Look for the exotic jujube fruit in Middle Eastern markets this month.
Jujubes (photo above, Latin Ziziphus jujuba), called dumim in Hebrew and sadriah in Arabic, are in season right now. But their season is short. Eat them out of hand, papery peel and all, or cook up a compote flavored with a little orange-flower water. Jujubes, also known as red dates, are said to be calming and relaxing to a stressed-out soul.
A month of healthy pomegranates
September is also pomegranate month in the Middle East. There are lots of good reasons to eat pomegranates, apart from being able to bless them as new fruit on Rosh HaShana the Jewish new year. The markets are crimson with piles of this fruit, and it should stay in season for at least another six weeks.
Fresh yellow dates are another seasonal specialty here in the Middle East. They’re different from the dark dried dates available all the year in that they’re eaten fresh – but must be frozen to bring out their sweetness and moisture. Try ma’moul a traditional Arabic pastry stuffed with dates. Just substitute chopped dates for the nuts in the recipe.
Other fruit besides pomegranate: Mangoes are still plentiful. Bananas are not quite peak yet, but plentiful. Pineapples are to be seen but are most expensive. All kinds and colors of plums are in the markets. Apples and pears, best in the cold season, have entered the market but are not beautiful yet. Many varieties of table grapes are available now; wine grapes are already being harvested.
Lemons are more abundant than in hot August but prices are still high. Wait till it’s rained once or twice for the citrus to come in, plenty and sweet.
Going out of season: Fruit that will be out of season soon are limes, passiflora (passion fruit), dragonfruit, watermelons, honeydews and cantaloups, peaches and nectarines. Sabra fruit is on market stands now, freed of (most) prickles. Figs are still in, but not for too much longer. Same for lichees.
Vegetables: Tomatoes in all their varieties are very plentiful now, with prices low. The same for cucumbers, zucchini, onions, and red and white cabbages. Bell peppers and hot peppers are also abundant and cheap now. How about some pickled peppers? Leeks are looking sturdier than they did in August. Lettuces, all varieties, are in season. Mushrooms, not depending on any particular weather as they’re mostly grown indoors, are excellent.
Radishes and eggplants look attractive and there’s plenty of them. Sweet potatoes are coming down in price as their season approaches. Cauliflower and broccoli are starting to look firm and plump and are worth buying again. Green beans and yard-long beans are also coming into season, but will be cheaper, hopefully, in a week or two. Pumpkins and butternut squash are good.
Kohlrabi, that knobbly cousin of the cabbage, is also good now – buy small, sweet ones to slice and marinate briefly in lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Serve raw, as a salad.
Root vegetables: Carrots, celeriac, and beets are fine now. Red and white potatoes are too. Parsley root, mostly used to flavor soup, is still thin and dry-looking. Wait till winter for fat, sweet parsley roots that can be baked like potatoes.
Herbs are improving since the peak of summer is past. Looking good now are parsley leaves, celery, dill, rocket, Swiss chard, spring onions, and especially, basil.
Fresh olives will be appearing shortly. Try our recipe for pickling olives at home.
Even more recipes for September’s seasonal produce:
Photos of jujubes and pomegranates by Miriam Kresh