Figs

A few small figs

I always think of bright Mediterranean sunshine when I eat figs, forgetting that my mother had planted a fig tree in our garden in Staffordshire (England) when I was in my teens. That tree yielded masses of delicious figs within a couple of years.

In the garden where my mother now lives in Erice, Sicily, there is a fig tree that has provided us with a few figs in the last couple of weeks. We have eaten perhaps half a dozen but a neighbour harvested about 25 figs to take to his brother on another island. These were all large, soft green fruit and, in general, sweet.

July is expected to see the tree in full production, though a lot of the figs on the tree now are small, are turning black and have a tendency to fall off easily before reaching maturity.

Figs (Ficus carica) is related to the mulberry, about which I wrote just recently, and has been cultivated by humans for thousands of years.

Nutrition

Figs are high in soluble fibre and natural sugars. They are also rich in minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper and are a good source of antioxidant vitamins A and K. As they are a low calorie food they are an ideal addition to a weight-loss or weight-maintenance diet.

Fresh figs are nice at anytime of day. I like them at breakfast, after meals and between meals as a snack.

Sicilian fig biscuits

Dried figs are nice too though a bit on the seedy side. The seeds are softer in fresh figs, to the point of being unnoticeable. And the flavour is quite a lot different too – much stronger in dried figs.

I hope the tree produces a few decent fruit soon as, despite the countryside and gardens being edged by fig trees, the fruit in supermarkets are pretty expensive. Time will tell.

Here we go round the Mulberry bush

Ripe mulberry fruit in a punnet

“Here we go round the Mulberry bush”

These are the words that start an old nursery rhyme that is believed to be about 150 years old, though its origins are subject to speculation. The same tune and some words are used in similar rhymes eg “Here we go gathering nuts in May” and “The wheels on the bus go round and round”. But back to the subject if mulberry fruit.

The mulberry bush, genus Morus, is well-known both for its fruit, similar in appearance, but not related, to blackberries, and for its leaves that are used for feeding the larva of silk worm moths. Its leaves are also used for making nutritional supplements.

Leaf of the mulberry bush

Nutritionally mulberries are high in vitamin C and a significant source of iron.

High in vitamin C

Significantly rich iron content (14% of daily requirement per serving)

Sources: US Dept of Agriculture via Wikipedia

Ripe mulberry on the tree

This bush is located in the garden where my mother lives. There were just two fruits on the tree, one appears to have been eaten by birds, the other by me!

The fruit varies in flavour, depending on maturity, from acidic to mild. They are ideally suited to eating with yogurt on breakfast cereal. I usually eat fresh or dried fruit with oatmeal each morning.

Cassata

Traditional Sicilian painted wagon

Before having a siesta after lunch last week I came across something on Face Book that a friend had posted.

http://www.custonaciweb.it/i-dolci-piu-buoni-del-mondo-sono-siciliani-ad-affermarlo-e-il-new-york-times/

It’s an article that appeared on the village webpage of Custonaci, a small town outside Erice. The article references a piece published at the end of last year in the Los Angeles Times about the best pastries in the world being made in Sicily.

While in general I would agree, as soon as I saw the article I was struck by deja vu. To finish off our lunch of roast chicken and panelle we had …. one of the very same pastries featured above.

Cassatina Sicilianathe classic mini Sicilian cassata

The ones we bought were from a local pasticceria in Erice, while not the best that I have eaten they were a nice way to finish our meal.

Cassatina is a small cake, that’s how I think it’s best to describe it. The nearest thing in UK supermarkets are the famous Mr Kipling French Fancies – small sponge cakes that are covered in icing.

Selection of Mr Kipling French Fancies

Personally, I like the Kipling cakes though do not feel the sane sense of satisfaction after eating them that I get from cassatina’s.

The Sicilian cassatina, if well made, has that level of satisfaction that only comes with freshly made cakes made with great ingredients and the passion of a good pastry chef.

