_4 The Perfect Produce: How to Select, Prepare & Store Fresh Fruit P-Organic

Serves: 5



The papaya has a smooth skin that can be green or greenish yellow. It surrounds a flesh that ranges from yellow-orange to salmon toned. It has a slightly elongated shape, similar to that of an avocado, and contains many edible seeds. Its flavor has been described as musky peachy-apricot. Papayas are an excellent source of vitamin C and beta-carotene.

When choosing a papaya, look for one that is heavy for its size and gives slightly when pressed. Also, the papaya should have a pleasant aroma. If the skin is spotted, this will not affect the flavor. Papayas are at their peak during May and June. Wash them before using.

To juice a papaya, first remove the skin and seeds and then cut the papaya into cubes or wedges just large enough to fit in the juicer.

The passion fruit is a round or egg-shaped fruit with a skin that is thick, waxy, hard, and wrinkled. It encloses an aromatic, jelly-like golden flesh filled with edible seeds and measures about 11.2 to 3 inches wide. The New Zealand passion fruit is purple, and the Hawaiian passion fruit is yellow. All passion fruit have a musky sweet-tart flavor.

When choosing a passion fruit, look for one that is fragrant, shriveled, and rich in color. If the passion fruit has a smooth skin, you can ripen it at room temperature for a few days, turning the fruit occasionally. Wash the passion fruit and refrigerate it in an airtight plastic bag for a few days.

To juice a passion fruit, cut the fruit in half before adding it to the juicer.

Peaches have been grown since prehistoric times and were first cultivated in China. They were later introduced into Europe and Persia. It is believed that the Spaniards brought peaches to the United States and Central and South America. The Spanish missionaries planted the first peach trees in California.

Numerous varieties of peaches are available, and they are broken down into rough classifications. One type of peach is the "freestone," so named because the pit separates easily from the peach. Another type is the "clingstone" because the pit is firmly attached to the fruit. Freestone peaches are most often found in the supermarket because they are easy to eat, while clingstone peaches are frequently canned. Peaches are available almost year-round and are a good source of vitamins A and C.

When choosing peaches, look for ones that are relatively firm with a fuzzy, creamy yellow skin, and a sweet aroma. The pink blush on the peach indicates its variety, not its ripeness. Avoid peaches with a wrinkled skin or those that are soft or blemished.

The peach should yield gently when touched. To ripen peaches, keep them at room temperature, out of direct sun, until the skin yields slightly to the touch. Once ripe, wash the peaches and store them in the refrigerator in a single layer for up to five days.

The nectarine is a smooth-skinned variety of the peach. Nectarines are high in vitamin C.

When choosing nectarines, look for those with bright red markings over a yellow skin. Avoid any with a wrinkled skin or those that are soft or bruised. The nectarine should yield gently to the touch and have a sweet aroma.

For juicing, remove the pit and cut the peach or nectarine into wedges just large enough to fit in your juicer.

Pear refers to the name of a tree of the rose family and its fruit. It is believed that pears were eaten by Stone Age people. However, the pears we are accustomed to eating were first cultivated in southeastern Europe and western Asia, as early as 2000 B.C. Pear trees were first planted in America in the early seventeenth century. Pears are a source of vitamin C and fiber.

Although pears are available year-round, they ripen better off the tree. This explains why they are often so hard when purchased at the supermarket. Many pears have stickers that tell you the stage of ripeness, such as "ready to eat" or "let me ripen for 2 days." Therefore, when choosing pears, look for ones that are firm and unblemished with a fresh aroma. To ripen them at home, place them in a brown paper bag at room temperature for a few days. Once ripe, wash the pears and refrigerate them from two to five days.

To make pear juice, cut the pear into wedges just large enough to fit in your juicer. Pear juice, alone is delicious, but it also combines well with the juice of most other fruit juices.

With the vast number of pear varieties (over three thousand), I will briefly discuss the four that are most often available.

Anjou pears are large, oval shaped with a light green to yellow-green smooth, thin skin on the outside. They are available from October through June.

Bartlett pears are bell shaped and turn from green to yellow when ripe. There is also a red variety, which turns bright red when ripe. These aromatic pears are available from July through December.

Bosc pears have a long neck and stem with a rough skin on the outside. They have a light rusted or cinnamon-colored skin and are available from August to May.

Comice pears are round with a short neck and stem. They are large and plump with a pale greenish yellow skin that sometimes has a hint of a blush. Comice pears are available from August through April.

Persimmons have been cultivated in China for centuries. They later spread to Korea and Japan. In the mid-1800s, the persimmon plant was introduced to California. Some persimmons are round, while others have an acorn shape, or they may be flattened or somewhat square. They range from light yellow-orange to dark orange-red. The whole fruit is edible except for the seed and calyx. They have a very sweet, fruity flavor when ripe but are exceptionally sour when unripe. Persimmons are rich in vitamin C.

When choosing a persimmon, a very good indication of its ripeness is a full color and a slightly wrinkled skin. In fact, the fruits that taste best are those that almost look spoiled.

To juice a persimmon, remove the seed and cut the fruit into quarters before adding it to the juicer.

Pineapples are a tropical fruit native to Central and South America. In 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered pineapples growing on the island of Guadeloupe and brought them back to Spain. In the 1700s, it is reported that pineapples were grown in greenhouses throughout Europe. Pineapples are an excellent source of vitamin C.

When choosing a pineapple, look for one that has a fresh pineapple aroma and a crown with crisp, fresh-looking leaves and a brightly colored shell. Avoid any pineapples that have soft spots or are discolored. Wash the pineapple well.

