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Fruits, Part IV: Peaches and Beyond

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Fruits, Desserts, and Other Sweet Foods

Summer Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(2) pages: 33 to 37


This series about fruits is by the editor who says the Chinese adore them big and beautiful, though not always ripe. It began in Volume 23-3 featuring apples, apricots, bananas, chayote, cherries, and coconuts. The second part was with some citrus, and dates, durian, figs, gingko, goji, gooseberries, grapes, and guava. The third part discussed hawthorn, kiwi, li zhi, longan, loquat, Chinese olives, and papaya. Each fruit includes a single recipe, and is in alphabetical order. This fourth part continues starting with with peaches.

Overall, fruits can be ripe, flavorful, and fantastic, and less ripe ones add texture, ripe or not. The Chinese often share a whole fruit with many others at the end of a main meal, particularly if an apple or a pear. They do love all their fruits big and beautiful, crisp, too.

Some fruit recipes were published before this series began, therefore, check this magazine’s index for them. Others will be discussed in future issues. If you know a popular fruit in China, do not let it be omitted, so do advise. Future issues will include berries from a single ovary, simple and small, those with pits or seeds such as the blackberry, those from flowering plants with enclosed ovules that become seeds or nuts, and fruits known as ‘modified berries’ including those with five or more carpels, with flesh under or on top of their skins, and others.

Are you confused about any we might be thinking of? So are many botanically-minded folk who simply group them as fruits not by their segmentation, peel, seeds, etc. They simply know they are delicious, healthy, loaded with polyphenols, flavanoids, tannins, and/or other phytochemicals, and with nutrients. This fourth part begins with peaches and continues with persimmons, pineapples, pitayas, pomegranates, tomatoes, and waters chestnuts. Yes, all of these are fruits loved by the Chinese. If ones you love are missing from this series, perhaps the Chinese love them less than you do.

Peaches are very popular in China. In the past, most had fuzzy exteriors. Newer cultivars do not. Native to Northwest China, most still have large hard pits and flesh that can be white, yellow, or orange. Either freestone or with cling stones, they and plums and nectarines, the Chinese believe, can ward off obesity-related diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular ones. These and many other fruits have many bio-active compounds and pigments. Some can include phenolic, anthocyaninic, chlorogenic, quercetinic, and catechinic. Some reduce LDLs, the so-called bad cholesterols, so do eat lots of them, and often.

Peaches are an excellent source of Vitamin C; they help fight the formation of free radicals that cause cancer, have lots of fiber, may reduce wrinkles, lower blood glucose and blood sugar levels, and regulate lipid and insulin levels. Their potassium supports heart heath, too. Some research says eating three or more servings every day can decrease progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Peaches, Conpoy, and Doufu
Ingredients:

3 conpoy (dried scallops) soaked in warm water overnight
6 peaches, peeled, skins discarded, and sliced thinly
½ pound soft doufu, mashed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon ginger juice
2 Tablespoons Chinese white wine
1 egg white
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce

Preparation:

1. Tear the soaked conpoy into thin strips.
2, Strain the doufu and mix it with the conpoy, both juices, and the wine.
3. Steam this mixture over boiling water for twenty minutes, then cool and drain well.
4. Oil a heat-proof bowl and line with moistened cheesecloth. Sprinkle one-quarter of the conpoy strips on its bottom, then mix doufu with remaining conpoy strips, egg white, salt and pepper. Press this mixture down in the bowl, then steam it for fifteen minutes over boiling water. Then turn it upside down on a serving plate, remove the cheesecloth, and drizzle the oyster sauce on top and serve.

Persimmon a Diospyros fruit, is the most popular species in China where all these fruits are called shi or shi guo. Many tell us they are indigenous there. Ancient Chinese said one can eliminate their astringent tannic tastes by steaming or smoking them, and by freezing them. This taste goes away naturally when they are very ripe. Many pits were found at neolithic sites in North China, some at tombs near Changsa, others in Manchuria or Guangzhou, or near ancient trees or ancient tombs in many places.

Very few Chinese recipes for this fruit are known even today. Some of their pollen has also been found at ancient sites, and their fruits are most often eaten dried, their pits made into oils. No recipe follows as we could not find one, but if you know one, we would love to share it with our readers. So do send it to this magazine; we would also like to know where or from whom you found it.

Pineapples botanically are Ananas, the Chinese call them feng li or bo luo meaning ‘phoenix pear’ or ‘earth pineapple.’ They look rough on the outside, yellow within, and when ripe are very sweet. Whole and not peeled, these fruits are covered with what some call their eyes. Each has a thorn-like hair in its center.

TCM practitioners tell us that these fruits keep the spleen healthy, relieve thirst, reduce swelling no matter where, and remove ‘wind-wetness evil.’ They also say their juice eases indigestion and vomiting, raises blood pressure if too low causing dizziness, reduces fever with weakness, improves problems with urinating, and does so much more.

Bang Bang Pineapple Chicken
Ingredients:

2 chicken legs or thighs boned, their meat cut in slivers,
then boiled for ten minutes and drained
1 cucumber, seeded and slivered
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 Teaspoons thick soy jam
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup canned pineapple, slivered

Preparation:

1. Mix cooked and drained chicken with the cucumber slivers.
2. Mix sesame oil, soy jam, vinegar, and sugar, and pour this over the chicken and cucumber mix,
3. Add the pineapple, then toss and serve.

Pitaya are distinctive fruits with spikes on their outsides. Also known as dragon fruits, most have white interiors with tiny black seeds inside. Most are red outside though newer species are yellow outside and in. Years ago emperors stored these fruits in their ice houses and ate them frozen. Today, we would say that texture reminds of sherbert.

