Fruit makes up the majority of a smoothie, so being well informed about the wide variety of options available can be very helpful in your mission to create the perfect smoothie. This chapter was designed to acquaint you with these delectable bundles of flavor and to guide you in choosing, storing, and preparing them. To begin with, it's important to realize that choosing fruit that is "smoothie ready" can be very deceptive, especially if your choice is based on appearance alone. At first glance, a peach may look ripe simply because of its rich color however, there are a number of other less obvious attributes that are equally important. You should attempt to determine whether the fruit has a fresh aroma, how heavy or dense it is, and whether it's firm yet resilient to the touch. These are all characteristics that are often more important than the fruit's color. The good news is that once you become a fruit maven, you'll find that it's actually quite easy to determine whether fruit is ripe.
I'm certain that as you become more familiar with the fabulous array of fruit available, you'll delight, more than ever, in the excitement of making deliciously refreshing and satisfying smoothies. Whether you use the recipes found in this book or those that you're inspired to create yourself, this is going to be one of the most flavorful adventures of your life.
As you navigate the aisles of your favorite farmer's market or produce department, I hope you find the following information useful in your quest for the best nature has to offer.
Apples are believed to have originated in Central Asia and the 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, there are over 100 varieties of apples commercially grown in the United States.
Apples, whether red, green, or yellow, all have a firm, crisp flesh. They are a rich source of fiber. Some apples have a sweet flavor with a hint of tartness, while others are less sweet and more tart. Most apples are delicious when made into a smoothie, but your flavor preference will determine the best variety for you.
Selection: When choosing an apple, look for one that is firm and crisp with a smooth and tight skin. Most important, the apple should have a sweet-smelling aroma. Avoid any apple that has a bruised or blemished skin. Another consideration when choosing apples is to buy the organic variety whenever possible. Most nonorganic apples are heavily sprayed with pesticides and later waxed to preserve and keep them looking fresh. Because organic apples have not been subjected to this treatment, you might find a worm in some organic apples. These unwelcome visitors can be removed when the apple is cut, thereby removing any health or aesthetic concerns. Wash in cool water and dry all apples well, whether organic or not. Apples can be stored in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks if they are kept separate from other fruits and vegetables.
The apricot is a round or oblong fruit measuring about two inches in diameter with skin and flesh that are golden orange in color. It's a very sweet and juicy fruit with 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 vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber, and iron.
Selection: When choosing apricots, look for those that are well colored, plump, and fairly firm but yield slightly when gently pressed. An apricot that is soft to the touch and juicy is fully ripe and should be eaten right away. If an apricot is hard, it can be placed in a brown paper bag and allowed to ripen at room temperature for a day or two. Refrigerate apricots in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for up to a week. Wash them in cool water just before using.
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 also is 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 reputed to be one of nature's best energy sources and are a rich source of vitamins A, B6, and C as well as fiber. They are ideal fare for postexercise activity because they replace important nutrients, such as potassium, which is often lost during strenuous activity.
Selection: Bananas are picked when they are green and sweeten as they ripen until they get to market. When choosing a banana, look for one that is completely yellow. The riper a banana, or the more yellow its skin, the sweeter it is. Bananas that are yellow but have green tips and green necks or are all yellow with light green necks are ready to eat. Green bananas will ripen at room temperature in two or three days. Alternatively, they can be placed in a brown paper bag to ripen. If an apple is added to the bag, the bananas will ripen even faster. Once ripe, bananas can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
The blackberry is a small black, blue, or dark-red berry that grows on thorny bushes (brambles). These berries are oblong in shape and grow up to one inch in length. The United States is the world's dominant producer of blackberries. Blackberries are at their peak in flavor and availability from June through September but may still be found in some supermarkets from November into April. They are rich in vitamin C and fiber and a good source of folate.
Selection: When choosing blackberries, look for ones that are plump and solid with full color and a bright, fresh appearance. Place them in a shallow container to prevent the berries on top from crushing those on the bottom and cover the container. They may be stored in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for up to two days. Wash blackberries in cool water just before using
Native to North America, the blueberry has the distinction of being the second most popular berry in the United States. It has been around for thousands of years but was not cultivated until the turn of the twentieth century. Today, 95% of the world's commercial crop of blueberries is 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 vitamins A and C as well as fiber.
Selection: When choosing blueberries, look for those that are plump and firm with a dark-blue color and a silvery "bloom" (the powder on blueberries protects them from the sun-it does not rinse off). Avoid any that appear to be dull because this may indicate that the fruit is old. Blueberries should be prepared in the same way as blackberries however, they can be stored for a longer time in the crisper bin of the refrigerator, from three to five days.