To juice a pineapple, remove the crown. Cut the fruit, with skin and core, into spears or cubes before juicing.

Wild plums have been around for so long that they were gathered by our prehistoric ancestors. Later, it is believed that cultivated plum plants were introduced in ancient Rome from Damascus. Today, two hundred to three hundred varieties of plums are grown in the United States. They come in a wide range of colors, ranging from purple and red to yellow, green, and blue. The damson, which is small and oval and has a tart flavor, is the family to which several varieties of common garden plums belong. Plums are rich in vitamin C.

Choose a plum that has good color, is heavy for its size, and has a sweet fragrance. The fruit should yield slightly to pressure, especially close to the end stem. Avoid any plums that are too soft, have a shriveled skin, exhibit brown spots, or show any sign of leakage. If the plum is hard, it will ripen in a brown paper bag at room temperature after a few days. Wash plums well and store them in a single layer in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Plum juice is especially delicious when combined with the juice of other fruits. To juice a plum, cut it in half and remove the pit before adding it to the juicer.

Pomegranates grow on a deciduous thorny shrub or small tree and is native to the semitropical region of Asia. They have a hard, red skin enclosing hundreds of edible fleshy seeds, each surrounded by a juicy, translucent pulp. Pomegranates are a source of potassium, fiber, and a little vitamin C.

When choosing a pomegranate, look for one with a thin, tough, unbroken skin. A medium-size pomegranate, about the size of an orange, will yield approximately 1/2 cup of juice.

Pomegranate juice is best combined with the juice of other fruits. To juice a pomegranate, the seeds and pulp must be carefully removed. Using a very sharp knife, carefully slice off the stem end of the fruit. Make four cuts through the skin, each starting at the exposed stem end and working the knife down to the opposite end. Break the fruit into quarters, and use your fingers to remove the seeds.

It is believed that red raspberries spread all over Europe and Asia in prehistoric times. Because these raspberries were so delicious growing wild, it was not until the 1600s that they were cultivated in Europe. The raspberries that are cultivated in North America originated from two groups: the red raspberry, which was native to Europe, and the wild red variety, which was native to North America. Raspberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium.

When choosing raspberries, it is always best to buy them when they are in season, which usually begins in late June and lasts four to six weeks. If you are fortunate enough to have a local berry farm, take advantage of it by visiting at the beginning of the season to get the best pick. Choose berries that are large and plump, bright, shiny, uniform in color, and free of mold. Avoid any raspberries that are mushy. Before refrigerating raspberries for up to one day, carefully go through the batch and discard any that show signs of spoilage. Wash the raspberries just before you are ready to use them.

The existence of strawberries dates as far back as 2,200 years ago. They are known to have grown wild in Italy in the third century and, by 1588, were discovered in Virginia by the first European settlers. Local Indians cultivated the strawberry as early as the mid-1600s, and by the middle of the nineteenth century, this fruit was widely grown in many parts of the country.

The strawberry grows on a plant very low to the ground on a stem in groups of three. As the fruit ripens, it changes from greenish white to a lush flame red. The strawberry does not have a skin but is actually covered by hundreds of tiny seeds. Strawberries are a rich source of vitamin C and fiber.

The best time to buy strawberries is in June and July when they are at their peak of juicy freshness. As with raspberries, if you are lucky enough to live near a strawberry farm, a "pick your own" day trip is a wonderful family outing as well as an excellent way to get the very best of the crop. Look for plump, firm, and deep-colored fruit with a bright green cap and a sweet aroma. Strawberries can be stored in a single layer in the refrigerator for up to two days and washed with their cap just before you are ready to use them.

To juice strawberries, place them in the juicer and process. Strawberry juice is delicious on its own but also combines well with the juice of most other fruit juices.

Most books on fruit and vegetable juicing stress the desirability of buying organic produce whenever possible. Every year in the United States, over a billion pounds of herbicides and pesticides are sprayed on crops to battle insects and weeds. While a small percentage of these toxic substances adheres to the targeted crops and is effective, the vast majority is unfortunately absorbed in our soil and water, resulting in a frightening potential health risk to humans.

Those of us who share in these concerns should consider buying organic produce, where it is available. Organic farming is based on a system of agriculture that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of chemical fertilizers, in turn producing healthier plants that can naturally resist disease and insects without synthetic pesticides. In this system, should the pest population get out of control, insect predators, mating disruptions, traps, and barriers are introduced as a defense.

You can be confident that produce marked "certified organic" was grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by independent state or private organizations. As part of the certification process, farm fields are inspected and soil and water periodically tested to assure that the farmer is meeting standards set by the federal government in the Organic Food Act of 1990. Only farms that meet these standards can be certified as organic. Even more strict federal guidelines governing organic certification have been proposed that would go beyond banning toxic pesticides by prohibiting genetic engineering, irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge.

While organic produce is a better alternative to eating fresh fruits and vegetables that have been heavily sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, there is no evidence that it is any more nutritious. However, organic produce often has a richer flavor as a result of having been cultivated in a more well-balanced soil.

Organic foods are most often available in natural food stores, health food sections of supermarkets, farmer's markets, and by mail from specialty retailers. Keep in mind that organic produce, like the nonorganic variety, should also be washed well and rinsed thoroughly under cold running water. A variety of biodegradable cleaners with explicit instructions are also available for this purpose.

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 P-Organic recipe is from the Cook'n Ultimate Juicing Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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