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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Fruits, Nuts & Seeds

TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Serve Fresh Figs


It doesn’t get simpler than this: halved ripe
cheese topped with a bit of blue cheese or
chèvre. Photo courtesy Castello USA.


We were surprised not too long ago when a friend mentioned she liked figs, but had only eaten figs in their dried form. Why, we asked, since they are easily available?

“I didn’t know what to do with them,” she replied.

Today’s first tip: Never let unfamiliarity stop you from trying a new food. Buy it, bring it home, look it up.

A sweet, soft and moist tree-ripened fig is luscious, eaten plain, with cheese or yogurt, or in many recipes. Just as with, say, fresh versus dried mango, it’s a completely different experience.

And the season is now: In the U.S., figs have two seasons: a short season in early summer and a main crop that starts in late summer and runs through fall.

Fresh figs are fragile and don’t travel well: The think skins easily split and the flesh can bruise. This makes fresh figs even more of a treat, worth seeking out.


Man has been cultivating figs for more than 11,400 years. It is now believed to be the first food cultivated by man, in the Near East* some 11,400 years ago. This is roughly 1,000 years before the other “earliest crops,” barley, legumes and wheat were domesticated in the region. [Source]

Domestication of crops was a tipping point in the evolution of human thinking after 2.5 million years as nomadic hunter-gatherers: the decision to settle down and grow their own food rather than relying on finding food that was growing wild.
*According to National Geographic, the terms Near East and Middle East are synonymous. Afghanistan, Armenia, Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the West Bank, and Yemen are included in the definition. According to Wikipedia, different bodies—Encyclopedia Britannica and the United Nations, for example—may exclude some countries and add others. [Source]
Figs Today

The fig is a member of the Moraceae binomial family, sometimes called the fig family. It’s the family member that’s most familiar to us: Other members include the banyan, breadfruit, mulberry and Osage orange (which not an orange).

There are almost 200 cultivars of figs, in a wide range of shapes, colors and textures. While most of think of figs as having skins that are brown, green, red or purple, take a look at the lovely yellow Tiger Stripe Fig.

Figs are now grown in warm, dry and sunny climates in around the globe (fig trees can’t tolerate temperatures below 20°F).

The top 10 fig producing countries are, by crop size, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Syria, United States, Brazil, Albania and Tunisia.



Since figs are sweet, we think of them in the context of desserts or sweet snacks. But sweetness is also an excellent counterpoint to bitter, salty and spicy/hot foods.

Eat up: Figs are among the richest plant sources of calcium and fiber. They are rich in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins B6 and K, and are a good source of flavonoids and polyphenols (antioxidants). They are sodium-free and cholesterol/fat-free.

Don’t peel the figs. Enjoy them with breakfast cereal, yogurt or cottage cheese; sliced on sandwiches with fresh or aged cheese; chopped and added to rice; stuffed with cream cheese or goat cheese as an hors d’oeuvre; or raw or grilled as a side dish, cut in half and served with grilled meat or poultry.

Figs For Breakfast

  • With yogurt or cottage cheese.
  • With pancakes, instead of berries.
  • On cereal, hot or cold.
  • Sliced as an omelet filling, with cream cheese or goat cheese.
  • In muffins and breakfast pastries.


    Fresh figs with a sweet mascarpone dip; figs dipped into chocolate fondue. Photo courtesy California Figs.

    Figs For Lunch

  • On panini with fig jam (recipe—add sliced figs atop the jam; use orange marmalade if you don’t have fig jam).
  • Cheese Soufflé With Figs (here’s a recipe with blue cheese but you can substitute fresh goat cheese).
    Figs In Appetizers, Hors D’oeuvre And Salads

  • Bacon or prosciutto-wrapped figs.
  • Brie & Fig Torte (recipe).
  • Endive Salad With Figs (recipe).
  • Figs In Prosciutto Bundles (recipe).
  • Fig & Radicchio Salad (recipe.)

