is from the Cook'n Ultimate Juicing Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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