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Fruits Other than CitrusFlorida Fruits and Vegetables in the Commercial Menu
The banana plant grows well only in south Florida. The Cavendish, brownish in color when fully ripe, is a dwarf variety bearing dense bunches of small fruit of very high quality. The Hart variety, taller, is also a good banana of fine flavor and texture.
L. Von Meysenburg, M. D., Tulane University, says: "The banana is a good source of vitamin G, the pellagra-preventive factor. Through many experiments it has been found that, in scurvy or in symptoms leading to scurvy, the banana is curative. It is palatable and economical."
Berries in Florida include May-haw (red) and a Red-haw (red), ripening in the late summer; the huckleberry, blueberry, dewberries, blackberries, Young berry, mulberries, loganberries, strawberry, elderberry, gooseberry and downy myrtle.
The haws are small seedy berries growing wild on a shrub. They are best known for their use in making jelly of wonderful distinctive flavor and rich coloring. Some people have called the red haw north Florida's cranberry.
Huckleberries are different from Florida blueberries in that they contain the large seeds whereas the blueberry has many inconspicuous small seeds. The huckleberry is good for jellies and drinks.
The tall growing "Rabbit-eye" blueberry, of the huckleberry family, is the variety which has become famous commercially as the native blueberry of Florida's plantings. It ripens in late May or early June and lasts 10 to 12 weeks. The cluster does not all ripen at one time. This prolongs the "season" and requires weekly pickings. The acidity varies but is low. Blueberries combine nicely with orange juice in filling for pies. They are used alone in the fresh natural form with sugar and cream or with orange juice.
Downy Myrtle (Berry)
This berry grows wild on a shrub. It resembles the huckleberry but has a thicker, richer juice. It makes a splendid jelly when 50 per cent acid guava is added.
The dewberry, growing on a low trailing vine and ripening earlier than the blackberry, is available early in the spring—the last of April or first of May. In the native growth they are more highly acid than the blackberry. For "deep pies" in early spring they have a popular place in north and south Florida menus. The jelly is welcomed as one of the first "spring jellies" in north Florida. In south Florida the Manatee dewberry has been cultivated with splendid results.
Blackberries grow wild throughout north Florida where the wild variety is much more popular in flavor for cooking purposes than the cultivated types. In southern Florida the blackberry has been cultivated. The Florida Marvel, found originally on the east coast, is a large, firm, good quality berry but lower in sugar than some other varieties. It is a splendid breakfast fruit served with sugar and cream. Juices, bottled in the natural form (or slightly sweetened) and processed at a simmering temperature, contain practically all the original food value of these various berries and to a large extent the natural flavor. In many sections all of these berries in the wild varieties "may be had for the picking" and the juices should be stored for the season when other fruits are "scarce."
Florida mulberries of some variety bear through a period of several months. They are used by various methods as the other berries. There are the white, red, and black varieties. The trees grow wild or cultivated. The fruit is very sweet, not having enough acid in the ripened stage for jelly. The seeds are too small to be noticeable.
A loganberry of rare quality is now being grown for local use and for market in west Florida, near Panama City. Its cultivation will no doubt become extensive in that section of the state.
The elderberry grows on a shrub or bush 15 to 20 feet high. The berries grow in clusters. They have an acid flavor and make a refreshing drink and good pie. They are often used as a cordial and coloring for other drinks.
North Florida Gooseberry
The north Florida gooseberry grows on a low plant. It is acid and suitable for pies.
Florida Berry Juices
The great variety of Florida berries, including also many other juicy fruits such as plums, peaches, grapes, contribute fruit juices of unusual flavor and color that lend themselves easily to combinations with citrus juices or stand alone as appetizing and nourishing drinks.
Almost any of the berries, if selected partially ripened, will produce a splendid jelly. Strawberry, Florida gooseberry, blue berry, with additional citrus pectin give a good jelly. Juices for fruit jelly making are canned without sugar.
Sauces, sherbets, and other desserts made from the berry juices canned at low temperature are almost as nourishing and palatable as the dishes made from the fresh juices.
Florida's most popular "refreshment" is "Punch," made from the pure fruit juices poured over crushed ice. Berry juices combined with a mixture of sweet and sour citrus juices is as "tasty" as the combination of grape and citrus.
Berry Juice Canned
Bring the fruit to a simmering temperature 170 to 180 degrees F. Remove the juice. Strain through a heavy cloth for a clear juice (a thick juice contains more nourishment and is better flavor). Sweeten slightly adding about one cup of sugar to a gallon of juice. For a clear juice strain again. Fill bottles and cork hot. Process at about 180 degrees. Then dip in melted sealing wax. Ordinary fruit jars are used for home purposes.