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's 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. Cherries are available from late May through early August. They are a good source of vitamin C and fiber.
Selection: When choosing cherries, look for those that are dark red, plump, and firm, with an attached stem. Store them in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for up to two days and wash them in cool water just before using.
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 sweet-and-sour emerald-green pulp that surrounds a cluster of black seeds. Kiwis originated in the 1600s in the Yangtze River valley in China, where it 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 available all year. It's high in vitamin C and fiber and is a good source of vitamin E and potassium.
Selection: When choosing a kiwi, look for one that is light brown, has a sweet aroma, and is firm yet will give slightly when pressed. Kiwi will ripen at room temperature in three to five days. Kiwi also can be placed in a brown paper bag, along with an apple or banana, to speed up the ripening process. When ripe, store kiwi in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
The lime is a small, aromatic fruit with a flavor similar to the lemon except that it's less acidic and more aromatic. It has a smooth, dark-green skin and measures about 1 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. The lime is native to India and grows in most subtropical regions, such as Mexico and the West Indies. Limes are high in vitamin C and are a good source of fiber.
Selection: To choose a lime with the most juice, look for one that is plump, heavy for its size, firm, and medium to large in size. The skin should be smooth and shiny and deep green in color. Sprinkle limes with a couple of drops of cool water and store them in a resealable plastic bag in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Wash them in cool water just before using.
Mangoes were cultivated in India and the Malay Archipelago as long as 4,000 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 in shape. It has a thin, leathery skin that is waxy and smooth, and its color can be green, red, orange, yellow, or any combination. The skin surrounds a very aromatic and juicy pulp and a hard inner pit. Mangoes are rich in betacarotene, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Selection: When choosing a mango, look for one that is very fragrant and plump around the stem area and gives slightly when pressed. No matter what the color of the mango, the best-flavored ones will have a yellow tinge when ripe. Mangoes also can be ripened at room temperature. To accelerate the process, place the mango and an apple in a brown paper bag overnight. Once ripened, it can be stored in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for up to five days. Wash in cool water and dry the fruit well just before using.
Melons, surprisingly, are members of the cucumber family. They grow on vines that can be up to seven feet long. There are two distinct types of melons: muskmelons and watermelons. The muskmelon category includes summer melons (cantaloupe and muskmelon) and winter melons (casaba and honeydew). All melons are high in vitamin C.
Selection: 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, melon aroma. If it has no aroma, the fruit is not ripe. To ripen a melon, place it in a loosely closed brown paper bag. Melons should be washed in cool water and refrigerated until ready to use.
Fresh oranges are widely grown in Florida, California, and Arizona and are available all year long. The two major varieties are the Valencia and the navel. Two other varieties grown in the western states are the Cara Cara 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 and fiber.
Selection: When selecting an orange, look for one that is firm and heavy for its size. Avoid oranges with a bruised skin, indicating possible fermentation, as well as those with a loose skin, suggesting that they may be dry inside. Although oranges can be stored at room temperature for a few days, their flavor is best when kept refrigerated. Wash oranges in cool water before storing them in the crisper bin of the refrigerator.
PEACH AND NECTARINE
Grown since prehistoric times, peaches were first cultivated in China. They were later introduced into Europe and Persia. It's believed that the Spaniards brought peaches to North, 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 variety is the "clingstone," in which the pit is firmly attached to the fruit. The freestone is the peach most often found in supermarkets because it's easy to eat, while clingstones are frequently canned. Peaches are available almost year-round and are a good source of vitamins A and C as well as fiber.
The nectarine is a smooth-skinned variety of the peach. Nectarines are high in vitamin C and rich in vitamin A and fiber.
Selection: When choosing nectarines, look for those with bright-red markings over a yellow skin. Avoid any with wrinkled skin or those that are soft and bruised. The nectarine should yield gently to the touch and have a sweet aroma. To ripen nectarines, place them in a brown paper bag and keep at room temperature. Once ripe, store them in a single layer in the crisper bin for up to one week. Wash nectarines in cool water just before using.
When picking 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 and out of direct sun until they yield slightly to the touch. Once ripe, store them in a single layer in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for up to five days. Wash peaches in cool water just before using.
Pear is the name of a tree of the rose family and its fruit. It's 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 around 2000 B.C. Pear trees were introduced to the Americas when European settlers arrived in the 1700s. Pears are a source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium.