    Cocktails With Figs

  • Fig & Maple Fizz (recipe).
  • Give A Fig Cocktail (recipe).
  • Fig-infused vodka (Fig Infused Vodka).
    Dinner Courses With Figs

  • Honey Balsamic Fig-Glazed Ham (recipe).
  • Bison With Fig Balsamic Reduction (recipe).
  • Pork Loin With Fig & Port Sauce (recipe).

    Desserts With Figs

  • Bonbons dipped in chocolate (like these from John & Kira’s).
  • Cheese plate with fresh figs.
  • Compote.
  • Fig Flower With Honey Goat Cheese (recipe).
  • Fig Fondue, quartered and dipped into your favorite chocolate or white chocolate fondue recipe.
  • Ice cream—we love this recipe from Charlie Trotter, but you can simply dice the figs, marinate them in brandy or Grand Marnier, and add them to softened vanilla ice cream before returning to the freezer. It’s a riff on rum raisin.
  • Roast Figs With Honey & Hazelnuts (recipe).

    If you have too many ripe figs, you can place them on paper towels, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for a few days. Or, place them in a freezer bag and freeze for up to six months.

    Or, purée the ripe figs and use the purée in cocktails (mixed with white spirits, for example), smoothies, or as a topper for ice cream or sorbet (add sweetener as necessary).
    Hungry yet?



    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruit In A Green Salad

    Enjoy the summer’s fruit bounty straight, in fruit salads, yogurt, pies, ice cream, smoothies and … green salad.

    Strawberries or watermelon salad plus greens and feta or goat cheese are time-honored additions to a green salad.

    But you can create your own recipe. For a July 4th salad, how about a red, white and blue green salad with raspberries, blueberries and diced applies? Instead of the apples, use feta or goat cheese for the white component.

    The salad in the photo, from Souplantation, combines:

  • Romaine
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Red onion
  • Caramelized walnuts
  • Raisins (you can substitute dried cherries or cranberries)
  • Sliced strawberries
    You can use a conventional vinaigrette recipe or a berry vinaigrette, adding a tablespoon of puréed berries to the recipe.



    Strawberry Fields forever? Well, for about 15 minutes until you’ve finished the salad. Photo courtesy Souplantation.

    For a creamy dressing, add a tablespoon of sour cream or Greek yogurt and combine in a blender.



    PRODUCT: SunGold Golden Kiwi Fruit


    Kiwi: It’s not just green. Photo courtesy


    In the late 1970s, New Zealand kiwifruit growers began experimenting with the breeding of a golden kiwifruit (in the U.S., we call it “kiwi” for short). Seeds were imported from China, where a female plant was chosen for its yellow flesh and excellent flavor, and was crossed with a male plant proven to produce large, succulent fruit.

    In 1992 one offspring plant from the breeding stock was selected and nurtured, resulting in the golden-fleshed berry* now known as Zespri® SunGold Kiwifruit. It is available at supermarkets nationwide from June through October.

    Zespri spent 10 years developing the SunGold variety through natural crossbreeding methods. SunGold is sweeter than a green kiwi, and tastes like a cross between a mango and a strawberry, with just a hint of tanginess.

    Like regular kiwi, it offers healthy ammounts of vitamins C and E, potassium. Its sunny yellow sweetness boosts the nutrition and color on your plate. Try it:

  • Peeled and sliced for snacking
  • Scooped right out of the shell and eaten from the spoon
  • With cereal, cottage cheese or yogurt
  • In smoothies
  • In any fruit recipe (fruit soup, ice cream, puddings, pies and tarts)
  • In fruit salads and green salads
  • As a bright plate garnish for entrées and desserts
  • Sliced on sandwiches, especially ham or turkey
    Many people prefer the flavor of kiwifruit chilled.
    For more information about Zespri—the world leader in premium quality kiwifruit—and delicious kiwi recipes, visit the

    Golden kiwifruit is usually ready to eat when you buy it. It should feel slightly soft to the touch, like a ripe peach or avocado. Once ripe, should be stored in the refrigerator.

    Green kiwifruit may be a bit firm when you buy it, and will usually ripen at in three to five days at room temperature. The firmer the fruit, the more tart it will taste.