The traditional cassatine are made with a sponge base soaked in fruit juice (or alcohol, eg marsala), with a layer of ricotta cheese and candied fruit, topped with a thin covering of marzipan. Delicious and possible to make at home (though I will write about this at a later date).

A Sicilian Caper!

Caper bush (Capperis spinosa), also known as Flinders Rose

Capers are well known as a pickled condiment. It is the flower buds that are harvested and pickled though, after flowering, the fruit or berries can also be harvested for pickling.

The bush, with its long stems, is a perennial plant that is found throughout the Mediterranean region and in my mother’s garden in Erice.

Flower buds and leaves on the Caper Bush

In addition to the culinary use of the buds and berries the leaves can also be pickled and used in salads.

The delicate flowers of the Caper Bush

The plant is said to have several medicinal benefits including remedies for diabetes, fungal infections, chest congestion, intestinal worms , and skin disease caused by a form of leishmaniasis.

Slender, young seed pods

Capers are used in many Sicilian dishes and salads, while the leaves are more often seen in Cypriot food.

Nutrition

While rich in some nutritional aspects pickled capers have a high sodium content.

Macro-nutrients

Micro-nutrients

Sources: US Dept of Agriculture via Wikipedia

Pitanga

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       A handful of ripe, partially ripe and unripe Pitanga fruit

Found in Brazil and several South American and Caribbean countries pitanga is a fruit with an unusual shape – like a small Chinese lantern. It is known by a number of names, depending on the country, though pitanga and Brazilian cherry are probably the most well known – I have seen the name Barbados Cherry incorrectly applied to pitanga since Barbados Cherry is an alternate name for acerola (Malpighia emarginata) hence I always include the scientific name when referring to plants or animals to avert confusion. The scientific name of pitanga is Eugenia uniflora.

The plants are also to be found in parts of Africa and in India where, apparently, the plant originated. Many fruit trees have been, over the centuries, taken from their place of origin to become established on another continent. This can be said of pitanga, mango, cashew and cocoa among others.

The plant itself is a large shrub/small tree that can be grown easily within its range as an ornamental specimen, a hedge or specifically for its fruit. It is an important plant with benefits derived from both its fruit and leaves.

 

 

   Ripe fruit on the tree                       Flower buds and partially ripe fruit

The fruit starts life as a dainty white flower before natural transformation takes it from a small green swelling at the end of the peduncle behind the sepals, growing to its final shape and size while still green, then changing through yellow to bright red.

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          Delicate white, four-petaled flower of the Pitanga shrub

 

The leaves, which can be made into a tea with medicinal benefits, start life as a reddish/bronzy colour before turning green.

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 New leaf growth starts out a reddish bronze hue before turning green

The fruit can be used green (in cooking as a flavouring or as a chutney ingredient) or fully ripe (red) to be eaten raw, made into jam or juice. When fully ripe the fruit is soft and sweet with a taste similar to that of sweet, juicy orange.

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Unripe fruit can be used in sauces and chutney

 

Nutrition

Pitanga is rich in vitamin C, also providing vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin), and vitamin A. Its mineral content includes calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

Eating the fruit helps in weight loss or weight maintenance regimes as pitanga is low in calories and acts in reducing excess body fat.

Medicinal benefits

Many fruits have traditional or tested medicinal benefits. Among them, pitanga has numerous including anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antifungal properties. Beneficial applications include cardiovascular, cancer, skin, eye and common cold treatment.

Preparation

Eat raw to obtain the best benefit. The seeds are not edible but the skin and pulp can be eaten or made into a juice.

Cooking: remove the seeds, chop and add to whatever dish is being prepared.

 

 

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All images Copyright © Alan Skyrme

We have a number of images in stock and can shoot to order. To license an image please contact us (alan@alansskyrme.com)

NB: While Alan Skyrme has a number of diplomas in Nutrition it is strongly recommended that the latest available analyses of the nutritional contents and benefits are obtained from appropriate sources. Those provided here are indicative only and may be incomplete.

