Friday, January 7, 2011

June, where's my lunch?

While I was in an open-air market in Florida, USA, I came across a strange type of fruit which I had never seen before.

When I asked a particular vendor its name, I received the reply of "Chinese olive". This name caught my attention, as I am quite obsessed with olives in general. 

(Of course this was after my initial and cynical reaction to any fruit or vegetable that is improperly labeled "Chinese [insert common name here]", e.g. Chinese apple, Chinese cabbage, Chinese lettuce, etc. I find it to be a quick label for anything edible, found in Asia, that has a resemblance to something else in North America or Europe.)

In any case, I went on to ask the vendor if they needed to be cured or cooked in any way, as olives are not eaten raw. He stated that they didn't and I proceeded to try one on the spot. It was not an olive, by any stretch.

As you can see, they are quite large to be compared to any variety of olive. Also, they do not contain any pits or seeds.

After doing a little research, I found that they are actually called June plums, a.k.a. embe-ke-zungu, in Swahili. The name translates to "white mango", which is a much better description of the fruit. When in this state, the fruit has a slightly sour flavour, resembling a mix between green (unripened) mangoes and plums. The skin is also edible.

Fortunately, I came across a woman from Laos making a type of salsa with June plums. She sliced the fruit into a mortar and pestle.

She added julienned green papaya,...

green chilies,...

tomatoes and limes.

It looked delicious and when I asked her what she was making, she simply replied, "lunch."

June plums are normally eaten with a little bit of salt and pepper or salt and red chili powder. They also make a nice contribution to fruit salad.

When ripe, the fruit turns sweet and can be used to make juice and cocktails.

Great, now I want some lunch!

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