    To speed up the ripening process, place kiwis (or any fruit) in a closed paper bag on the counter with an apple or banana. Fruits like apples and bananas produce natural ethylene gas, which accelerates ripening.

    By the same token, any ripe fruit should be stored away from ethylene-producing fruits—never in the same produce drawer.

    If you want to store the fruit for longer than a few days, keep it in a plastic bag in the fridge.



    The kiwi, also known as the Chinese gooseberry, is the edible berry of a woody vine in the genus Actinidia.

    Native to China, the fruit was first commercially grown in New Zealand in the early 20th century. The growers began calling it “kiwifruit” to give it more market appeal (and to to avoid the high duties charged on imported berries). Kiwi is a flightless bird native to New Zealand, and the fruit was small, brown and fuzzy like the bird.*

    The most common cultivar is oval, about the size of a large hen’s egg. Cultivars range in color from light to very dark green, orange, yellow, and a green variety where the seeds are in a red-colored ring.

    A medium kiwi has 42 calories, lots of vitamins A and C, fiber, folate, potassium, copper, magnesium, phosphorous and vitamins E and K. It has two times more vitamin C than an orange and as much potassium as a medium banana.

    *Kiwi, the bird, is and its national symbol of New Zealand. The name is used internationally as a reference to New Zealanders.



    Cut the fruit in half and scoop out the fruit. Alternatively, peel and slice. Photo courtesy Zespri.



    You may remember from high school biology that all living things have a biological classification, known as taxonomy: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species.

    This system of taxonomy was developed Carl Linnaeus, and first set forth in his Systema Naturae, published in 1735. Here’s how the system works. For kiwifruit specifically, visit

    Family: Actinidiaceae

    Kiwifruit are categorized in this group because they are a woody vine. The Actinidiaceae family consists of woody vines, shrubs and trees that are native to Asia, Central America and South America. These plants also have a simple, spiral arrangement of leaves.

    Genus: Actinidia

    This genus name is given to plants that are tough and hardy. The word actinidia derives from a Greek word meaning difficult or hard. The vine and skin of the kiwifruit are tough, resistant, strong and hardy.

    Species: A. deliciosa

    The species name deliciosa derives from the Greek word meaning luxury or luxurious, referring to the luscious taste of the fleshy fruit.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Summer Fruits & Vegetables

    Following our recent article on spring produce, here’s what’s in season for summer. Not everything may be available in your area, but what is there should be largely American-grown—not imported from another hemisphere.

    Some of the items are harvested for only a few weeks; others are around for months. So peruse the list, note what you don’t want to miss, and add it to your shopping list.

    The list was created by the Produce For Better Health Foundation. Take a look at their website, for tips on better meal planning with fresh produce.


  • Acerola/Barbados Cherries
  • Apricots
  • Asian Pear
  • Black Crowberries
  • Black Currants
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Breadfruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Casaba Melon


    If you’ve never had fresh lychees, this is the season to get your fill! Photo courtesy Baldor Food.

  • Champagne Grapes/Corinthian Currants/Zante Currants
  • Crenshaw Melon
  • Durian
  • Elderberry
  • Fig
  • Galia Melon
  • Grapefruit
  • Grape
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Jackfruit
  • Lime/Key Lime
  • Loganberry
  • Longan
  • Loquat
  • Lychee (photo above)
  • Mulberry
  • Nectarine
  • Olallieberry*
  • Passion Fruit
  • Peach
  • Persian Melon
  • Plum
  • Raspberry
  • Rose Apple†
  • Sapote/Sapodilla
  • Strawberry
  • Sugar Apple
  • Watermelon
    *Olallieberries, developed in 1949 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Oregon State University by crossing a loganberry with a youngberry. They are two-thirds blackberry, one-third European red raspberry.

    †Rose apples are not related to European apples (family Rosaceae), which originated in Turkey. They are members of the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. Native to the East Indies, they are also known as plum roses and Malabar plums.



    Ong choy, Chinese water spinach. Photo by Eric | Wikimedia.