Acerola (Shoot Froot)

Acerola (Malpighia glabra) or Acerolla

Name:                   Acerola

Scientific name:  Malpighia emarginata

Other names:      Acerola cherry, Barbados cherry, West Indian cherry and wild crepe myrtle

 

Description:

Evergreen shrub originally from Yucatan, Mexico.

The cherry-sized drupes are juicy and a rich source of vitamin C. It can be eaten ripe, prepared as a juice, or preserved in the form of jam, jelly or syrup. Taste is quite sharp, so many people add sugar or honey.

Nutritional Benefits:

Acerola fruit is rich in vitamin C and is a good source of nutrients, minerals and vitamins.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)                   1644 mg (1826.67%)

Copper, Cu                                             0.084 mg (9.33%)

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)          0.303 mg (6.06%)

Carbohydrate                                       7.54 g (5.80%)

Vitamin A                                              37 µg (5.29%)

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)                     0.059 mg (4.54%)

 

Health benefits:

Antioxidant benefits, prevents liver damage, treats diarrhoea and dysentery, acts as a cold and cough remedy. Also used to prevent diabetes and obesity.

 

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We have a number of images in stock and can shoot to order

NB: While Alan Skyrme has a number of diplomas in Nutrition it is strongly recommended that the latest available analyses of the nutritional contents and benefits are obtained from appropriate sources. Those provided here are indicative only and may be incomplete.

Fruity Thoughts

Acai Wine

A glass of acai juice, fresh berries and an acai palm leaf (Euterpe oleracea)

Picture a wild, untouched landscape with plant life in abundance. Some trees and bushes will, at certain times of the year, be full of fruit. Brazil has, still, plenty of virgin forest with such flora – a friend of mine told me that, when he was working on a research project in the Amazon, he saw flowers and fruit there he had not seen before or since.

After Adam and Eve caused havoc in their own little paradise, did the Creator decide to relocate elements of the Garden of Eden for us to find later?

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Cupuaçu pod on a tree

It was because Brazil is blessed with a tremendous variety of fruit species that I became specialised in fruit photography almost 15 years ago. I saw and ate so many types of wild and cultivated fruit that photographing them became a logical step for me.

Today I eat fruit on a daily basis and drink freshly prepared fruit juices to accompany my meals. My preference in respect of fruit juice is to take it pure, without added sugar. Some fruit can be tart in taste so if I feel the need to sweeten it I will use honey rather than sugar.

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Rose-apples in a basket

While many fruits are available fresh in Municipal markets it is quite common to see fruit pulp in frozen form in supermarkets but where I live we buy fresh seasonal fruit.

The following list is of just 10 of the many varieties of fruit that grow in the North / Northeast of Brazil or, in some cases, in other parts of the country. The Amazon and Atlantic Rainforests are home to many species of edible fruit.

Acai (Euterpe oleracea)

Acerola (Malpighia glabra)

Bacaba (Oenocarpus bacaba)

Bacuri (Platonia insignis)

Biriba (Rollinia deliciosa)

Buriti (Mauritia flexuosa)

Cacau (Theobroma cacao)

Caja (Spondias mombin)

Cashew or Caju (Anacardium occidentale)

Cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum)

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Pupunha and urucum in a basket

Once a month, or thereabouts, I post a short description of a fruit in this blog*. I shall continue with this habit throughout 2018 but, in addition, I plan to publish a book that describes the fruit, their nutritional value, and some recipes (along with photos) in February 2018.

If you have an interest in seeing, and hopefully buying, this book when it is published please comment below or send me an email.

 

Five Murici (Byrsonima verbacifolia ) fruit on white background

Murici berries on a white background

We have numerous fruit images. We can supply from stock and can accept commissions for specific images.

* I used to post on my Continental Drifter blog but decided to rationalise and close that one down. I now post in this blog.

