Avocados have existed for about 50,000 years; they spread throughout the Americas from Mexico to Chile. The Spaniards discovered this fruit when they invaded the Aztecs, who called it Ahuacatl. This name not only referred to the fruits of the tree but to men’s testicles as well. Other pre-Hispanic peoples also cultivated this fruit. The Incas called it Palta, name under which avocados are known today in several countries of South America. During the conquest of the Americas avocados were known as “pears from India”. In almost all Spanish-speaking countries it is known as avocado, except in Peru, Chile and Argentina where it is called Palta, a name that derives from the Quechua.
Avocados reached almost every corner of the world thanks to the Spanish and Portuguese sailors who were responsible for their dissemination. Nowadays, they grow in almost all the warm regions of Europe, Africa, and Asia. It is considered a very gourmet and exotic fruit in some countries, while in others it is eaten with every meal.
There are 3 known types of avocados – one from Mexico, one from the Antilles, and one from Guatemala. From those three, more than 400 varieties are derived. They can be rounded, oval or pear-shaped. The texture of the skin can be smooth or rough. Color varies from light green to black. Some of the best known varieties are Haas, Edranol, Bacon, Ryan, Wurtz, Reed, and Pikerton.
Avocado trees belong to the LAURACEAE family, like the laurel, cinnamon and camphor trees, but it is the only one in this family which produces fruit. The propagation is done through a large seed inside the fruit which is planted to produce new trees.
Taste and Uses
Avocado meat has a very distinctive taste which is very difficult to describe; it is soft and easy to spread. The mild flavor of avocado and its creamy texture gives the impression of vegetable butter. Its meat can be of different colors ranging from pale green almost yellow, to medium green. Although mistakenly considered a vegetable, avocado is a fruit. It is usually eaten raw, in salads, sauces or mashed, like the famous guacamole. It combines well with onions, garlic, lemons, tomatoes, cilantro, chili and parsley. It is excellent accompanying ceviches, fish and shellfish cocktails.
How to choose avocados
To recognize the degree of ripeness it is necessary to know the type of avocado. If it is a black skin avocado, it must be firm and yield to finger pressure. If it is a large green avocado, shake it to feel if the seed moves. If it does, then it is ripe.
How to preserve Avocados
Avocados ripen faster when wrapped in brown paper or newspaper and left in a shaded place at room temperature. If an avocado is ripe and you want to keep it for a little longer, put it in the refrigerator and it will last a couple more days. The best idea is to use it as soon as it ripens because they will turn black inside very quickly.
To save an open avocado keep the seed on it and put it inside a plastic bag, if you don’t keep it with the seed, it will turn black. It must be refrigerated.
You can also sprinkle it with lemon juice before you store it. Avocado can only be frozen if it is mashed and lemon is added.
How to manipulate Avocados
To peel an avocado, first cut it in half. Then with a blunt tap, embed the blade of the knife in the seed and make a slight sideways movement to remove the seed. The best way to remove the meat from the skin is by using a spoon.
Citrus fruits originated in Asia. Tangerine, one of the sweetest and most savory had its origins in the area between China and Indochina and has been cultivated by its inhabitants for thousands of years. They spread to the West to India, and East towards Japan. For many centuries this fruit was known only by those adventurers and European diplomats travelling in the east.
Tangerine or mandarin cultivation was introduced in the Mediterranean area in the mid-nineteenth century. The name mandarin comes from the Chinese. Mandarins were senior officials of the great Chinese Empire which belonged to the nobility. They wore rich silk brocade robes, embroidered in gold and bright orange. That name also refers to the language, Mandarin, used by the administration of Chinese rule.
All Spanish-speaking countries call mandarins by the same name. There are many varieties of mandarins but the most important are the Clementine, the Tangerine, and the Satsuma. Other varieties have been created from grafts and crosses with other citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit. The most important of the crosses are the Clementilla, the Drum, the Ellendale and the Topaz. Different varieties of mandarins differ with one another by their color and their degree of sweetness.
