Being faced with the challenge to try something new, I decided to go to one of my favorite things to eat: fruit. I thought about picking a dish or something someone else created, but I find fruits and vegetables to be very inspiring. They always give me ideas for different dishes or ways to cook and eat them. Walking in the Saint Lawrence Market, I found a few things to try: blood orange, grapefruit, and prickly pear.
Looking at the outside, the blood orange’s texture and color are very similar to a regular orange, but once you open it tells you another story. It has a very thick rind, a dark crimson color and smells like a delicious mix of orange and cherry. It feels very light and fresh in the mouth and its flavor is very close to a regular orange with notes of berries, but the citric flavor is not very strong. It appeals to the sweet and acidic senses. In comparison, it is sweeter than a regular orange, but it is less acidic.
Blood orange is definitely a fruit that I will include in my diet. Not only it has a very agreeable taste, but reading a little about it, I found that it is rich in antioxidants, folate (vitamin B9) and vitamin C. These nutrients, among other things, protect our bodies against free radicals, help to boost our immune system, stimulates the production of collagen and helps protect against cancer. Simply amazing.
The first difference I noticed in the grapefruit was its rind. Although it has a similar color to oranges, it has a much smoother texture than other citrus fruit I know. As I cut it, a lot of juice came out of it, as it would when you cut a lemon. And even though it has a pink color, the juice was very clear. That gave me a hint about what to expect in terms of flavor. I was able to smell lemon and raspberry, but the taste was very different to what I smelled.
Grapefruits appeal mostly to the sweet and bitter and a little to the acidic sense. It tastes like a mix of lemon, raspberry with a hint of cherry. This is not an unpleasant fruit, but it very unique as it starts sweet but leaves a somewhat strong bitter aftertaste, especially if you eat the fibers or bite into one of the seeds. I am not sure if I will include grapefruits to my regular diet, mostly because of the bitterness, but surely I will eat them once in a while or maybe take it as a juice or add it to salads.
I chose the prickly pear because it was unlike any other fruit I had ever seen. By looking the outside, it reminds me of a cactus, which later I found out it was where they come from. I probably should have looked that after I ate, because knowing it was a cactus, made me a little reticent about trying it. And smelling it didn’t help much. At first, I could only smell earth and leaves. Then I was able to identify an aroma similar to melon or watermelon and something else I wasn’t entirely sure about. This was the only fruit that had a slightly harder skin, it wasn’t hard, just a little tough.
As I opened it, I was surprised by the vibrant pink color which I didn’t expect by looking at the purplish skin covered with thorns. The texture looked like a mix of pear and watermelon, but it had a lot of edible small seeds, or so I hope. The first piece I tried felt a little strange in my mouth. It was very different from any other fruit I tried before, but its flavor is not overpowering. As I ate the rest of it, I was able to identify the flavors and the smells I didn’t find out before: it was a mix of pear and watermelon. It appealed to the sweet and umami senses. Overall, I would say this was a positive experience, and it made me think about different recipes of desserts and salads I could include prickly pears on.
As a child, I was very picky with food, judging things by the way they looked or smelled. This experience reinforces that although the senses of smell and taste are dependent and connected, they are two separate senses and will give you different sensations. For the most part, I was able to form a previous idea in my mind of what each fruit would taste like that was very close to what the fruits tasted. But once I tasted them, it was different. Taste involves texture, a mix of sweet, sour, acid, bitter, umami, feel, the overall sensation that is much more complex than what smell gives us. That’s why it is so important to smell and taste things. That way you can properly evaluate whether or not you like a certain food.
A big part of having a balanced diet and eating well is variety. Trying new things is a great way to keep your diet interesting. The same is true in the kitchen. Being exposed to new aromas, flavors, textures, colors and shapes are a great way to be inspired and push us into being creative. Learning about these ingredients will also help us to create dishes with more flavor, update or create flavor profiles and create recipes that are more nutritious.
Out of all three fruits, my favorite was the blood orange, followed by the prickly pear and the grapefruit. But all of them are sweet fruits yet they feel very fresh. It is part of my routine to walk around markets and taste fruits and vegetables that I am not familiar with, and this showed me how helpful this is. Not only I tried a new flavor, but with three fruits I was able to think about 10 or 12 different recipes where they could be used. It is amazing how something so simple can bring so much inspiration. I really enjoyed this experience.