What is this fruit?

Today I had a new experience. I was standing in my front yard talking with my landlady and her husband through an interpreter – a guy from work named Misha – when suddenly the husband reached up and grabbed a tree branch, pulling it down so Misha could pluck a fruit from it. “Pluck” is a word that seems strange to me since I don’t normally engage in any activities that involve plucking, whether it be picking fruit, cleaning a chicken, or playing a string instrument.

Misha hands me the fruit and explains to me that I am expected to eat it. He asks if we have any in the US. This fruit is a little yellow thing, with a perfect, picturesque little stem, covered in a thin coating of kicked-up ground dust.

No, I explain, I don’t recognize this thing. Could it be some kind of peach? But the skin is smooth, like an apple’s. The color is yellow like a lemon. Can you eat it?

Yes, you can eat it, Misha says. To demonstrate he yanks one off the branch and bites into it, as though this were the most normal thing in the world.

I’m a city kid. I grew up in a town of eight million – that’s almost twice Georgia’s entire population – and we didn’t eat fruit off trees, or have chickens in our yard, or cows walking down the street. I got my fruits from the supermarket. I’ve never eaten something I found growing outside my house. But I came to Georgia to have just this kind of experience.

To be honest*, my grandfather had an orange tree outside his house in Florida. We definitely ate oranges from that tree – he used to mail us some – but I never actually watched him pull one off the tree. Apparently when they were ready, they just fell on the ground or something, and he gathered them up and gave them away (that is, the ones he didn’t eat himself).

But the point remains. I am so used to buying already-processed food – food that has been cleaned, sprayed, checked, shipped, possibly frozen and then thawed, and perfectly sanitized – food that has, in effect, passed through an institution – that I actually hesitated to eat this stuff because the idea of eating something that hadn’t been through the Food Institution was just so unfamiliar.

And that’s a thing about American culture. We in America are brought up to have a certain amount of faith in Institutions. The government, the church, the school system, the various industries that bring us our finished products – these are the things that we put our faith in, and for most Americans, “nature” is not one of the institutions that we pay any heed to. When we are kids, food just sort of comes out of nowhere – we start off alienated from the source of our nourishment – and then most of us progress directly to having a job and buying food, with money. Few Americans have the experience of working on a farm, and although more Americans have gardens or trees of some sort, it’s still not excessively common especially in the uber-urbanized megalopolis that is New York City.

I’d like to say that all this passed through my mind as I stood there contemplating this strange new fruit, but instead, I just felt a vague sense of unease that was overcome by my desire not to insult my Georgian hosts or seem like the fastidious, neurotic New Yorker that I am. And Misha said that he loved the fruit.

So I ate this fruit. I wiped it off on my shirt to get rid of the dust. Then it was glossy and delicious-looking. I took a bite out of it. I can’t say that it was pleasant – it had a vaguely peanut-esque flavor, the skin was a little on the bitter side, and the flesh wasn’t anything to write home about. I figured out that the skin was the part that wasn’t doing it for me, though, and tried to surruptitiously peel some off, but like an apple’s skin, it was pretty solidly joined to the flesh.

Then Misha tells me that in a week this fruit will start to become ripe. Doesn’t one typically wait until fruit ripens before eating it? Misha explains that the fruit will become softer and sweeter. Great. So now he tells me. However, I was getting used to the weird skin taste, and getting at more of the flesh, and I’m actually starting to enjoy it. Plus, I did something I’d never done before and survived, which always gives me a vague sense of accomplishment. Did I mention that the flesh was sort of dark pink, like an angry grapefruit?

Anyway, I decided to take a few pictures, so people would believe me and also so someone could identify this fruit for me. And after I finished it, I started contemplating what sorts of recipes I could make out of it. I think that it would make a really good sorbet, which means that now I have to learn how to make sorbet. Well, there are worse things in life. πŸ™‚

Maybe I could also turn some into some kind of jam or preserve, and bring it home to the States for people to try. My work never ends.

*Interesting linguistic note: as I reread this post, this phrase – “to be honest” – jumped out at me as something that I picked up from the Georgians that I’ve been spending time around. I do tend to absorb words and phrases from other people very quickly, and this is not the first time I’ve noticed myself picking something up from Georgians. I just have to be careful not to pick up too many non-American idioms in my English, otherwise I won’t be teaching Georgians American English anymore and my utility as a teacher will decrease.

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11 Responses to What is this fruit?