The Spanish or Honey type is used in north Florida and the Chinese or "Peento" group of peaches has been grown successfully in south Florida. The peach, depending upon the variety, has a fairly high sugar content although it is about 85 to 90 per cent water. Fresh peaches show a good content of vitamins A and C. By soil selection and adaptation of variety, Florida has learned to supply herself to some extent with peaches.
1 dozen ripe peaches, ½ pound spiced grapes, 1 red pepper, 1 cup sugar, 1 hot pepper, ½ tablespoon ginger, 1 green pepper, ½ tablespoon cinnamon, 3 onions (mild), ½ tablespoon spice, ½ cup acid fruit juice, ½ tablespoon celery seed, 2 quarts vinegar, Salt.
Combine ingredients and cook until the mixture is quite thick and clear. Pack hot, seal and process 15 minutes at simmering.
The Pineapple and Hood pears are the most desirable Florida pears as to color, texture and uniformity. The Kieffer is adapted to north Florida. Pears are low in acid and need little sugar. Lemon or lime combine nicely with pear products. In the fresh form a fully ripened pear needs no additions. Raw fresh pears show some vitamin B and C. For canning or for cooking, gather pears when fully grown but not entirely ripened. Keep in a dark, cool room for a few days for ripening. This process gives a finer grain texture and possibly a better flavor than the tree ripening process. When peeled, pears turn brown quickly, due to the action of an enzyme. A dilute saline solution (2 tablespoons salt to a gallon of water) prevents the coloring.
25 firm pears, 1 cup lemon juice, 4 onions, 3 oranges, grated rind and juice, 6 green peppers, sweet, 3 cups sugar, 25 pimentos or 6 small cans, 1 teaspoon celery seed, 2 cups chopped figs, canned or 1 teaspoon mustard seed, fresh, Cinnamon and clove to taste. 1 pint vinegar.
Grind the first five ingredients in food chopper. Combine and cook one hour or until desired consistency. Florida pineapple pears are particularly suitable for this recipe.
The native persimmon, one to one and a half inches in diameter, grows almost all over the upper half of the state. It is highly stocked with tannin before the fully ripened stage but, when ripe, it is very popular fruit, having a sugar content of about 15 per cent.
This fruit is the cultivated persimmon used in Florida. It Is much larger than the native fruit, ranging in size from two to four inches in diameter. The color varies from a light yellow to a deep reddish orange.
The varieties most used are the Tane Nashi and the Fuyugaki. The former is round in shape with a pointed apex. It is from 3 to 3 ¼ inches long and nearly as broad. The skin is light yellow, shading to a bright yellowish-red as it ripens. The yellow flesh is astringent until the ripening period in August and September. The Fuyugaki, slightly flattened, deep red in color, is not astringent and can be peeled and eaten before it is fully ripe.
Persimmons are best used in the fresh form and are sweet enough for desserts. The pulp has been successfully used, however, in pies, sauces and puddings as well as ice creams. For pies, the non-astringent type is used when not fully ripe. For cooking in any form the non-astringent type should be selected. Cooking tends to increase astringency.
The Roselle is the South's most valuable jelly plants. It closely resembles the okra and cotton plant. It is often called the "jelly okra." Another name is Jamaica sorrel. The plant grows to perfection in Florida. The bright red and rich green coloring combination make the plant suitable for hedges.
Young tender shoots from this plant have been used for "greens" and also in jelly making. The edible portion most generally used is the bright red calyx low in sugar and high in acid and rich in pectin. The fine red color and the pleasing acid flavor combine to give the roselle a distinctive "food value." The calyees, if picked when fully grown, make ades, sauces, jelly or jam which products are used in Florida to take the place of cranberry dishes in many menus.
For jelly making only ¾ pound of sugar (1 ½ cups) is added to a pint of juice secured by cooking and straining the fruit. The fruit may be dried without losing its jelly making capacity. After the juice has been extracted, the pulp may be used for butter. Equal quantities of sugar and pulp are used.
Use equal measures of calyees and water and cook about ten minutes. Add as much sugar as desired and cook until the desired consistency. The fruit may be strained before the addition of sugar but this process is unnecessary.
The rose apple grows on an ornamental tree. The fruit smells like a rose, is crisp and juicy. It is the color of apricot. It is round or oval and one or two inches long. The rose apple may be preserved or crystallized. Rose apple sauce retains its original rose flavor and odor which make it delicious in the fresh form.
Excerpt from Stennis, M.A., "Fruits other than Citrus" Florida Fruits and Vegetables in the Commercial Menu, State of Florida Department of Agriculture, Tallahassee, September, 1931, pgs 63-70.
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