  • Anaheim Chile
  • Armenian Cucumber‡
  • Beet
  • Bell Pepper
  • Butter Lettuce
  • Chayote Squash
  • Chanterelle Mushrooms
  • Chinese Long Bean
  • Corn
  • Crookneck Squash
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • French Bean
  • Garlic
  • Green Bean
  • Green Soybean (Edamame)
  • Heart of Palm
  • Jalapeño Chile
  • Lima Bean
  • Okra
  • Ong Choy Water Spinach (photo above)
  • Pea
  • Radish
  • Shallot
  • Sugar Snap Pea
  • Summer Squash
  • Sweet Onions
  • Tomatillo
  • Tomato
  • Winged Bean
  • Yellow Squash
  • Yukon Gold Potato
  • Zucchini
    Enjoy the feast!

    ‡The Armenian cucumber, Cucumis melo var. flexuosus, is a long, slender fruit which tastes like a cucumber and looks somewhat like a cucumber inside. It is actually a variety of muskmelon, a species closely related to the cucumber. However, cucumbers and melons are botanical first cousins. Both are from the binomial order Cucurbitales, family Cucurbitaceae and genus Cucumis, differing only at the species level. Watermelon rind is edible and tastes like cucumber. That’s why it is often turned into pickles, like cucumbers.



    FOOD FUN: Cherry Ice Cubes


    Cherry ice cubes. Photo courtesy HD Desktop Wallpapers.


    Take advantage of cherry season to make cherry ice cubes.

    Freeze cherries in the cube compartment (with the stems for more dazzle). Then, add them to cocktails, mocktails, soft drinks, juice, sparkling or still water.

    When the cubes melt, the cherries are the final treat.


  • Black Forest Cake with fresh cherries instead of maraschino (recipe)
  • Cherry gastrique sauce for fish or meat (recipe)
  • Cherry salsa for fish and chicken (recipe)
  • Fresh cherry ice cream (recipe) or sorbet (recipe)
  • Spiced cherries to top grilled fish, meat or poultry and desserts (recipe)
  • Add cherries to green salads and fruit salads

    Here’s more about cherries, including the different types of cherries.

    Get yourself a cherry pitter.



    FOOD FUN: Horned Melon or Kiwano

    Native to the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa, and once commercially grown only in New Zealand (Kiwano® is a trademark of New Zealand growers), Kiwano melons are now grown in California and Mississippi as well as well as Africa, Australia and Chile. So you may be seeing more of them soon.

    The horned melon, Cucumis metuliferus, goes by a variety of names: African horned cucumber or melon, blowfish fruit, English tomato, hedged gourd, jelly melon, kiwano and melano. The horns are called spines by botanists.

    The fruit is an annual vine in the cucumber and melon family, Cucurbitaceae, which also includes pumpkin and the other squash.

    The exotic-looking, the spiky, orange colored shells contain a soft, juicy bright green seed-studded flesh. The flesh isn’t sweet, but more of a cross between a cucumber and a zucchini. The seeds are edible, like cucumber seeds. Some people eat the peel, which is very rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber.



    Kiwano, or horned melon. Photo courtesy


    Look for horned melon in specialty-food markets and some upscale supermarkets. The fruit should range in length from 3 to 5 inches and not have any bruises or soft spots. When ripe, the melon will have a bright orange shell.

    Horned melon is available year-round but its peak season is summer. California-grown varieties are available now; in the winter, they’ll come from New Zealand, where the seasons are opposite.



    Horned melon or Kiwano. Photo courtesy Marx Foods.



    You can buy horned melons at If you’re lucky to come across them in the flesh, don’t hesitate to buy and try.

