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Monday, August 26, 2013

Fresh & local!

pineapple (1)So you are probably going to get sick of me bragging about the mind-blowingly delicious produce here.  I promise, I’ll keep it to a minimum and not praise every pomegranate we see growing freely in people’s backyards.  (Also, to be honest, the cucumbers are cheap and plentiful but are teeny weeny and don’t taste fantastic.)

But I just have to mention – pineapple!

If you have never had one of these fresh, local teeny-weeny little palm-sized pineapples, you are in for a REAL treat. 

First of all, if you are used to super-sweet imported North American supermarket pineapples, as we are, you will not be disappointed by the sugar level in these sweeties.  They may look pint-sized, but they pack a huge wallop of sugar.  But the first thing that hits you isn’t the sweetness, it’s the fragrance – you can easily smell them across the room, if not farther. 

But beyond sweet, there is another flavour element that’s completely missing in import pineapples.  These ones are almost salty, definitely a savoury layer that explains a lot about why pineapples are so often found in meat dishes (they probably have a marinating/tenderizing effect as well, like papaya does).

And the third important thing about this cutie is that it is SOFT, almost mushy.  Not as mushy as the mango we ate yesterday (well, the kids ate it; I am still a fruit xenophobe and cannot eat any fruit I was not served as a 3-year-old), but definitely not firm enough to stand up to the rigours of being tossed in a crate and shipped across an ocean, then via rail, to Canadian supermarkets.  Which is probably why, if you’re not here, you’ve never tasted a pineapple quite like this before.

Back in Canada, I used to marvel at all the people who’d buy raspberries when we had the most amazing, bursting-ripe berries free in our backyard.  Raspberries simply cannot be shipped and sold when they are ripe – they’re too fragile.  So, by definition, raspberries in stores (and to some extent, at farmers’ markets) are not in prime eating condition.

I always thought pineapples were almost like coconuts:  rock hard and willing to travel anywhere.  Now I realize that they probably shouldn’t go more than a couple of hours if you’re going to experience them at their best.

(Did I mention the produce is often ridiculously cheap?  Two of these little pineapples cost 10 shekels, about $2.75 or $3 Canadian!!!   Almost but not quite makes up for the high prices of everything else…)

Like I said, I promise I won’t write about every bite of Israeli produce I consume (and some produce, like garlic, still is imported, often from China). 

But I’ll probably reserve some future space here for rhapsodizing about my first local grapefruit, in the wintertime.  And I do believe that if we have to live in a tiny besieged little country, a nice side effect is the equation that makes it ridiculous to import – perhaps impossibly or at great expense – produce that will more than happily grow in a field somewhere in the Galil…

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