Friday, May 21, 2021

Andy Young: Picking a favorite

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Recently someone asked me if I had a favorite fruit. I thought long and hard about it, assuming she had inquired because she actually wanted a response.

Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest ones to answer. 

My first paying job was at an orchard, which probably explains my longtime affinity for apples. But that begs another question: what’s the best type? Contemporary varieties like MacIntosh, Golden Delicious, Macoun, and Pink Lady are all worthy candidates, but Northern Spy, Russet, York Imperial, and Ida Red should all be in the conversation as well. 

Just thinking about apples conjures up the alluring scent that filled our house when one of my mother’s incomparable apple pies was in the oven. I also love apple cider, despite knowing exactly how nasty the specific apples (none of which grade out as “fancy,” or even as “utility”) used to produce it actually are. The only apple I’d ever decline is the deceptively named Red Delicious, a variety that looks like attractive wax fruit, but has the drawback of tasting like it, too. 

Pears were another fruit harvested where I worked. Boscs, Seckels, and D’Anjous all grew there, along with my personal favorite member of the pear family, the Bartlett.

There was also fuzzy fruit at that orchard. As far as I know nothing’s tastier than a freshly plucked, ripe, juicy peach, though preferably one untainted by pesticides. 

But citrus fruits are awfully good, too. Around here the store-bought kind has to suffice but trust me: nothing beats a freshly picked orange. Some years ago, I lived in a Florida house that had an orange tree in the backyard. I’d select a little gem each morning, then drink the sweet juice that gushed out of it with just a slice of its thin outer covering. I’m also quite fond of the orange’s easier-to-peel cousin, the tangerine.

Watermelons are literally and figuratively in a fruit class by themselves. Nothing is more enticing on a hot summer day. The only disappointing thing about this gigantic green treat: modern-day watermelons no longer contain an average of 482 seeds per 10-pound melon, as they did in my boyhood. I sometimes spontaneously weep for the generations of kids who’ve grown up since the advent of seedless watermelon, and thus never knew the joy of participating in a good old-fashioned (albeit spectacularly unsanitary) seed fight.

Fresh pineapple is another delight. The only drawback (for those wishing to purchase their produce from nearby growers) is that it’s hard to imagine, even with global temperatures rising, that Maine-grown pineapple will be available any time in the near future.

Many civilized people dismiss canned fruit, and I’ll admit it’s more than a little unnerving to see a sealed container with an expiration date printed on it that’s clearly five or more years after when the items inside it were harvested.   But I confess: I enjoy sampling canned pears, peaches, apricots, and pineapple every so often. Such products, particularly when chilled or suspended in gelatin, are just a different type of heavenly.

But I haven't even mentioned bananas. Or grapes. Or cherries, plums, nectarines, and cantaloupe. Or berries, be they black, blue, straw, or rasp. Then there are exotic treats like kiwi, pomegranate, and mango. And desiccated fruit is a whole separate sub-category. Dried apricots, dried apples, and dried peaches are all delicacies. As for too-often-ridiculed dried plums, AKA prunes: don’t knock ‘em until you’ve tried ‘em. In moderation, that is.

How does a fruit aficionado like me best answer that seemingly simple question? Maybe the best response is a direct, succinct, and literal one. 

So do I have a favorite fruit? 

No. <

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