I like to think that I am pretty adventurous in the kitchen. But the truth is, there are plenty of fruits and especially vegetables I don’t have a clue about. So who might introduce me to these exotic treats? Melissa’s Great Book of Produce. Melissa’s is the largest distributor of speciality produce in the US. Based in Los Angeles they have been selling exotic fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world since 1984. Looking for cherimoyas? Dragon fruit? Rambutan? Sea beans? Jujubes? Thai eggplant? It’s all available either in stores or online from Melissa’s.
Melissa’s Great Book of Produce is part cookbook and part reference book, and also a seasonal availability guide. It includes descriptions with photos, and advice on buying and storing, prep, use, nutritional info and serving suggestions along with a recipe per fruit or vegetable. While it may not actually include every fruit and vegetable out there, it does a great job with the more exotic ones.
I have to admit, I haven’t cooked out of this book yet, but I have used it quite a bit. I found it helpful when experimenting with bitter melon for the first time and when trying to figure out how to use lemon grass in a custard sauce. I also used it to identify some Asian greens. Having this book emboldens me to purchase produce I’m not so sure about, because I know when I get home I’ll be able to figure out what to do with it. It’s also great for finding more uses for some of the exotic ingredients I already have on hand.