...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


dried fruit mania

 I've never really been that much into dried fruit.
It's so lackluster compared to the real, juicy thing.

But you can't have the real, juicy thing all year long.
Every fruit has a season. 
(Except bananas.  They seem to always be in season.
What's up with that, anyway?)


So, what's my "beef" with dried fruit?

For starters, I don't like the sensation of chewing on tough, leathery strips.
Especially things I have to push straight back to my molars
and chew a long time before I can even think about swallowing. 
It makes me feel like a neanderthal
AND it aggravates my TMJ in the process.

And the flavor... meh...not worth the effort most of the time.
Unless of course I was seriously hungry
(in which case I would gladly chomp away on virtually anything!)

Besides texture and lack of flavor,..
If you're not careful with your label-reading,
dried fruits can have added sulfites.
Sulfites are used as preservatives both for shelf life and for appearances .
Sulfites, for example, will keep an apricot from turning brownish.

Some folks are sensitive to sulfites (sulphur dioxide).
and while I don't think I'm one of them, I prefer to avoid them anyway.
Seriously, it's a petroleum byproduct -- why would I want to swallow it?

If you stick to ORGANIC dried fruit, you should be safe.
 Sulfites are classified as a synthetic food additive,
and they're not permitted in organic food products.
So there.

I've changed my tune about dried fruit, though.
 Turns out I simply hadn't been exposed to very good dried fruit.
Now I can see the value in having it around,
and I've dedicated two precious shelves in the basement to it:

 What you can get at your local co-op is not the best, folks.
No offense to co-ops.  They're great for lots of things.
But if you want really prime, freshly dried fruit, with full flavor...
You need to dry your own, or get in touch with a farmer
who takes their dried fruit seriously.

 Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any locally sourced dried fruits,
so next year we'll have to buy some bulk local fruit and try to make our own.

I actually hope to build a solar dehydrator next summer,
and also try just laying some fruit out on screens in the sun for some old-fashioned sun drying.

But upstate New York is a far cry from Italy or California,
where they can count on several hot, sunny, dry days in a row.

 I'll be prepared for typical weather fluctations,
and use our electric dehydrator as a back-up
 if I need to bring fruits in.


While homegrown or local would be best,
stocking up on organic dried fruits from farmers around the country
still reduces my carbon imprint from years past,
when I used to just mindlessly buy fruit any time of year
without thinking about where it came from
or what environmental toll it took to get it to my shopping basket.

This way, I make fewer trips to the grocery store.
And dried fruit shipped once in bulk is significantly better for the environment
 than fresh fruit shipped out of season continuously
from some warmer climate 3,000 miles away
to meet consumer demand.


It's nice to have some bulk dried goods in the basement.
You never know when we might have a zombie apocalypse.
Or even just an extended snow storm.
In any event, we'll be noshing on some good stuff.

Just remember -- you can't compare dried fruits to their fresh counterparts.
They're their own thing.
Delicious in their own right.

Most dried fruits are great for light snacking out of hand
or adding to trail mixes or granola or your morning muesli.
I love them in hot cereals, cookies, scones, muffins, etc.

They can be great to add a little sweetness to
favorite savory dishes, too.

These are sun-dried California Blenheim apricots from Bella Viva.
Fabulous in our favorite brussel sprout recipe
(brussel sprouts, bacon, apricots and pecans).
They're lovely in hot cereal or muesli or scones
or as a crostini topping with goat cheese and pistachio...

Organic dried apples from nuts.com
At first it seemed silly to me to get dried apples,
because apples store well in our region, if they're kept in a cool spot.
But apples also have a lot of moisture and so dehydrated ones
are useful for adding apple without all the wet...

Perfect in a cabbage dish that you want to retain a little crunch to the cabbage
or to a squash soup.
And of course, oatmeal.
Apple-cinnamon oatmeal with a dash of sea salt,
brings out all the flavors.

These wild blueberries from Nuts.com are expensive.
The price per pound made me almost not buy them,
but I decided to try them anyway, and I'm glad I did.

There are actually a ton of them per pound, and they're so teeny tiny:

and absolutely packed with flavor.
So much flavor that it almost seems like they're artificially flavored,
but these are the real deal, yo.

A easy way to make blueberry pancakes or muffins
without worrying about your batter getting too wet.
Great in homemade granola!

I love a good dried cherry.

I can't eat raw cherries because they make my mouth itch -
all stone fruits do that to me for some reason, even organic.
It really sucks.

I have to peel my raw peaches to enjoy them,
but there's no point in peeling a cherry unless
you want a tedious exercise in frustration.
So this is the only way I get to eat them unless they're cooked.

Makes me cherish these cherries all the more.

I got these beauties from North Star Organics.
A family farm in Michigan.

