Fruit by Nancie McDermott, UNC Press 2017, $20.00 cloth, 144 pages

It has so happened in all ages of the world that some have labored, and others have, without labor, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits.

Abraham Lincoln

It’s easy to see how the wild and cultivated sweet produce that nature gives us is turned into a vivid metaphor.

This Savor the South series continues to unearth culinary treasures. In this book, McDermott admits that, “While apples, pears, blueberries, raspberries, and nectarines have a proud place on the Southern table, they are also widely known…”.

And so she reaches up higher into the top branches and deeper into the thorny patches to pull out distinctly Southern fruits like scuppernong and muscadine grapes, mayhaws and damson plums, wild persimmons and elusive pawpaws.

As with all the books in this series, McDermott incorporates her own memories and some history–cantaloupe was  named in the 16th century for the Italian city of Cantalupo, even though the strain we enjoy is actually a muskmelon cousin. Fig orchards thrived at Mount Vernon and Monticello–it was the founders’ intent that we should enjoy fruits–actual and metaphorical. The indigenous pawpaw is full of vitamin C and sustained Native Americans and African Americans escaping slavery, but the mango-like pods are easily bruised and unsuitable as a market fruit.

Some of these fruits take work–pawpaws and mayhaws are foraged, and mayhaws and quince have to be cooked into preserves or syrups before they can be enjoyed. But others, like peaches and blackberries can be found at a pick-your-own farm or, if you must, at the supermarket.

Make this book a summer project, from cooling Cantaloupe Agua Fresca, Fresh Fig Pie, and Bill Smith’s Green Peach Salad, to Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. And if you time your project right, preserves like Watermelon Rind Pickles, Quince Ratafia, and Damson Plum Jam will take you right through the winter.

About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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