  1. T says:

    It’s sounds like quince, and i agree with sorbet idea, but we do already have some nice desert made with walnuts and honey cooked together with quince πŸ™‚
    i had same taste experience with avocado, had no idea that had to wait πŸ™‚ now it is my favorite fruit and i am the expert in discovering the perfect ones, on the market of cause πŸ™‚ do not remember if there is the season for “shindi”, but ask around about it, we used to make from it wonderful preserve with raw “shindi” it self, BTW i am looking for the English translation for this fruit, may u could help me?

  2. Victoria Wheeler says:

    That’s weird. We use “to be honest” here in the South.

    • panoptical says:

      It’s not like nobody in New York ever says it, it’s just that it wasn’t in my list of common phrases until quite recently. In my social circles I’d be much more likely to say either “I’m not gonna lie” or “Honestly” (or even “actually” or “in fact” or “to tell you the truth” or “if I’m being honest” – this last one I picked up from Simon on American Idol) depending on the circumstances, whereas a couple of Georgians I know have “to be honest” as a stock phrase that they use several times per conversation in places where I don’t think native speakers would use anything.

      I guess the thing is that as a native speaker of English among other native speakers, I am used to using a vast and diverse lexicon that allows me to express most sentiments in at least five to ten different ways – just because English has loads of synonyms and loanwords and billions of speakers coming up with new and exciting flavors of the language – whereas an English language learner will generally only learn one or maybe two ways of saying a particular thing. It stands to reason that if you only have one way of expressing a particular sentiment, you’ll use it much more often than a person with five different ways of expressing that sentiment – and thus it will start to stand out. And once I’ve heard “to be honest” fifteen times a day for a week, it’s going to start to pepper my speech as well.

  3. ---> says:

    > I’m a city kid. I’ve never eaten something I found growing outside my house.

    Neil,

    Correction: You are THE city kid. And characters like you were quite well and humorously described in ‘Sex and the City’ (the original one). I remember in one episode there was Charlotte’s guy, who did not travel outside of Manhattan because he was afraid that civilization does not exist outside of NYC borders.

    Hey, I’m not trying to offend you. I’m just saying that I think most of people living in States would find your following statement

    > and for most Americans, β€œnature” is not one of the institutions
    > that we pay any heed to

    quite hilarious. Do you know how many people visit every year National Parks in US?
    No? Here is (with the great fanfare) the truth:
    ———————————————————————
    More than 285 million people visited national parks and other units of the National Park Service during 2009, up from nearly 275 million in 2008, according to statistics the agency released Tuesday.

    http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2010-03-01-national-parks-attendance_N.htm
    ———————————————————————

    I have a feeling that you are becoming Georgian much more quickly than you release. At least you’ve already started to make broad sweeping generalizations based on your personal experience – Georgian are quite famous using the same approach. πŸ™‚

    • panoptical says:

      I actually don’t think that you understood what that sentence means. Going to a park is not the same as paying heed to the institution of nature.

  4. pasumonok says:

    people in states camp, hike, visit parks, picnic, have bbq’s and stuff, but i agree with neil, they have no idea what to do when they see a cow. unless they live on a farm.
    when i was an exchange student in states, i lived with a host family. i spent a year in a small town in utah. we had an apple tree in the yard. a perfect, healthy apple tree. but no one ate of it. why?
    becoz the air was not clean enough and the apples were polluted– so i was told. i thought that was weird. do people think that the apples in a store that come from vast orchards in the country or even worse, apples imported from god knows where are surrounded by different air?
    so i agree with the author–plucking an unknown fruit and eating eat ( especially when u’re really supposed to eat it after a week) is like small adventure.

  5. pasumonok says:

    o.k. i have to write this: I am sick and I am posting what i think is my 5th comment here. i just like this blog.
    so please disregard mistakes in phrases like ” eating eat” instead of “eating it”.

  6. username says:

    aand as the title says “what is this fruit”?

  7. Derek says:

    I just went through the same experience with persimmons you did. I had of course heard of them, but had never seen one. I’ve got one ripening on my kitchen table right now, but I’m getting pretty antsy waiting for it, so I might just dig in before it is totally ripe.

    One of my coworkers just brought me a bag of little green things that were quite tasty. They’re the color of limes and about the size of a ping-pong ball. I think they’re guavas, but I’m not 100% certain. I’ve half-forgotten the Georgian name for them already, but I think it’s chokho or something similar.

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