Mandarin is a tree that belongs to the rutaceae family. It doesn’t grow very high and it has thorny branches and elliptical leaves. It produces white small flowers. The fruit looks like an orange but it’s smaller, and flattened at the poles. Its skin is thinner and its sections separate more easily.
Tangerines have an intense and highly perfumed aroma, which is not liked by everybody, because it stays with you. Its flavor is sweet with a touch of acidity that is delicious to the palate. You can eat it raw at anytime because it is very light. It is also exquisite in juices, desserts and ice creams. They are very juicy and you can make all kinds of things with them, sauces, candies, jellies, jams and liqueurs. It is very exotic in dishes with chicken, pork or fish and it is delicious in salads and desserts as well.
How to choose them
Choose those mandarins that are firm but not hard. When tangerines are too soft, they can either be too ripe or even rotten inside. The skin should be smooth and not wrinkled. The color does not indicate their degree of maturity, so it can be green on the outside and ripe and ready to be consumed. The skin can have shades of green and still be ripe.
How to preserve them
They preserve well at room temperature. To prolong the life of ripe mandarins, store them in the refrigerator or cook them in light syrup and store them in an airtight glass container; they last approximately 10 days.
Papaya is a very important fruit in tropical tables because it is synonymous with health and taste. It is one of the quintessential American foods. Its leaves and seeds contain a world of culinary and therapeutic applications.
It is native to Central America, from where it spread throughout the Caribbean. When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Antilles, he found that a rich, fleshy, and milky fruit was an indispensable part of the native’s diet. Legend says that Hernán Cortes was offered a feast by a Maya chieftain in southeastern Mexico. The Spanish conquistadors ate so much they got indigestion. The Indians offered them some slices of a "beautiful golden fruit" that eased their stomach pain. When they asked what the fruit was called, they understood something like “ababai” from where phonetically, it is believed the name of papaya originates. This is strange, because the Mayas called papayas “chic-put”, or papaya for the birds. The Spaniards took papayas to the Philippines by the mid-sixteenth century. Hence its cultivation spread to Thailand, Vietnam and India. British Captain Cook took the seeds of papaya which in English is also known as paw-paw to Hawaii, an island that is now a major producer. Muslim sailors were responsible for extending their cultivation through East Africa. Currently, papayas are grown in tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa and Asia.
Papaya is known with the same name in almost every Spanish-speaking country. In Cuba it is known as "bomb fruit ". In Dominican Republic and in Venezuela it is known as papaya.
Papaya is the fruit of papaya trees, an herbaceous plant that can reach up to 10 metres high. It has a hollow trunk and it lacks branches. The length of its fruits ranges between 7 and 70 centimeters. The biggest, from subtropical regions, can weigh up to 9 kilograms. They can be oval, elongated or almost round. Their skin can be green and as the fruit ripens, it turns yellow and orange streaks appear. The flesh ranges from yellow to intense orange. The most common varieties are: common papaya with its yellow pulp; Maradol, with its very sweet and almost red pulp; Hawaiian, small with its orange pulp, melon papayas with orange pulp and green skin.
Papayas are sweet and fresh. Their flesh has a firm and juicy consistency. They are delicious raw either alone or with a few drops of lemon. Candy, juice and preserves are made from papaya. It combines well with other fruits making it ideal for fruit salads and cocktails. In Thai and Caribbean Cuisines, green papayas are cooked green and used in the preparation of many dishes. It is also used in green curries and spicy sauces.
Did You Know......
Papaya seeds are an excellent meat tenderizers. Mash some papaya seeds and spread them on the meat. The action of Pectin, an enzyme contained in papaya seeds, will tenderize the meat.
Oranges may have originated south of the Himalayas and northern China where they were domesticated more than 4,000 ago. The Greek emperor, Alexander the Great, who expanded his empire to gigantic proportions, was responsible for introducing citrus fruits to the Mediterranean. According to Greek mythology, golden apples (oranges) were cared for by nymphs and a fearsome dragon, in the Garden of the Hesperidins. Hercules killed the dragon and stole the oranges that until then were only eaten by the Gods.
