By Diane Forrest,
I was just sitting here planning what I would do today, thinking...I should go to the ball park, grill some hot dogs and have some ice cold watermelon. Then I remember.....its December 8th, and its 32 degrees outside. What am I thinking? No, I haven't fallen off the deep end....yet! (This has been repeatedly disputed by my family) December is watermelon and quince month. Typically watermelon is a summertime favorite, but did you know that it is grown all year round? In fact, I just found out that watermelon is actually the fruit that is really a Vegetable. Watermelon can be traced back to Africa and is part of the cucumber and squash family. Early watermelons were mainly rind and seeds. Today's varieties are larger, the flesh sweeter, the seeds smaller and the rind thinner. It is perhaps the most refreshing, thirst quenching fruit of all.
My son always laughs when I tell him stories of working at the grocery store while I was in high school. I worked in the produce apartment occasionally, and had to help unload the trucks, even the watermelon truck. I would be on the ground as the person in the truck would drop watermelons down to me, I would catch them and put them in a buggy. You just haven't had fun untl you catch about 200 watermelons.
In selecting a watermelon, choose firm, symmetrical, fruit free of cracks, bruises, soft spots or mold. Ripe watermelon will have a healthy sheen, a dull rind, dried stem, and a buttery yellow underside where it touched the ground. There should be a melon like smell or fragrance. Thump if you must, sound should be dull and hollow. Lift them, weight should be heavy for size. Avoid watermelons that are very hard, white or very pale green in color on the underside, indicating immaturity. An immature watermelon will be slightly acidic.
On the other hand, the quince is a relative of the apple and pear and belongs to the pome fruit family. Quince is one of the earliest known fruits. For over 4,000 years, quince trees have grown in Asia and the Mediterranean. Today, quince is also found in Latin America, the Middle East, and the United States. The quince as we know it in the United States is a different fruit from that found in Western Asia and tropical countries, where the fruit is softer and juicier. In colder climates, the fruit has a fine shape, a rich golden color when ripe, and a strong fragrance, judged by some to be heavy and overpowering.
Quinces only available from September to January. Quinces are not eaten fresh because of their astringency (due to high tannin content). Because of its high pectin content, it’s particularly popular for use in jams, jellies, and preserves. Quinces tend to hold their shape, so they are ideal for poaching, stewing, or baking as a dessert. Select fruit that are large, firm, and yellow with little or no green. Quinces should be picked when full-yellow and firm. Quinces must be handled carefully as they bruise easily.
With their naturally pleasing aroma, quinces make ideal bases for pomanders studded with cloves and hung as decorations or given as gifts during the Christmas season.
Did you know that is it believed that the fruit eaten by Eve in the Garden of Eden was a quine?