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Gardening with Jack: Summer Fruits

Papaya and bananas are productive all year round but most other fruits have a definite season to look forward to. All of our summer fruits can be eaten out of hand but some can be enjoyed in other ways. Boil dark red Barbados cherries (Acerola) in sugar water. When cool and served over ice you will have a delicious fruity switcher that contains high levels of Vitamin C.

It would be a sin to do anything else but peel and slice locally grown pineapples and eat them at the peak of perfection. If you want to cook pineapple in any way you should use a Costa Rica pineapple from the store.

Passion fruit can also be processed in a food mill and made into a refreshing switcher. It can also – with extra sugar and only a small amount of water – be made into syrup with a thousand uses. One of those uses is to make passion fruit jelly using Knox gelatin – delicious and different. When eating out of hand just swallow the seeds; they have their own nutritive value.

July brings the main guava harvest and the opportunity to make guava jam. Jams used to be boiled for hours and preserved to last for years. These days we can make refrigerator jams very easily with the minimum of cooking. Six large guavas will fill a jam jar. Peel the guavas and put through a food mill. Boil the skins and seeds in a little water to provide pectin. Strain and add a little of the pectin liquid to your guava mash and boil with sugar for just a few minutes to retain maximum flavour. The resultant jam should be bottled and refrigerated or frozen. Most commercial guava jams are made with red guavas but there is nothing wrong with yellow guava jam. It tastes the same.

Guava has little in the way of juice but can be made into a drink – a nectar – by boiling the flesh in bottled apple juice briefly, then straining and refrigerating the resultant liquid.

Mangoes can also be made into convenient refrigerator jam but only named fruits from grafted stock should be used to make jam. Bull or hairy mangoes are best eaten out of hand and usually have stronger flavour.

The Annonas – soursop, sugar apple, cherimoya and atemoya – are wonderful eaten straight from the tree but soursop flesh can be put through a food mill and used to make refreshing and tasty ice cream. Vanilla is added to most ice cream bases but should not be used for soursop.

During July the first carambolas – starfruit – will ripen and fruit will be available on a daily basis through to the new year. Carambolas have the best flavour when they turn amber. The ends should be cut off and the ridges of the flutes trimmed with a paring knife. Thereafter you can cut the flutes to produce french-fry shaped sticks or slice horizontally to create edible stars. The seeds can be removed from the stars with the point of that same paring knife.

Carambola sticks or stars can be stored in syrup for a few days then used to garnish vanilla ice cream. Even better, the stars are an attractive (and tasty) addition to virtually any meal simply sautéed briefly in butter or olive oil.

The last – but not least – of the summer fruits is the humble hog plum (Yellow Mombin). Mash and strain some fresh ripe fruits and add a little of the juice to orange juice. Delicious!

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