The first oranges introduced by the Arabs into Spain in the tenth century, were bitter; so they were mostly used as condiments. The blossom covered trees were used as ornaments in palace and mosque’s gardens in Spain. It is not known exactly who introduced the sweet orange in Europe, if Genoese or Portuguese merchants. The truth is that oranges came from opening new trade routes to the Middle East in the early sixteenth century. It is during this period that oranges arrived in the Americas. The hot weather of the Caribbean islands and in many other parts of the continent, were extremely suitable for the planting and cultivation of this delicious fruit.
Oranges are known with the same name in all Spanish-speaking countries. They can take different shapes: they can be round or oval. Their color ranges from pale yellow to red, passing through all shades of orange. There are over 400 varieties, but just a few are cultivated on a large scale. Among these are the Navel, Valencia, Bitter, Shamounti, Veracruz, and Tangelos which are very sweet.
Oranges are appreciated for their refreshing flavor, slightly sweet and acid. Because of these characteristics they are used in both sweet and salty preparations. Oranges add a special touch to sauces, vegetables, rice, chicken and seafood. They are also widely used in pastries.
How to choose oranges
Unlike other fruits, oranges do not continue their ripening process once removed from the tree, and their quality depends on being harvested at the right time.
Choose firm, smooth oranges with not too bright skin because vegetable waxes are sometimes applied to improve their appearance. The thicker the skin, the sweeter the orange is; but also less juicy.
If you are going to eat them soon (2 or 3 days), you can keep them on a fruit bowl at room temperature. If you are going to use them later, they need to be kept longer. Place them in the bottom tray of your refrigerator.
Wash your oranges well before eating them. Use warm water and a brush to remove any chemical residue. If you submerge oranges in hot water for a few minutes before you peel them, the white skin inside will be easier to remove. Begin to peel the orange by the stalk. This is the best way to remove the white skin from the segments.
Did You Know that....
A little orange peel adds an aromatic and tangy touch to all foods. It can be used in strips or grated.
Apples have existed on earth since time immemorial. The Bible says that Eve convinced Adam to disobey God tempting him with an apple. As a result, they were expelled from paradise and the rest is history.
Initially, apples grew wild. They were cultivated and grafted to create new varieties. Apples are grown throughout Europe. The first apple to reach the Americas came with the English colonists and the Spanish conquistadors.
The word Manzana comes from the Latin Mattiana which means apple. It is known by the same name in all Spanish-speaking countries. Apples are the most popular fruit on the planet; over 40 tons of these are consumed each year. The United States and France are among the largest producers and consumers.
There are about 1,000 varieties of apples. Among the best known are the Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Macintosh and go from super tart, to super sweet to sour depending on the variety. The size of an apple depends on the variety, and the smallest are the size of a plum. Depending on the variety they are softer or crisper or juicier. Apples go very well with strong cheeses such as Gorgonzola, Camembert, Roquefort and Brie, among others. It also combines well with cinnamon and raisins. And if you're going to prepare cakes or compotes choose sour apples.
How to choose apples
Always choose firm, smooth, shiny skin apples which don’t show bruises and have a sweet fragrance.
Ripe apples keep in good condition up to a week at room temperature. The best way to conserve them is to make compotes and save them in the refrigerator. Raw apples cannot be frozen. You can only freeze them if they are cooked.
Apples oxidize very fast. To prevent oxidation sprinkle them with lemon water immediately after cutting or dip them in ice water and lemon juice; this method will keep them crisp and white a lot longer.
If you are going to prepare stuffed apples, use a core remover to extract the core. You can also use a peering knife to remove the heart. If you are going to bake them, cover them with butter or oil so the skin remains smooth. Don’t forget to poke them with a fork so they do not explode in the oven.
Did you know that…
Apples are the most consumed fruit on the planet. More than 40 million tons are cultivated annually. The United States and France are among the biggest producers and consumers.