Help me out here, Internet. I’m trying to identify a mystery fruit. Or maybe fruits.
There are three stories to tell:
Incident #1: Lebanon
A nice Druze woman on a bus in the Chouf mountains in Lebanon told me her favorite fruit was Persian aprict–mishmish ajami. She said it stayed green, and was both sweet and sour, and was not very fuzzy.
Sadly, I was scheduled to leave Lebanon just a couple of days later, and had no time to look for this fantastic fruit.
In lieu of a picture of that fruit, or of that woman, here at least is a nice photo of Peter with a Druze man.
Incident #2: Greece
After the fantastic ladies at our favorite restaurant in Eressos showed us how to make Easter lamb, they pointed to a crate of fruit and told us to help ourselves.
They called the fruit milorodaxino–literally, “apple peach.” From far away, all piled in the crate, the fruit did look like kind of crappy little Golden Delicious apples. Up close, though…best nectarine ever:
And, as you can see, green all the way through.
Was this the phantom Persian apricot, by another name? The farmer who grew the fruit was there outside the restaurant, all burly forearms like Popeye and a mustache to beat the band. He was the only one that grew this fruit, he said. End of story.
Incident #3: Astoria, New York
When we returned to NYC, one of the 24-hour produce stores (yes, we have more than one) had these “honeydew nectarines” in stock:
They looked the same, but they were kinda crappy–a little mealy, not intense flavor. The woman who runs the store admitted they were not at their best. It was hard to tell whether it was not the same fruit at all, or just a typically poor American rendition of it.
And because she’s Greek, Peter asked her if she knew if these were the same as the milorodaxino. No, no, she said–those are part apple, and these were part melon.
Er, I think she’s wrong on both counts, because that would be like serious fruit miscegenation, so unfortunately I have to discount her as an unreliable source. But I appreciate that she makes an effort to source new and interesting fruits and veg–we also got these neat bulbous cucumbers from her, and some great liver-colored heirloom tomatoes.
Second data point: After writing all this, I flipped over an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated, and it had an illustration of peaches and nectarines. The Honeydew variety was on there. The issue was from 2002–so this isn’t a new strain.
Further data point: Turkey
Check out these marzipan fruits in a storefront in Istanbul. A couple of them look like they could be the mysterious fruit.
Ala elma = “ala apple” according to Google translate, which is maybe just the variety name of an apple, like Gala?
Or this one:
Papaz erik = “pastor plum”
Obviously, the fact that these were rendered in marzipan makes it especially difficult. In retrospect, Peter and I should’ve gone to the adjacent market and looked for the real-fruit equivalents, instead of getting distracted by an antiques store.
So gardeners, travelers, botanists, Lebanese fruit-lovers: tell me what you know. Have you eaten any of these things? Are they all the same? Are they different?
Bottom line, really, is: Did I miss the Best Fruit Ever by not getting those mishmish ajami in Lebanon in the first place?
(If you like stories about cross-cultural plant identification, also check out my old story about purslane[PDF]. That one took years to solve. Now that the internet is more full of information, I expect to solve this question in minutes. Right? Hello? Anyone?)