    Once peeled, they can be added to fruit salads or green salad. Sliced unpeeled, they can be used as a garnish. Here are some popular uses:

  • Enjoy the melon as a hand fruit, just by squeezing a cut half into your mouth. You can enhance the flavor with small amount of salt or sugar.
  • You can cut the melon in half and serve the jelly-like flesh from the shell; or scoop out the flesh for other uses and repurpose the shells as fun serving bowls for desserts, ice cream/sorbet, sides and soups.
  • Garnish roasted meat, like steaks or chops, instead of topping rich with butter. Sprinkle some kiwano kernels on top of the meat before serving for an exotic and tangy flavor highlight.
  • Make Kiwano salsa. Seed the melon into a bowl and mix it with the juice of one lime, a clove of garlic, two tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro, a chopped green onion (scallion) or equivalent sweet, onion, 1/4 teaspoon cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Add a small amount of olive oil to bind the mixture and use the salsa as a garnish for meat, grilled vegetables, or exotic nachos.
    For Beverages

  • Add to smoothies.
  • Garnish cocktails: Sprinkle a few green kernels into a champagne flute or add an unpeeled slice to a gin and tonic instead of a lime slice.
  • Make the Intergalactic Nebula, a recipe we found on WikiHow. Remove the Kiwano melon seeds and place in a cup. Fill the cup with sparkling red grape juice cocktail 3/4 of the way to the top of the cup. With the remainder space, add half and half (optional), Serve in layers for the best look before stirring.
    Play around, have fun with kiwano and tell us how you like it!



    RECIPE: Grilled Mango “Bowls”

    For Cinco de Mayo, these mango bowls are great as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet.

    The recipe is from Urban Accents, which makes it with its Rio grande chili blend, an award winning chili seasoning that balances a smoky mesquite flavor with chili pepper, onion, garlic and bell pepper.

    But mixed with the honey, it creates a spicy-sweet glaze.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 5 minutes.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Urban Accents Rio Grand Chili Blend
    or substitute*
  • 2 ripe mangoes

  • Ice cream or sorbet

    Spicy grilled mango is easy to make. Photo courtesy

    *Use plan chili powder or blend it with a bit of onion and garlic powders and dried bell pepper, as Urban Accents does.


    1. PREHEAT the grill for medium heat. Make the glaze by combining the orange juice, honey and chili blend in small bowl, Mix well.

    2. SLICE the mangoes by cutting the two large side portions from each side of the mango pit. Score each side in a crosshatch pattern, cutting down to, but not through, the skin.

    3. PLACE the mango halves on the grill, cut side down, and cook for 2 minutes until light grill marks form on the fruit. Turn over and brush liberally with the glaze, trying to get glaze to drip down into the cut slits. Turn glazed mangoes over and grill for an additional 30 seconds; then remove from heat.

    4. COOL the mangoes to room temperature; then turn them inside out by pushing them from the skin side. Serve resting on the skin as a tasty side dish or as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    You can stretch the recipe to 6 servings by slicing up the grilled mango halves.



    PRODUCE: Spring Fruits & Vegetables

    Here’s what’s in season for Spring. Not everything may be available in your area, but what is there should be domestic—not imported from overseas.

    Some of the items are harvested for only a few weeks; others are around for a while.

    So peruse the list, note what you don’t want to miss out on, and add to your shopping list.

    The list was created by Produce for Better Health Foundation. Take a look at their website, for tips on better meal planning with fresh produce.


  • Apricots
  • Barbados Cherries
  • Blackberries
  • Black Mission Figs
  • Cherimoya
  • Honeydew
  • Jackfruit
  • Limes
  • Lychee
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries


    It’s jackfruit, and it’s in season. Your most likely to find it at Asian markets. Here’s more about it from



  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus: Green, Purple, White
  • Belgian Endive
  • Bitter Melon
  • Broccoli
  • Boston/Butterhead Lettuce

    Butterhead or Boston type has a loose head with green, smooth outer leaves and yellow inner leaves. Popular varieties include Bibb (Limestone), Buttercrunch, Mignonette (Manoa) and Tom Thumb. Here’s more about them from

