As those of you have been by our South End store during the past few weeks may have noticed, despite the slow drag as spring gradually gains ground in the battle to wrest our weather from winter’s claws, we have been fortunate to have a bit of sunshine gracing our shelves. This sunshine comes in the form of produce from the small, organic farms we work with in California.
Looking at the pile of Golden Nugget tangerines, you can tell that they are all of the same species of fruit and they are clearly distinguishable from the other citrus fruits nearby. However, if you set two individual tangerines next to each other and look at them closely, it becomes apparent that there are more subtle differences between them – in color, shape and placement of bumps, fine details of texture – than there are similarities. Apparently, the small farm that grows them is more concerned with producing delicious, beautiful, organic fruit than it is with uniformity of product – our favorite kind of farm.
As captivating as I find the tangerines, of our citrus this season, the kumquats were what I totally fell in love with. An explosion of sour in one bite (or two), followed by a sweetness that fills your mouth, making you immediately want to reach for the next one. One of my colleagues mentioned that he had read that it was actually the peel and pith of the kumquat that are sweet, and the juice and meat that are sour (one of my customers called them “nature’s Sour Patch Kids”). I, of course, tested this out as soon as possible by chewing on a bit of the peel and pith by itself. Sure enough, it is true – the sour intensity of that first bite is the juice – it is only by chewing the peel and the pith that the sweetness warms your palate. When I shared this with my colleague, he suggested that perhaps the same was true for the tiny, delicate blood oranges that had come in. I gave it a try – to a sadly bitter end. You can all rest assured that all the stunning, layered sweetness of the blood orange lies solely in its meat and juice.
And, as we are now awaiting summer, I look forward to the berries and stone fruits that will soon be making their way onto our shelves…
Marianne Staniunas is a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen South End, Boston.