Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Descent into the Deep Freeze

Oh dear. Winter really is inevitable this year, isn't it? The snow in Montreal has all but melted, but you know it's going to be a cold, cold one when the West Coast has already received several snow dumps. The fields are definitely bare across Canada at this time of the year, except for the few crops that are left for later harvest. But there are few seasonal treats to look forward to. Most of them are local to us Northerners, but they are welcome just the same.

Citrus
Oranges, lemons and limes are now available year-round, but there was a time when winter was the  only time one got to see these beautiful nuggets of southern sunshine. Winter is when these fruits are in season in the northern hemisphere. It might be the fact that they travelled shorter distances to get to your table, or that citrus really do appreciate the cool temperatures of winter, but oranges in winter just taste better than at any other time of the year. California oranges have already started to trickle onto market shelves, those from Florida will follow close behind; the lemons on offer this week are larger and thinner skinned than those available only a few weeks previous; and the limes are much juicier than anything you would have found during the summer. And who could resist the clementines from Morocco?
Key limes and Meyer lemons are real seasonal treats, only available in December. They can be hard to find, but if you do see them, you might want to grab a few to make a special dessert or to whip a batch of marmalade.
We can't all have friends with citrus, or access to a glasshouse, but we can all have a taste of the sun's rays in the dead of winter.




Pomegranates
Pomegranates has gone from being virtually unknown to being the It fruit over the past few years. I suspect it partly has to do with the fact that its status as a superfood has made the pomegranate are more interesting cash crop... But my cynicism aside, pomegranates have long been known to be a wonderful fruit, after all it was the food of the gods in Greek mythology.
Pomegranates can be difficult to pry open; some will suggest breaking up the husk under running water (or in a bowlful to minimize waste), but I find it can still get messy, so I usually just wear dark cloth, an apron and go at it. Score the fruit's rind like you would an orange, and slowly split it apart. Juices will spurt, hence the need for dark clothes and an apron, but it will be worth it. The kernels can be munched on their own, but the add colour and bright flavour to a winter fruit salad ( add them at the last minute) or a bowl or rice pudding. Pomegranates are also lovely in savoury dishes, and are often sprinkled over meats and rice in Moroccan cuisine. If you are not feeling that adventurous, try them in a salad (how about substituting pomegranates for the cranberries in a beet slaw?)

Chestnuts
Chestnuts truly signify the winter holidays for me. There is something extremely festive about a roasting pan of chestnuts, whether it is over the kitchen stove, or an open fire: I have fond memories of my family huddled around a dish full of red-hot chestnuts, prying out the tender flesh from the scorched hulls.
Chestnuts do grow across most of Canada, but the one found at the supermarket and in specialty stores are most often imported as the local crop is too small to be commercially viable. I believe that British Colombia is the only province that sells its own productions, both farmed and wild. Wild chestnuts (real one, not horse chestnuts or conkers, which are toxic to humans) can be found in wooded areas of southern Ontario and Quebec. The chestnuts are tiny, and very difficult to find as wild animals are more wily than humans, but if you do spot a tree, visit it regularly from the end of September to November, you might just be able to pick enough to enjoy the concentrated goodness of the nut.

The Calendar
It's not a new fruit... But I am finally getting around to compiling a calendar of produce seasons (that is the whole point of this blog after all!) There will be a link to it in the right-hand column, so keep an eye out for it!

Bon app'!




2 comments:

  1. I love Pomegranates. I'm been contemplating buying a dwarf pomegranate plant. I wonder if I can grow it in my zone. I do grow a lime and lemon dwarf and I bring it inside in the winter.

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  2. I'm sure if dwarf pomegranate trees are for sale it's because they can be container-grown. However, you should probably ask the seller how difficult it really is.
    If you have the room to grow a good part of your own fruits, go for it Mimi! Imagine being quasi-self-sufficient in warm-weather fruits...

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