  • Cactus
  • Cardoons
  • Chayote Squash
  • Chives
  • Cipolloni Onions
  • Collard Greens
  • Corn
  • Fava Beans
  • Fennel
  • Fiddlehead Ferns
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Green Beans
  • Morel Mushrooms
  • Mustard Greens
  • Nettles
  • Okra
  • Pea Greens
  • Pea Pods
  • Peas
  • Radicchio
  • Ramps
  • Red Leaf Lettuce
  • Rhubarb
  • Snow Peas
  • Sorrel
  • Spinach
  • Spring Baby Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Vidalia Onions & Other Sweet Onions
  • Watercress
    Here’s more on spring fruits and vegetables. Get inspiration for meals and enjoy what’s best and freshest!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Enjoy Rhubarb


    By the time it gets to market, the leaves
    (which are mildly toxic) are typically cut off
    rhubarb, and only the stalks are sold.
    Rhubarb looks like pink celery, but it isn’t
    related. Photo courtesy


    Spring is rhubarb season. It parallels asparagus season, available fresh for just three months a year—April through June.

    So make rhubarb while you can. Naturally tangy, this versatile vegetable can be used in savory sauces or cooked as a vegetable. When combined with sugar it pops into delicious desserts, which is why sweet rhubarb has become more popular than savory preparations.

    Rhubarb first grew wild in northwest China, and was cultivated as far back as 5,000 years ago, for medicinal purposes. Before it was first sweetened by British cooks in the Victorian era, it was added to soups, sauces and stews—Moroccan tagines and Middle Eastern stews, for example.

    The thinner and darker pink the fresh rhubarb stalks are, the sweeter they will be. When shopping for rhubarb, look for stalks that are crisp, bright pink, thin, and unblemished.

    Check your farmers markets and specialty food stores for rhubarb products, fresh-baked (pies, tarts) or prepared (chutneys, jams).

    At the grocer’s, Dry Soda makes a rhubarb flavor; rhubarb syrup to mix into drinks, on pancakes, etc. (you can also find strawberry rhubarb syrup).


    Be sure to cook only the stems; the leaves are mildly toxic.

    Savory Uses For Rhubarb

  • Braised and served with meats and as a savory garnish (recipe)
  • Fresh rhubarb in lentil soup (recipe)
  • Homemade rhubarb pickles
  • Hot & sour tilapia with gingered rhubarb sauce (recipe)
  • Rhubarb chutney as a condiment with grilled meats (recipe with pork loin)
  • Rhubarb chutney with a meat and cheese board
  • Rhubarb chutney or jam on a grilled cheese or ham and cheese sandwich
    Sweet Uses For Rhubarb

  • Baked into cobblers, crisps, muffins and more (substitute rhubarb for apples or pears in your favorite recipes)
  • Rhubarb dessert soup (recipe)
  • Rhubarb chutney (recipe)
  • Rhubarb jam (recipe) or rhubarb and ginger jam (recipe)
  • Rhubarb ice cream (recipe)
  • Rhubarb simple syrup for beverages (cocktails, club soda, water, juice) or as a breakfast syrup (recipe)
  • Stewed rhubarb or rhubarb compote, delicious as a side with ham, pork and poultry, does double duty as a dessert (recipe below).
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (recipe—you can substitute raspberries)
  • Tofu pudding with rhubarb topping (recipe—substitute your favorite pudding)


    You can use soft and sweet stewed rhubarb by itself, with an optional topping of crème fraîche, sour cream or Greek yogurt. We also like it:

  • With fresh berries or other fruit
  • On a biscuit or slice of cake with whipped cream
  • Atop cheesecake
  • Atop or mixed into yogurt
  • In tart shells or pavlovas (meringue shells)
    We loved our Nana’s stewed rhubarb so much, we visited twice weekly during rhubarb season just to get our fill.

    This easy recipe requires only three ingredients—rhubarb, sugar, water and lemon juice—with optional flavorings (you can substitute a teaspoon of vanilla for the tablespoon of lemon juice).

    For a purée, like applesauce, run the cooked rhubarb through a food mill or food processor.


  • 1 pound rhubarb
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Optional: raspberries, strawberries


    A seasonal delight: sweet and tangy stewed rhubarb. Photo courtesy


    1. TRIM, wash and dice the rhubarb. Combine in a saucepan with the water, sugar, lemon juice and optional sliced berries.