Their credit card system wasn't working for my online order,
so they actually send me my 10 pounds of organic cherries on the honor system!
Transactions like that in our modern world just make me feel good.
There are a lot of nice people out there.
It's nice to be reminded of that.

We used dried organic cranberries in absolutely everything.
Tossed in salads.
In trail mix.
Or for just plain eating.
These are very lightly sweetened with organic cane sugar.

gorgeous, right?

I love when holding a handful of fruit makes me feel like
I'm holding a handful of jewels.

Zante currants are not technically currants.
They're not related to the tart and tannic type that make your mouth pucker.
These do no such thing.

They're actually from a tiny seedless grape.
They would be more accurately called Corinthian raisins, and they are,
from what I have read, the "original" raisin.

They're very very small, and intensely flavored.
Fantastic in scones.
These are from Bella Viva also.

I couldn't resist getting a little silly with some of my labels.
These medjool dates are from Tierra Farms,
but if you want to try a variety of different dates,
you should check out Sun Organic Farms.
They have deglet noor, halawi, khadrawi and zahidi dates.
You can buy as little as 1 lb each, or get a sampler of all of the varieties.

We don't use dates for much other than simple eating,
but they're so sweet that they can be used as an alternative sweetener for desserts.
Unlike sugar, dates actually have some nutritive value.

Every other fig I've tried before these simply did not do it for me.
The over the top crunchy super-seedy almost-gritty insides were like the equivalent of
chalk screeching on a chalkboard inside my mouth.
Or like getting a tiny bit of eggshell in something.
Blek.  A little grit can ruin a good thing.

These black mission figs are from Tierra Farms.
They're everything I remember fondly
about the inside of a Fig Newton - only so much better.
Pure fig flavor, and the seeds are actually pleasant.

(FYI - "Real" Nabisco Fig Newtons are not even a real food at all these days--
they're chock full of GMO's, trans fats, and chemicals.)

I'm very happy with these -- now I can bite into nostalgia and feel good about it!

Dried organic peaches
(I got tired of writing "organic" on my labels and
since like 97% of what we buy is organic,
it'd be more useful for me to write when it's not!)

Anyway, dried peaches were one of the things I used to dislike.
Leathery neanderthal fruit, for sure,
and nothing at all reminiscent of the real thing,
they just left me feeling sad because they were so absolutely unpeachlike.

These are from Bella Viva and they're loads and loads better!
I actually want to eat them.

Great added into oatmeal or a cream of rice cereal
along with some raw milk and sweetener...
I looooooooove hot peaches and cream flavor!

I have never EVER had such good dried organic pears.
Bella Viva, yet again, baby!

So good I have a bag of them stashed inside my emergency sweet tooth drawer at work.
They're seriously that good!

Still moist and chewy and really concentrated pear flavor.

I had no clue that dried pomegranate arils were even available.
Well, they are.
Bella Viva to the rescue yet again.

And these pomegranate arils are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

I actually prefer them in some ways to fresh pomegranate seeds because
even though fresh ones have that wonderful burst of ruby liquid,
they have that fibrous bit that goes along with it...
Every bit is intact here, but somehow the fibrous bit is much more palatable --
more nutty.

Perhaps my favorite dried fruit of all time.

The prune.
The countess of all dried fruits.
Like Lady Violet Crawley.
A grand dame, indeed.

Prunella Deville.

Prune la la!

Wrinkly, krinkly,
chewy, sticky,
gummy, yummy...

I ordered from  both Tierra Farms and Bella Viva
and I've got to say, Bella Viva's are way more moist and plump.
Just like I like 'em.
Comparable to the kind with sulfites, but without them.

So, favorite uses for prunes:

Well, besides stuffing my face with them
the hands-down-best savory recipe is
Chicken Marbella from the Silver Palate cookbook.
prunes and olive and chicken all 
having a good time together in a tagine.

And of course, the dear raisin, an old faithful friend.

Probably the first dried fruit I ever had.
 Those little Sunmaid raisin boxes frequented my lunchbox as a kid.

Raisins are kind of like the robin of the bird world.
Really a wonderful bird, but so often overlooked and overshadowed by others.

The most available varieties are
the standard Thompson, of course.

But there are lots others.
Any grape can be dehydrated.

Other varieties usually available at retail with some searching:
monukka raisins.
There's also sultana, or golden raisins
and our very favorite
 flame raisins.

Raisins are way cheaper per pound than most other dried fruits,
And oatmeal raisin cookies just wouldn't be the same without them, now would they?

Dried blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are very hard to find.
You can usually get them at www.nuts.com
Very expensive per pound so I don't buy  more than one pound of these, just like the blueberries...
but a fun treat in winter to toss into hot cereal or pancakes!

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