Late Summer Fruit without the Heat

You can now purchase my handmade candy bars and marshmallows a


Melons, grapes, and figs bring theories of natural selection to mind. It’s as if they realize that by the time they arrive, you’ve already had your fill for the year of stone fruit in baking and compotes, and even if you hadn’t, your apartment may be too hot to justify turning on the oven. You may also be a little tired of hunting through boxes for the ripest fruits of the lot.

So, they cater to you. You have to buy a rather large amount in one go — either a whole melon, or a bunch of grapes, or a basket of figs — and preparation involves little more than a few cool strokes of the knife. Sure, you could heat them and play around with them, but only if you want. This year, I did not.

Two of my best melons came from a booth at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market on Aug 8. Both were relatively small and oblong, and grown near Auburn.

The honey pearl melon was a type of honeydew with a vibrant flavor and equally firm flesh throughout.


The sugar nut melon was a type of canary melon. I don’t usually like canary melons, but this one had a delightful clean flavor.




When looking for melons, choose the ones with as much netting as possible and the least amount of green on the outside. They’ll be the ripest and most flavorful.

I always wash them well, too, because the rind touches the cutting board and knife an awful lot.


These are Kyoho grapes, which are a Japanese variety that has a lovely deep grape flavor. They’re a worthy substitute for Concords, which are hard to find in LA markets. Their skins are a bit thick, so you can also make a spectacular sorbet out of them if you prefer. Macerating the pureed grapes with sugar overnight makes the flavor even more intense. And it’s the dreamiest purple color that you ever did see. I adapted Claudia Fleming‘s recipe for Concord Grape Sorbet, which also calls for ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to preserve the color.

Good grapes are hard to come by — crisp orbs of sugar are much more common. I get a little disappointed by fruit signs at the market that advertise how sweet, sweet, sweet the fruits are. Anyone can eat a spoonful of sugar at will. I would trust signs that advertise flavor, flavor, flavor much more.

As for figs, I haven’t found any good ones at the farmers markets yet, but once again Trader Joe’s is selling some pretty fine conventional and organic ones. And how low maintenance am I being with them? Well, I haven’t even taken their picture yet…

And figs are easy fruits to test for ripeness. They should be jelly-like inside, so once you pick one up, it should feel a heavy for its size and a little squishy. If it feels light or stiff, it’s not worth the bite.

All my raw fruit antics eventually circled back to my peaches and nectarines, which usually wound up like this.


Also, if you want to preserve the fruit a bit longer without the heat of boiling preserves, you can, of course, make sorbets… or homemade fruit liqueurs. I’ll write a post about this some day — as I have about a dozen of them going right now — but again, they require little more than chopping, mixing, and waiting… which sounds like just the right kind of project for long August days. This site is an excellent resource.

And if you already know a little something about making your our fruit liqueurs, feel free to show off your knowledge by answering this question that lingers in the back of my mind every time I look at my glass-cloaked infusing legions…. If it takes maybe 30 minutes to infuse the flavor from, say, orange peel into hot cream, why does it take maybe 4 months to infuse it into alcohol?

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