Shoot Froot – Cupuaçu

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Cupuaçu

 

Name:                   Cupuaçu

Scientific name:  Theobroma grandiflorum

Other names:      cupuassu, cupuazú, cupu assu, and copoasu

 

Description:

Tropical rainforest tree related to cacao. Common throughout the Amazon region with largest production in the Brazilian state of Para.

Its fruit are oval and about 20 cms long. There is a smaller species of the plant called cupuí.

In  the indigenous guarani language the suffix -açu implies big while the suffix -í implies small.

 

Nutritional Benefits:

Cupuaçu is a good source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It is a rich source of antioxidants.

 

vitamins A, C, B1, B2, and B3

Calcium

selenium

  • Accurate content not available

 

Health benefits:

Antioxidant benefits, immune system booster, skin rejuvenation, helps in curing diabetes and coronary heart disease.

 

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We have a number of images in stock and can shoot to order

 

 

NB: While Alan Skyrme has a number of diplomas in Nutrition it is strongly recommended that the latest available analyses of the nutritional contents and benefits are obtained from appropriate sources. Those provided here are indicative only and may be incomplete.

 

Instagram and stuff!

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The great thing about iPhones (and other smart phones) is the convenience of using the built-in camera when a large camera can’t be carried.

I specifically bought a Nokia N8 a few years ago because of the quality of the phone’s camera. A pity that Nokia made such a strategic error, but nice to see them coming back. My Nokia still works as a camera but the phone doesn’t want to recognise simm cards anymore. In recent years I have made a big, though easy, commitment to iPhone photography. The iPhone camera is of good quality and access to apps, including Instagram, has made image capture and processing so easy.

My iPhone has a suite of Abode apps that I use in addition to the Lightroom and Photoshop programs on my Mac. I also use Snapseed, Photogene, Camerabag and Instagram. The main point of using any of these apps is to quickly adjust an image or to add artistic features before publishing to Instagram, Pinterest or Behance, or placing on sale with Alamy’s Stockimo.

Depending on the type of image I may make only minor adjustments or I may apply multiple effects to obtain the image I want. Instagram viewers like to see consistency of style. Stockimo seems to accept generally more funky images. I upload what I like but try to work in a consistent way at least for a period – can’t be too static, tastes change!

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Shoot Froot – Cashew

Cashew nut, fruit and leaves

Cashew

Name:                   Cashew

Scientific name:  Anacardium occidentale

Other names:      Caju (portuguese)

Description:

Tropical evergreen tree originally from northeast Brazil but now also produced in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, India and Vietnam.

The plant has a false fruit (the cashew apple) and the kidney-shaped fruit, a drupe, in which the nut resides.

Nutritional Benefits:

Cashew nuts are good source of nutrients, minerals and vitamins with multiple medicinal uses including reduction of inflammation. Following based on 1/4 cup of cashew nuts:

196 calories

5 grams of protein

1 gram of fiber

16 grams of fat

750 milligrams copper (84 percent DV)

89 milligrams magnesium (33 percent DV)

167 milligrams phosphorus (28 percent DV)

9 milligrams zinc (23 percent DV)

27 milligrams manganese (15 percent DV)

11 milligrams vitamin K (12 percent DV)

2 milligrams iron (11 percent DV)

23 milligrams folate (6 percent DV)

 

The cashew apple is rich in vitamin C. Consumption (as juice or whole fruit) assists with fat burning, energy and immune system

Health benefits:

Antioxidant; (both fruit and nut) prevents diabetes, various cancers and gallstones; helps with weight loss and weight maintenance; supports healthy brain function

 

ASG images library:

We have a number of images in stock and can shoot to order

 

NB: While Alan Skyrme has a number of diplomas in Nutrition it is strongly recommended that the latest available analyses of the nutritional contents and benefits are obtained from appropriate sources. Those provided here are indicative only and may be incomplete.