    2. BRING the water to a boil and then simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is slightly thickened and the rhubarb is is in threads (stringy), about 15 minutes.  

    3. COOL and chill or serve warm.

    Technically, rhubarb is a vegetable, a member of the sorrel family (the difference between fruits and vegetables). Native to Asia, rhubarb has long been used in Chinese medicine.

    Fruits carry their seeds inside; vegetable seeds scatter in the wind. You see seeds in an apple, avocado, cucumber and tomato, but not in broccoli, carrots or lettuce. Lacking sweetness doesn’t make it a vegetable.

    Rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum, is a vegetable in the family Polygonaceae. The leaf stalks (petioles) are crisp like celery with a strong, tart taste. Rhubarb looks like rosy-pink celery, but is no relation (celery is a member of the Apiaceae family).
    Fruit Vs. Vegetable

    While rhubarb is botanically considered a vegetable, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. A side effect was a reduction on imported rhubarb tariffs, as tariffs were higher for vegetables than fruits. [Source: Wikipedia]

    And that’s only one example. Science notwithstanding, on May 10, 1893, tomatoes, a red fruit/berry of the Nightshade family, were declared a vegetable by the United States Supreme Court.

    At the time, there were import tariffs on vegetables but not fruits, yet tomatoes were still being subjected to the tax. In 1887, an importing company had sued the tax collector of the Port of New York to recover back duties collected on their tomatoes, which they claimed had been wrongfully classified as vegetables.

    The Court decided that the tariff act should be based “in common language of people,” not botanists, so tomatoes should be taxed like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets etc.

    More proof that justice is blind.



    TIP OF THE DAY: The New “Dirty Dozen”

    The “dirty dozen” of produce refers to those fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residues. If you’re going to buy organic versus conventional produce, these are the foods to buy.

    Since agricultural practices change, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) creates an annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides to reduce your exposure to chemical pesticides.

    It ranks 48 popular fruits and vegetables by their pesticide loads. The rankings are based on lab tests done [mostly] by the USDA, which tests more than 34,000 samples of common food crops for pesticide residue.

    Rinsing and peeling conventional produce does not remove all of the chemical residue. Some plants absorb pesticides through the peel.

    Nor does washing and peeling change a food’s ranking, because the USDA lab tests produce as it is typically eaten: washed and, when applicable, peeled.

    But the EWG underscores that the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks from pesticide exposure. In other words, eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating enough fruits and vegetables at all.

    Crops differ in their hardiness—whether they’re more or less susceptible to intense heat, cold, rainfall, drought, fungus or other disease, etc.



    An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it also has the highest amount of pesticide residue. The solution: Buy organic! Photo courtesy US Apples.

    In the case of bugs, some crops are more readily attacked and destroyed by the hungry little critters. So chemical pesticides are used to kill the bugs, fungus, etc. before they kill the crop.

    Organic farmers use natural pesticides and fertilizers—no chemicals. The expense of growing crops this way leads to the higher cost of organic produce.

    Some shocking statistics:

  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce.
  • A single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 diffent pesticides.
  • A whopping 99% of apple samples, 98% of peaches and 97% of nectarines tested positive for at least one pesticide.
  • Single samples of cherry tomatoes, nectarines, peaches, imported snap peas and strawberries each showed 13 different pesticides.


    Eat all the asparagus you like: They’re one of the most pesticide-free veggies. Photo courtesy California Asparagus Commission.



    Ranked from highest (dirtiest) to lowest (cleanest of the Dirty Dozen) are some of our favorite fruits and vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Imported Snap Peas
  • Potatoes

    We’ve been buying organic celery for years (it’s been on the Dirty Dozen list for a long time). But we’re going to go our of our way for organic apples and strawberries, two fruits we eat almost daily.

    We’ll also buy more of the Clean Fifteen, produce with the least amount of pesticide residue.

  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Frozen Sweet Peas
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Potatoes
    As an American consumer, the choice is yours!


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