Related to cactus, these fruits are in the genus Stenocereus if sour, but the genus Hylocereus, species undatus, costaricensis or megalanthus if sweet. One unusual thing about them is that they are harvested five or six times a year, grow on trees that set their fruit thirty to fifty days after flowering. Some do grow on vines and flower and set in just a few weeks as most fruits do. All their flowers open over night, wilt by morning, and are most often pollinated by bats or moths. These fruits produce tons of fruit a year, grow best in dry tropical climates with a moderate amount of rain, and have seeds that grow well in compost and germinate quickly.

Fermented Rice Pitaya
Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons pearl barley, soaked overnight, then drained
3 fresh water chestnuts, peel discarded, sliced, each slice cut in fourths
1/4 cup raw short grain rice
1 cup pitaya (dragon fruit), peeled and cubed
1 cup almost ripe papaya, peeled, seeded, and cubed
2 Tablespoons goji berries
1 cup fermented rice with its liquid
1 Tablespoon water chestnut flour mixed with a like amount of cold water

Preparation:

1. In a saucepan with the drained barley, add one cup cold water and bring to the boil, then lower the eat and simmer until tender.
2. Prepare water chestnuts in another saucepan, add the rice and another cup of cold water and simmer for twenty minutes.
3. Mix ingredients in both saucepans, add the pitaya, papaya, goji berries, and fermented rice and its liquid and bring to the boil, then add the water chestnut mixture and stir until somewhat thickened. Serve hot, warm, or cool.

Pomegranate, the Chinese think is a seductive plant growing on shrubs or trees. They call them shi liu, an shi liu, or zhen zhu shi liu. They are thickskinned fruits with many irregular seeds. They consider them cool in nature. In English, some call them ‘stone,’ ‘pearl,’ or ‘peaceful pomegranates’ and many know they have astringent-tasting seeds said to be very healthy. The Chinese believe they cool fevers and are warm in nature. Some say their juice can kill parasites, most know they symbolize fertility and that when half open are wishes for a hundred sons. TCM practitioners frequently recommend their juice for mouth and throat irritations, hoarse throats, and persistent coughs, frequent diarrhoea, dysentery, and impetigo. What many do not know is that the skin and roots of this fruit can have some poison.

Zhe Jiang Noodles With Pomegranate
Ingredients:

½ pound dry rice noodles soaked in hot water until soft, then cut into two-inch lengths
½ cup chicken stock
2 Tablespoons chicken stock
2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 Tablespoons Shao Xing rice wine
1 Tablespoon chili sauce
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and smashed
1/4 pound ground or chopped beef
1 scallion, angle sliced

Preparation:

1. Mix prepared rice noodles with the chicken stock, hoisin sauce, rice wine, and the chili sauce, and set this aside.
2. Heat wok, add the oil, and then the garlic and beef, and stir-fry for two minutes. Next stir in the sauce mixture and bring to the boil. Stir well and transfer to a pre-heated serving bowl scattering the scallion pieces of top. Then serve.

Tomato is botanically known as Lycopersicu esculentum, and most do not realize they are fruits. The Chinese call them fan qie meaning foreign eggplants or xi hong shi meaning western red persimmons. They are annual fruits and can be round, flattened, or oval. Most are green when immature. Some newer species are yellow and do not get red when ripe.

TCM doctors tell us they are neither hot nor cold, can clear a fever, cool blood, promote saliva, and help digestion. TCM folk recommend them to cure night blindness if prepared with pig liver. They say they ease loss of appetite when eaten raw, to reduce bleeding gums when dipped in sugar, reduce high blood pressure in the eye when eaten very ripe, and improve appetite loss if cooked with lean pork.

Tomatoes With Chicken Thighs
Ingredients:

10 grape tomatoes, each cut in half the long way
1 teaspoon each, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, and dried basil
½ teaspoon each salt, turmeric, paprika, chili powder, and ground black pepper
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Preparation:

1. Mix all the spices and then toss them with the tomato halves.
2. Heat wok, add the oil, and fry the chicken pieces four minutes, then add the tomato mixture and stir-fry for one minute. Serve in a pre-heated serving bowl.

Water Chestnut, also a fruit; is botanically known as Heleocharis tuberosa. In Chinese, they call them bi qi or ma qi, the latter meaning a ‘horse hoof.’ These fruits grow in water or marshy land, their edible part is called a corm. Many people eat their leaves and stems, and love their pointed sprouts. They do not eat their peel, do love their pink or white crisp interiors. Best dug up in the fall, then their texture is very crunchy. TCM doctors tell us they are sweet in nature, can cool a fever, reduce phlegm, promote saliva, lower blood pressure, prevent meningitis, reduce sore throats; and with St. John’s wort can reduce jaundice. For those with hemorrhoids, they recommend eating them fresh without their skins. Cooked, they say they can eliminate red urine, and if cooked with cogon grass and mashed, their liquid strained, they tell us if consumed morning and night and peeled, they reduce painful throats and other mouth irritations.

Duck With Water Chestnuts
Ingredients:

1 whole cooked boneless skinless duck breast
½ cup canned water chestnuts, minced
2 egg whites
1 Tablespoon Shao Xing rice wine
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 sliced sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
½ teaspoon coarse salt
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup vegetable eaves, coarsely chopped

Preparation:

1. Mince duck breast, then toss it with minced water chestnuts, egg whites, wine, cornstarch, and the minced onion and ginger.
2. Add salt, mix again, and then make into patties three inched in diameter, half inch thick. 3. Heat wok, add the oil, and fry the patties until tan and crisp on both sides. Then transfer them to paper towels, and then on to a pre-heated platter.
4. In same pan, fry the greens for one minute, then put them around the patties, and serve.

                                                                                                                                                       
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