Friday, August 31, 2012

Discovering the fruits and vegetables from our homelands

Jicama, passion fruit, soursop, cassava and papaya – these are just a small representation of the vast world of fruits and vegetables that are favorites within Hispanic cuisine. “When I was child, my treat was jicama with salt, lemon and a lot of chile,” said Carmen Salas, a native of Merida, Mexico , who is in charge of the fruit and vegetable section of a market in East Tulsa, Oklahoma. “It is the Mexican turnip and it can be eaten raw, roasted or fried.”

Salas describes the taste as sweet. “If you want to lose weight, the best thing is jicama juice.”

Alexandra Cepeda, who is Colombian, says passion fruit is the “queen of fruits.” The taste “is between acid and sweet,” she said while shopping in South Tulsa in a market carrying Latin American products. “There is nothing better for desserts than a touch of passion fruit. “

Although the fruit is of South American origin, Cepeda said the best ones are found in the Asian markets. “They have the best selection. They have them in several colors, but I only eat the yellow ones.”

While the exterior of the soursop does not make it look appetizing, that thorn-like covering  hides sweet flesh inside. “In my town they call it zapote de viejas,” said Cesar Perez, a native of the state of Michoacán , Mexico , who was in a market in East Tulsa . “The tree has a very bad smell, but the fruit is very tasty.”

Cassava, which is loaded with carbohydrates, gives rise to the popular tapioca and other types of flour. Manuel González, a native of Zacatecas, Mexico , says the best way to eat it is “fried and with grilled meat.” González, who was choosing some vegetables in an East-side market, said: “I had never eaten it until a Dominican friend invited me to a barbecue. But I don’t like it boiled; it has to be fried.”

Papaya comes from Central America . “It is sweet, but I like when it is green,” said José Duarte, who is from the Mexican state of Guerrero and who said he wraps papaya in newspaper to let  them ripen. “My mother made a candy, and she also used the seeds, which were like pepper.”

A chef chimes in
Kimo Orozco, the head chef of a downtown hotel in Tulsa and who is originally from the Philippines, said fruits and vegetables from the Hispanic kitchen “have the ability to change an entire dish, as if by magic,” He said many people think that the mango, pineapple or banana “are the only Hispanic fruits, and that tomatillo is the only vegetable that Hispanics eat. They are wrong. We can spend all day talking about the great variety that exists in Latin America .”

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