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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.
The Jerusalem artichoke also called sunroot or sunchoke It is a species of sunflower which is a member of the daisy family and is native to eastern North America. It is also cultivated widely across the temperate zone for its tuber, which is used as a root vegetable. Despite its name, the Jerusalem artichoke has no relation to Jerusalem, and it is not a type of artichoke. The origin of the name is uncertain. Italian settlers in the USA called the plant girasole, the Italian word for sunflower, because of its resemblance to the garden sunflower.
In Baden-Württemberg, Germany, over 90% of the Jerusalem artichoke crop is used to produce a spirit called “Topinambur (de)”, “Topi” or “Rossler”.
Trim any big bumps to make them easier to peel. Once peeled, they discolour quickly, so place in a bowl of water and lemon juice to prevent browning. Jerusalem artichokes can be cooked in much the same way as potatoes or parsnips and are excellent roasted, sautéed or dipped in batter and fried, or puréed to make a delicious soup.
Basil, Thai basil, or sweet basil, is a common name for the culinary herb. Basil is native to India, China, Southeast Asia, and New Guinea. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell. The In purple stem variety (Also known as Thai Bail) is more commonly grown in Southeast Asia. While the green stem variety is more common among the European culture.
Basil is commonly used fresh in cooked recipes. In general, it is added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto—a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce. Its other main ingredients are olive oil, garlic, and pine nuts.
The custard apple is believed to be a native of the West Indies but it was carried in early times through Central America to southern Mexico. It has long been cultivated and naturalized as far south as Peru and Brazil. In Cuba, it is mamon or chirimoya. Some Central Americans give it the name anona, or anonillo. It is commonly grown in the warmer the tropical / subtropical climates of Australia.
The two main varieties grown are:
Pinks Mammoth :- Which is more heart shaped and is sweet and creamy.
African Pride :- This has less carpuls (i.e. pumps on the skin) and typical has more seeds than the Pinks Mammoth.
The fruit is typically eaten out the hand and when fully ripe it is soft to the touch and the stem and attached core can be easily pulled out. The flesh may be scooped from the skin and eaten as is or served with light cream and a sprinkling of sugar. Often it is pressed through a sieve and added to milk shakes, custards or ice cream. I have made a delicious sauce for cake and puddings by blending the seeded flesh with mashed banana and a little cream.