Monday, April 27, 2015

I'm a gluton for...fruit

It has happened again: A period of gluttony has arrived.

Some people lose the ability to control their eating habits during holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving, but my time of culinary indulgence begins now as blueberry season commences. I find it difficult to refrain from overeating when Florida’s fruitful season begins.

On our property, blackberries, mulberries, peaches, nectarines, plums, figs, Surinam cherries, papayas, bananas, starfruit and avocados are all either producing fruit now or on their way to developing edible crops in the weeks ahead. 

A bucketful of homegrown peaches, plums and nectarines

As if that were not enough to whet my appetite, six u-pick blueberry farms are within 10 miles of our home.

Ralph and me picking blueberries at Lake Catherine Blueberries, one of the six u-pick farms near our home

I admit it: I’m a blueberry addict. I lose all self-control when it comes to those marble-sized orbs of blue packed with antioxidants, vitamins and anti-inflammatory compounds. Most people pick berries to make pies, pancakes, muffins or cakes. I pick them to devour by the handful — one after another until the last berry is gone. Then I go back and pick more.

In addition to fruits we grow ourselves and the ones available at nearby u-pick farms, during upcoming weeks an abundance of other Florida-grown foods will be available at the marketplace. Watermelons, cantaloupes, mangoes, lychees and guavas all come into season when temperatures rise. Although these delicacies are imported year round, I try to wait until local crops ripen. I find anticipating their arrival and eating foods seasonally not only makes them more special but means a more flavorful product.

When it comes to vegetables, my husband Ralph is in charge. Ralph has large gardens where he grows a variety of vegetables and herbs. For the next couple weeks, we’ll still be eating broccoli and parsley, but both of those plants prefer cooler temperatures. As their production begins to peter out, other veggies are set to begin. Asparagus, tomatoes, sweet peppers, pole beans, basil, chives, rosemary and oregano are among the many vegetables and herbs Ralph will be harvesting in the weeks to come.

One of Ralph's many gardening successes - a large head of broccoli 

As if that weren’t enough to fill our larder, my husband’s gardening efforts supply us with a continual crop of Asian greens. The five easy-to-grow greens he favors — tatsoi, yokatta-na, Chinese cabbage, joi choi and purple pak choy — produce nutritional leafy greens all year. Unlike lettuces or kale, the sweet-flavored plants he grows can handle the heat as long as they’re given some shade in the summertime. Ever since he began growing them a couple years ago, they’ve become a dietary staple in our household.

Rinsing off a handful of just picked Asian greens

Ralph’s garden doesn’t include corn but there’s a plentiful supply from nearby commercial farms along with zucchini, summer squash, sweet onions and garlic. As summer progresses, I’m sure I’ll be supplementing our meals with whatever local veggies are currently available.

While most addictions are not desirable, I like to think of my dependency on fresh fruit and vegetables as a positive craving, providing more benefits than disadvantages. The only thing is, like any compulsion, it leaves me with an insatiable desire for more — especially, more blueberries. One look in the fridge at my depleted stash lets me know it’s time to head out to the closest u-pick farm to replenish my supply. After all, the season of gluttony has arrived, and I intend to take full advantage.

Blueberries for breakfast...Yum!

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