We're praising the delicious joys of summer fruit this week, pointing out peaches, blackberries, and blueberries in our new recipes. But these big hitters aren't the last word in summer fruit. There are many other fruits, and five in particular, for me, that I wish were mounded up like apples at my local grocery store. From gooseberries to muscadines, here are five fruits that are hard to find, but worth seeking out.
- Muscadines - When I lived in Florida, I had muscadines (and their bronze-green cousins, scuppernongs) in my kitchen all summer long. These wild grapes are enormous, with thick skins and loads of seeds, so they take some work to eat (many people spit out the spicy skins along with the seeds). But their flesh is even richer and muskier than Concord grapes. They taste wild and fresh and they make the best jam. But since moving back North, I haven't seen a single one. Where to look: Muscadines be found in the South, growing wild and at farmers markets.
- Gooseberries - While nearly as popular as strawberries in England and Scandinavia, gooseberries are rarely seen in the United States. I love these tart little berries that look so punk rock in their "tops and tails," with slightly hairy skins. They also make very good jam, and I like their mix of sweet and sour. Where to look: Gooseberries can be found at markets and grocery stores in Canada, the UK, and much of Northern Europe.
- Husk Cherries (Ground Cherries, Cape Gooseberries) - This sister to the cherry tomato walks precisely down the middle line between sweet and savory. Ground cherries grow on sprawling vines, like tomatoes, each fruit encased in a papery husk (hence the name). It's a summer pleasure as sweet as ripping the silk off corn to peel back that husk to reveal the golden fruit inside. These fruits are delicious to eat out of hand, but they also make wonderful decorations for summer desserts, with their husk still flared around them. They're also good in baked goods, like this coffee cake. Where to look: Ground cherries aren't often cultivated on a large commercial scale, but they're frequently found at farmers markets and farm stands across the country. They're also easy to grow yourself.
- Prune Plums (Quetsche Plums) - We've often lauded this little plum, oval-shaped and smaller than round black and red plums. It's green-yellow inside, and raw it tastes just fine. But it's transformed in a pie or a tart (see Sara Kate's luscious recipe above), concentrating its juices and flavor into a jammy heap of pure fruit goodness. I have a hard time finding these; they're not so common here as in Europe. Sometimes I get lucky and the grocery store has them for a week in August or September. Where to look: Farmers markets. Anywhere in France or Italy!
- Juneberries (Serviceberries, Sarvisberries, Saskatoons...) - This is perhaps the hardest-to-find fruit on the list. You're certainly not going to get it from a commercial supplier. Juneberries grow on low ornamental trees, and we had one at my old house. The berries are bright red and ripen in late June. They taste like a cross between a blueberry and a brighter fruit, like a raspberry. I adore them, and I gather them whenever I can find them. I plan on planting at least a couple of small trees at my new house so we can enjoy the fruit. Where to look: Around doctors' offices, churches, schools, and other professionally-landscaped areas where these pretty trees may be planted.
(Images: Faith Durand; Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)