Fruits--their Food Values, Etc


Fruits--their Food Values, Etc -

It is not so many years ago that the arrival of the "strawberry season" constituted as real and distinct a mark on the calendar as the commencement of school holidays. The season was short - and for that reason perhaps the berries seemed doubly delicious! Then, later on, the Raspberry reached the markets and the hucksters heralded its arrival through the streets. And so the spring and summer divided their honors among various fruits, sometimes singly and again in groups.

But now, all bars are down! We can enjoy most fruits the year round - the prices vary, but there is seldom any "closed season." And many fruits formerly rare are now plentiful. The best example of this is the banana - a few years ago a rarity to the inhabitants of inland towns, but to-day found in every hamlet throughout the country. In the winter, it and the orange, pineapple and other tropical and sub-tropical fruits from California, the south and elsewhere, are supplemented with fancy melons, peaches, plums, etc., from various parts of the world - including southern Europe and South Africa - and early in the spring, long before they are ripe in the North, Florida and other southern points are shipping carloads of strawberries and other berries up through the states. Modern methods of refrigeration and transportation have revolutionized this branch of our food supply.

The fruits of temperate climates can nearly all be divided into three classes - stone, such as plums, peaches, etc.; pome, apples, pears, etc., and berries. The principal exceptions are melons, rhubarb and kindred fruits more nearly allied to what are popularly known as vegetables.

Tropical fruits are more diversified in characteristics, but one family, the Citrus, includes a number of the best known - as oranges, grape fruit, lemons and limes.

In addition to the delicious and pleasing variety they give - or should be allowed to give! - to the diet, fruits of all kinds, because of their composition and components, greatly assist in the functions of general digestion and thus increase the value obtainable from what may be described as the "main" foods. The quantity that may be eaten raw, depends upon individual circumstances. An excess of unripe fruit may cause stomach irritation as the result of an excess of acid generated - and over-ripe sweet fruits may set up abnormal fermentation - but a moderate amount of fruit in fairly ripe condition will nearly always be found most advantageous. Cooked fruits can be used and enjoyed with equal benefit and still greater freedom.

The composition of a majority of ripe, fresh fruits includes about 80% water, a fair percentage of carbohydrates - principally sugar and crude fibre - and a small percentage of protein compounds and mineral salts, ether extract, etc. The sugar percentage, considered particularly as food or nutrient value, is lowest in berries, as blackberries and strawberries, and highest in bananas, loquats and American persimmons. Next in degree below the last-named are cherries, medlars, pears, Japanese persimmons, pomegranates, sapodillas, scarlet haws and apples.

It is, however, largely the combination of water, sugar and crude fibre and salts rather than their nutritive components which makes most fruits so desirable an addition to the diet and gives them their value as anti-scorbutics, laxatives, etc. - hence, as auxiliary foods, some fruits of minor food percentages (lemons and oranges, for example), are as desirable and useful as they are delicious.

Lemons, limes and similar fruits popularly known as "acid" or "sour," hold most of their merit in their juices and consequently genuine lime or lemon juice is nearly as efficacious as the fresh fruit, but in a majority of other fruits it is the combination referred to which gives them their medicinal value. Remembrance of this fact will guard against many popular errors. It is a common supposition that it is the juice of the orange, for example, which contains the laxative value when the fruit is taken early in the morning, and hence many people express it into a glass to drink it - and are disappointed in its effects. orange juice is a delightfully refreshing, cooling beverage, but it is the whole flesh of the orange which should be eaten - to get the combination of the sugar of the juice and the crude fibre, etc., of its containing matter.

The flavor of fruits is due partly to the malic, citric and other acids which they contain, but chiefly to their ether extracts. The reason that some fruits, as very sweet apples and pears, seem sweeter to the palate than other fruits containing a larger percentage of sugar, is found in the fact that they may contain a larger average proportion of Fruit sugar as distinguished from Grape Sugar. Both are "sugars" but the former is much the sweeter to the palate.

Nearly all fruits are best held at a temperature of about 40° Fahr. - the temperature of the ordinary refrigerator. Anything below that, any approach to freezing, is dangerous to most varieties.

Temperate-climate fruits, as apple, pears, etc., will under ordinarily good conditions keep fairly well in a temperature not exceeding 60° to 65° Fahr., but when the thermometer goes above that point, all stock except that for immediate sale or consumption should be stored in the refrigerator. Citrus fruits - oranges, lemons, limes, grape fruit, etc. - are generally safe up to 80° or 85° Fahr., but beyond that they are liable to shrivel and dry out.

Fancy Fruits, such as hothouse grapes, fine peaches, green figs, etc., should always be kept at a temperature of about 40° Fahr., only the smallest necessary quantity being exposed for show, and must be carefully handled to avoid bruising.

The exceptions to these rules are fruits which require ripening after receipt, as bananas (which see), some varieties of pears, etc.

All fruits should be washed before eating.

Dried fruits, such as prunes, figs, apples, etc., should be consumed more freely than at present, for they contain all the good qualities of the fresh fruit - the only loss having been of part of their water content. In some, prunes for example, the sugar value is increased by the process of drying. See article on FOOD VALUES and the matter concerning individual fruits under their respective headings.


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