What's in Season at the Farmers Markets: Cured Onions and Sapote
There isn't really a wrong time to eat an onion. You can eat them at the sprout stage as thin light green whisps with their black seeds still attached. And everyone knows the value of a young spring onion here--either green or red--with their bright and savory punch. Mid-summer we get those giant, sweet--and still very green--Texas onions. Eaten fresh, they're juicy like a good winter navel and produce more tears than USC in an off year.
Come fall and winter, we tap into one of the finer qualities of the onion--they store exceedingly well. After letting the top leaves drop and die, giving their last bits of energy to the bulb, farmers harvest, dry out and cure them. The process produces a beautiful and nearly brown-paper-bag-thick skin that keeps out molds and mildews and locks in the juicy flavor produced during a long hot summer.
Felicia Friesema Felicia Friesema
If you cut into this season's cured onions right now, they'll drip like they've been misted with milk. They are at their peak of onion flavor for the next month or so and will store well until May, and sometimes beyond. But the long winter of a May onion doesn't have the punch or character of a newly cured bulb. Look for silky smooth bronze skins on the yellow onions. Red onion skins tend to be a touch more delicate so they won't have the perfection of appearance that their lighter cousins do. White onions will look like something you would hang on your tree: marble white, almost frosted, and smooth.
With an eight to ten year span before you achieve harvestable fruit from a newly planted seedling, it's no wonder the sapote is practically revered when the fruit finally makes an appearance. The trees sometimes tower overhead at over 100' tall, dangling a beautiful light green fruit with a beige flesh that is lightly sweet and tropical, tasting like a blend between peaches, bananas, and plumeria, assuming plumeria had a taste. The fruit's long history also makes for a bit of romance--it's credited with sustaining Cortez and his crew on their long march from Mexico City to Honduras in 1524. Frozen, the fruit flesh is like a sherbet--both creamy and refreshing with a gingery zing. It also makes a delightful tropical jam. But it doesn't hurt if you simply spoon it out of fruit halves warmed slightly from being cupped in your hand. No marching required.
Usually the time for green tomatoes, and the accompanying fried or pickled recipes, is in early summer. Thanks to some odd weather, we're seeing piles of pre-frost harvested greenies that would otherwise end up in the compost heap. Their solid flesh has a tart snap that lends itself well to some mean treatment: long, hot braises in meaty stews, deep-frying, and some ridiculously hot canning and pickling. If you missed the window about five or six months back, you're in luck.