OK, there’s been enough serious discussion in the news recently, so I figured I’d lighten the mood a bit and discuss a totally non-serious passion of mine: fruit. I love fruit! I’d rather have some ripe fruit than candy or even chocolate. If you ever needed proof that Captain Midnight is male, my willingness to skip chocolate for fruit should settle your mind. Not that you should be in doubt. Anyway.

Apples are nice, but oranges are better. I have been known to buy the large 56-72 count crates of oranges around Christmastime and eat most of them. Watching a good movie calls for 3+ oranges, and if you’re nice to me, I’ll let you have some as well. Little V, my niece and the site artist, has been known to prey on my soft side and consume oranges as fast as I can peel them. I have bribed trained her to go to her other uncles and say, “Captain Midnight is my favorite uncle. Who are you?” Oranges make for good bribes.

People are pretty familiar with oranges and other citrus fruits, but did you know that today’s citrus can be traced back to just four original species? Lime, Mandarin, Citron, and Pummelo. All other citrus varieties are hybrids from those four parent species. But as much as I love oranges, I have a real fondness for the atypical produce you don’t always find in American grocery stores. Time to list them off.

Clementines
Clementines are very similar to mandarin oranges or tangerines, but they peel easier and are tastier in my book. Back when I lived in Germany, I liked buying a large bag of these as I walked home from school. If the family was nice to me, I’d share. Happily, clementines are gaining in popularity and are becoming easier to find during the wintertime. If you find a small box of these golden treasures, snap it up and munch away. Clementines are normally seedless, but an occasional seed or two will sneak in. Every so often, one clementine will make up for the lack of seeds in the rest of the box by having 30+ seeds in it.

Pomelos
This is another fruit that is becoming easier to find. “Pomelo” is a common variant spelling of the Pummelo mentioned above; it is sometimes also called a shaddock. The pomelo is one of the four original citrus fruits, and father of the grapefruit. The average pomelo is somewhere between a softball and a volleyball in size. Like a grapefruit, it has a very thick rind and the membranes surrounding its inner segments are bitter. Happily these membranes can be easily peeled away to allow you to munch the sweet-tart segments. This is a somewhat dry, almost chewy citrus when compared to something like an orange. The wife likes to add peeled pomelo segments to a winter fruit salad, since it is slightly sweeter than most grapefruit.

Kumquats
These are tiny citrus fruits, smaller than clementines, often as big as your thumb. They are unusual in that they are often eaten whole, or as my Dad says, “hide, hair, guts, feathers, and all.” The other unusual thing about these little gems is that they are sour on the inside, but the peel is sweet. I like to bite off the end, suck out the sour insides and then munch the sweet skin. Kumquats were a big favorite of my grandfather, and I cannot eat one of these without thinking of him.

Durians
The durian is often referred to as the King of Fruits. Technically, durians shouldn’t show up in this list because I don’t like them. But they are such a funky and wildly popular Asian fruit, even though they are large, spiky and smell really rotten. You can sometimes find them in Asian food markets, shipped frozen from Thailand. If you find a fresh one, give it a good smell. Now you know why I don’t like them. To me, they taste as bad as they smell, but in Asia people love them. Singapore has “no durian” signs for the subways because their smell is so strong, but it wasn’t unusual for me to see durian parties while I was there. It was B.Y.O.D., and everyone would share and decide who brought the best. Doctor Fun has some good durian cartoons here, here, here, and here.

Mangosteens
While the durian might be the King of Fruits, the mangosteen is called the Queen of Fruits in Thailand and other Asian countries. Do not confuse these fruits with mangos. Mangosteens have a completely different flavor, and even though they look like little white grubs inside… mmm…. they are very good. I found some mangosteen gum once, and I’d love to find some more. Time to hit the web and do some searching. A word of warning — do not buy canned mangosteens. This is one fruit that just doesn’t can well.

Custard Apples
Custard apples are like nothing you have eaten before. They have a custardy texture, and you can often eat them with a spoon if they are good and ripe. You’ll have to spit out the seeds, though. I have only eaten this fruit in Singapore, but my parents said that they ate lots of them in India. I have no idea how well they would can, but I’d assume it would be a really bad idea because of their custard-like texture. Imagine trying to can up a pudding. OK, you imagine that; I’ll skip the imagining and go straight to the next fruit.

Prickly Pears
Technically, these aren’t pears; they are the fruit of a large cactus species found in Mexico and the American Southwest. In Mexico they are called “tunas,” and street vendors often sell them peeled and chilled on little plates or in bowls. Mmm…. good on a very hot day. Prickly pears are filled with little seeds; you can either spit them out or just slurp ‘em on down. They are very hard seeds, so don’t bother to chew them. I normally just ate the seeds; hours later, they would make their exit via a method I call “shotgunning,” the details of which I will leave to your imagination. The most common prickly pear varieties are green, orangey-red, and purple. I like the green ones best.

Longans
Hands down, longans are my favorites. Unlike many other fruits mentioned here, longans can up nicely. Well, nice enough for me and my mom-in-law. I would buy several cans, toss ‘em in the fridge and open one up when it was good and chilled. Since they come already peeled and pitted in the cans, we’d eat them with toothpicks. This is why I am her favorite son-in-law. I found some frozen longans at a shop here in the rainy Northwest, and that is what I’m holding in the picture at the top. These fruits are similar but vastly superior to other fruits like lychees, which my wife prefers, or rambutans, which are furry and have a stronger flavor.

Great, now I’ve made myself hungry.

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