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Blueberries are the fruits of a shrub that belong to the heath (Ericaceae) family whose other members include the cranberry and bilberry as well as the azalea, mountain laurel and rhododendron. Blueberries grow in clusters and range in size from that of a small pea to a marble. They are deep in color, ranging from blue to maroon to purple-black, and feature a white-gray waxy “bloom” that covers the berry’s surface and serves as a protective coat. The skin surrounds a semi-transparent flesh that encases tiny seeds. Cultivated blueberries are typically mildly sweet, while those that grow wild have a more tart and tangy flavor.
Fresh berries are very fragile and should be washed briefly and carefully and then gently patted dry if they are not organic. Wash berries just prior to use to not prematurely remove the protective bloom that resides on the skin’s surface. If you know the source of either wild or organic berries try not to wash them at all.
Persea americana, or the avocado, is believed to have originated in the state of Puebla, Mexico, though fossil evidence suggests similar species were much more widespread millions of years ago, occurring as far north as California at a time when the climate of that region was more hospitable to them.
The modern English name is not etymologically related to the similar-sounding Spanish word abogado, meaning ‘lawyer’ (as in advocate), but comes through an English rendering of the Spanish aguacate as avogato.
Like the banana, the avocado is a climacteric fruit, which matures on the tree, but ripens off the tree. Avocados used in commerce are picked hard and green and kept in coolers at 3.3 to 5.6°C until they reach their final destination. Avocados must be mature to ripen properly. Generally, the fruit is picked once it reaches maturity; for ‘Hass’ avocados this is approxiamtely 23% dry matter or more. Once picked, avocados ripen in one to two weeks (depending on the cultivar) at room temperature (faster if stored with other fruits such as apples or bananas, because of the influence of ethylene gas). Some supermarkets sell ripened avocados which have been treated with synthetic ethylene to hasten ripening. The use of an ethylene gas “ripening room”, which is now an industry standard. In some cases, avocados can be left on the tree for several months, but if the fruit remains unpicked for too long, it falls to the ground.
The two main varieties grown in Australia are Hass and Shepards.
The ‘Hass’ avocado is today the most common. All ‘Hass’ trees are descended from a single “mother tree” raised by a mail carrier named Rudolph Hass, of La Habra Heights, California. Hass patented the productive tree in 1935. ‘Hass’ trees have medium-sized (150–250 g), ovate fruit with a black, pebbled skin. The flesh has a nutty, rich flavor.
This is a small avocado, has delicate smooth green skin and a pointed. This variety will soften when ripe but unlike the ‘Hass’ variety, the skin WILL NOT change colour. It has an acorn-shaped pit embedded in rich, sticky flesh. A relative of the ‘Hass’, it has its obvious similarities in texture, but with a thicker almost gluey consistency.
Black, red, and white mulberry are widespread in southern Europe, the Middle East, northern Africa and Indian Subcontinent. Black mulberries are native to southwest Asia and were imported to Britain in the 17th century in the hope that it would be useful in the cultivation of silkworms. It was much used in folk medicine, especially in the treatment of ringworm. The red mulberry is native to eastern North America. Both the red and black mulberry have the strongest flavor.
Mulberries can be eaten fresh out of the hand or used in cooking to make jams and sorbets.