Selection: Pears are a unique fruit because they ripen best 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 two days." When choosing pears, look for ones that are firm and unblemished with a fresh pear aroma. To ripen pears, place them in a brown paper bag at room temperature for a few days. When they yield to gentle thumb pressure, pears are ready to eat. Once ripe, wash pears in cool water and store them in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for two to five days.
The pineapple is a tropical fruit that is native to Central and South America. In 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered pineapples growing on the island of Guadeloupe and brought them back to Spain. By the 1700s, pineapples were being grown in greenhouses throughout Europe. They are an excellent source of vitamin C.
Selection: When choosing a pineapple, look for one that has a fresh pineapple aroma and a crown with crisp, fresh-looking green leaves and a brightly colored shell. It also should be heavy and symmetrical in size. Avoid any pineapples that have soft spots or are discolored. To store a pineapple, cut the fruit from the shell and refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to one week.
Wild plums have been around for so long that they were gathered by our prehistoric ancestors. Later, it's believed that cultivated plum plants were introduced in ancient Rome from Damascus. Today, 200 to 300 varieties of plums are grown in the United States. They come in a wide variety 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.
Selection: Choose a plum that has good color is heavy for its size and has a sweet, familiar plum fragrance. The fruit should yield slightly to pressure, especially close to the stem end. 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 in cool water and store them in a single layer in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for up to five days.
It's believed that red raspberries spread all over Europe and Asia in prehistoric times. Because they were so delicious growing wild, it was not until the 1600s that raspberries were cultivated in Europe. Those that are cultivated in North America originated from two groups: the red raspberry, native to Europe, and the wild red variety, native to North America. Raspberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, and folate.
Selection: When choosing raspberries, it's always best to buy them when they are in season, usually starting in late June and lasting four to six weeks. If you're 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. Select berries that are large and plump, bright, shiny, uniform in color, and free of mold. Avoid any that are mushy. Before refrigerating raspberries, carefully go through the batch and discard any that show signs of spoilage. Place the raspberries in a shallow container to prevent the berries on top from crushing those on the bottom and cover the container. They may be stored in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for up to two days. Wash raspberries in a gentle stream of cool water just before you're ready to use them.
Strawberries date as far back as 2,200 years ago. They are known to have grown wild in Italy in the third century, and by 1588 they 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 North America.
The strawberry grows in groups of three on the stem of a plant that is very low to the ground. As the fruit ripens, it changes from greenish white in color 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.
Selection: 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're 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 strawberry aroma. Strawberries can be stored in a single layer in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for up to two days. Wash them with their caps in a gentle stream of cool water just before you're ready to use them.
To make a smoothie with the optimal consistency, it's important that the fresh fruit you use has been frozen for 30 minutes or more. Using frozen fruit also helps maintain your smoothie at an ideal icy-cold temperature. Another reason you may want to freeze fruit is simply to store it for later use. This is especially useful when you know that certain seasonal fruits will no longer be available after a certain date. By purchasing an ample quantity to freeze, you can be certain of having a supply on hand when you need it to prepare one of your favorite smoothies. Also, there may be times when already ripened fruit isn't needed immediately, so freezing prevents overripening and allows it to be utilized at a later time.
Whether you're freezing for immediate use or for storage, the basic preparation is identical.
* When ready to freeze cherries and apricots (which should be cut in half and their stones removed) or berries, place them in a colander and rinse with a gentle stream of cool water. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
* To freeze a plum, peach, nectarine (remove its stone), or pear (remove its stem and seeds), cut them into small pieces.
* For a banana or kiwifruit, remove its skin and either slice it or freeze it whole and then slice it later before use.
* Before freezing oranges and limes, remove the peel and pith, break each into segments, and remove any seeds.
* To prepare apples, mangoes, and melons for freezing, remove their peels and seeds or pits before cubing.
* When ready to freeze a pineapple, remove its top, the outer layering, and the core, then cut into cubes.
Place prepared fruit on a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper and freeze it for 30 minutes or longer, after which time it will be ready to add to the other smoothie ingredients. If frozen fruit is to be used at a later date, transfer the frozen pieces to an airtight plastic bag large enough to hold them in a single layer. Label and mark the date on the bag and freeze for up to two weeks. Most fruit can be kept in the freezer this long without a loss of flavor.
From SUMMER SMOOTHIES: more than 130 cool and refreshing recipes. Copyright © 2002 Donna Pliner Rodnitzky. All Rights Reserved.
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