Fruits in season tell me a lot about a place–what kinds of plants grow here and what kind of landscape one needs to support this produce. Before I bore you with soil types and scientific names, I just wanted to share my excitement over having tasted new fruits in a faraway land.
I’ve always loved dates. One of my aunts married a Lebanese man whose sole preoccupation in my childhood was spoiling me rotten. I was seven, at least? We were in the US often for surgery and we lived with them. He taught me how to eat steak rare by collecting the drippings in a small cup, placing it close to my nostrils and once I had inhaled the taste of meat and herbs, he would place the cup along my lips. I drank this concoction heartily and his entire being laughed when I did. He spoiled me so.
This time, in Qatar, I thought of Habibi and how he fed me my first dry date. They’re delicious, he said and just like that I was in love.
We were at a souk and this old man had a fruit stall. He was selling fresh dates for more than was reasonable but I hardly complained because I just wanted to know what they tasted like fresh. These were Jordanian dates, I was told. After one bite I dreamt of eating them with goat cheese.
Pomegranates were another surprise fruit. I never had them and I don’t recall seeing them grow in the Philippines. Here though, in this little stall, along Souk Waqif were pomegranate seeds I could eat without having to pay. I nearly choked on the one the man gave me because he said, please keep getting. In other parts of the world, I’d get dagger eyes for being a freeloader. Heck, in my childhood I was convinced that limbs were cut off if you stole from “those people.” But look ma, I’m back home with two hands and a belly full of fruit!
I also met my first cactus pears. Can you guess which ones they are? There are also Egyptian guavas shaped like pears. Thinking one was a fragrant pear, I immediately brought the fruit to my nose and giggled at the sweetness of guava. It seems the country whose fruits beguile me so is Egypt. A taste of wild gooseberries known in Egypt as Harankash made it to my dessert plate at dinnertime and I couldn’t get over the flavor.
Why is it that we know so little about each other’s fruits?