By Emily Erickson
You know what I love? Friggin’ fruit salad.
Fruit salad is quite possibly one of the healthiest, most flavorful and inherently versatile things we can bring to our summer picnics, community potlucks, PTA meetings, church gatherings, and human-centric events in general.
Fruit salad provides a variety of textures and tastes, has diverse vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients for both our bodies and our minds, and inspires creativity for the makers and the consumers alike. And for most of us here in North Idaho, we should consider ourselves damn lucky for the fruit we have to add to our mixing bowls and pile into our Tupperwares in preparation for our food-forward gatherings.
First, we are filled to the brim with some of the best apples in the world, with the hardiness of their trees and their resilience to cold weather making apples the most dominant fruit in the region. They thrive in the mountainous climate and terrain, and grow readily due to access to slightly acidic soil and a bounty of crisp water for irrigating.
North Idaho apples come in all shapes, sizes and varieties, with certain strains like honeycrisp and braeburn thriving easily and producing in large amounts.
But you know what? For as wonderful and tasty as they are, fruit salad with just apples is really plucking boring.
Another regional treat that adds tons of flavor and dimension to fruit salads are the native huckleberries. Far preceding the arrival of apples, huckleberries have unique symbiosis with the natural landscape and cannot be commercially cultivated. Packed with irreplicable tartness and precious phytochemicals and antioxidant properties, huckleberries have been harvested along mountain slopes in alpine and subalpine climates by both humans and wildlife for centuries and centuries.
Then, another favorite addition contributing to the diversity of a great fruit salad are bananas. What’s better than a truck-ton of bananas?
A lot of the bananas we consume here in North Idaho travel from southern and tropical regions, with their long, arduous journeys adding intrinsic value to their culinary allure. Bananas are some of the most versatile in their preparation and boast impressive health benefits, including digestive aid due to their high fiber content, and cardiovascular support from their potassium density. And, they even have nature-made packaging. How resourceful is that?
Next, what’s a good fruit salad without a bunch of blackberries? Bursting with flavor, and packed with enough vitamin-C to easily aid in scurvy prevention and fighting off the common cold, blackberries are one of the healthiest and most delicious things we can add to our fruit salads. Their roots and bounty are resilient and plentiful, with blackberry bushes growing back perennially, despite even the direst of climate and conditions.
Finally, when thinking about the ultimate fruit salad, it never hurts to throw in a pit-load of peaches. Their juiciness and versatility are unparalleled, originating on deciduous trees native to Northwest China, and since impressively assimilating to regions in North America like Georgia, Calif., and even Washington state. They are both delicious and dynamic in their preparation, and have properties known to fight off diabetes and promote a healthy cardiovascular system.
Ultimately, the greater the variety of fruits we can add to our fruit salads, the better they taste and the healthier they are. When we have a multitude of flavors, textures, varieties and consistencies, they all contribute to a more well-rounded, more interesting dish. But, sadly, this flavor is dependent on the quality of ingredients we add when putting everything together.
When quality ingredients are combined, they can contribute to a truly remarkable dish and have the potential to elevate each other in impressive ways. But when we allow different ingredients to become infested with worms, bugs and other parasites, it can leave a bad taste in our mouths, ruining the flavor of the salad as a whole.
So, instead of letting a few bad apples spoil our perfect picnic side dishes, let’s simply leave them in our napkins or huck them across our lawns, proving that, when it comes to rotten fruits attempting to taint the entirety of our fruit salad, we truly don’t give a spit.
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