I've moved to JennetteFulda.com

Adventures in the produce section

I looked around the produce section of my grocery store last weekend and came to this startling realization, “Hey! There’s a lot of fruit here!” When shopping for food I tend to go directly for what is on my list or just grab items that I’m familiar with. I tune out any extraneous data like I ignore most ads in magazines. But ever since my impulse purchase of a starfruit earlier this month, I realized there is a lot of food out there that I have never tried. While there’s nothing wrong with going bananas for a red delicious apple, it occurred to me I might be somewhat narrow-minded in my fruit world view. So, I’ve started trying some fruits and veggies which might be familiar to many of you all, but are as new to me as if I were catching a rerun of a TV show I’d never seen.

First up was the brown Asian pear. A protective white, netted, foam, covered its bottom half, which made it look like it was wearing pants. This made it irresistible to me. Maybe if they started dressing the apples and bananas in miniature dresses, produce sales would boom. Watch out Bratz dolls!

The interesting thing about eating a new fruit was that I had no expectation of what it should taste like. I love D’Anjou pears because they are juicy and sound vaguely French, but I didn’t know how much the brown pear would taste like them. I read in the book Mindless Eating that our expectations of how a food should taste actually shape how we perceive it to taste. For example, a chef on a navy ship during a war accidentally ordered too much lemon Jell-O and too little of the soldiers’ favorite flavor cherry. After the cherry Jell-O ran out, the crew started to complain, so the chef just took the lemon Jell-O, colored it red and served it. The crew was convinced they were eating cherry Jell-O again, even though it was actually lemon.

It was interesting going into an eating experience blind, though my impressions of what a pear should taste like probably left some chalky residue on an otherwise blank slate. The brown pear was crunchier than a D’Anjou pear, though not as hard as a Bartlett pear. It also had faint taste of bread to it. It was a satisfactory eating experience, but considering the price of the Asian pear, I doubt I’ll buy one again, even if calling it Asian makes it sound very exotic despite the fact it was probably grown in this country. It’s just as well because if I were ever to anthropomorphize this fruit for a blog entry and make it have a fake conversation with other fruit in the produce section, I’d have to make it speak Chinese or Korean or something, which is well out of my linguistic bullshitting abilities.

My next new fruit experience was the plum. I can’t ever recall eating a plum, which seems very odd because a plum is nowhere near as exotic as a starfruit. It’d be like saying I’d never had coffee at a Starbucks. I liked plums so much that I’ve taken to buying 5 or 6 of them at a time. They’re firm but juicy, sweet but somewhat tart, and come in a small serving size which is good for snacking. As long as I don’t bite in too fast and chip my teeth on the pit, they’re a great addition to PastaQueen’s approved fruit list.

Last night I finally cooked the sweet potato I bought about two weeks ago. This is another fairly common vegetable that I have avoided eating all my life for no real reason. I don’t have any psychological hang-ups against sweet potatoes. I never had a horrible sweet potato eating incident in my youth. I was never hit by a sweet potato delivery truck and buried in a pile of tubers, their eyes coldly staring at me as I was mashed by potatoes. It took me about 3 trips to the grocery store before I could even find the sweet potatoes. I never did find them at Kroger, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not there, just that I couldn’t locate them among the bags of regular potatoes and red potatoes. Eventually I picked one up at Meijer when I was stocking up on pistachios since they have a larger produce section.

The biggest obstacle in eating the sweet potato was figuring out how to cook it. I was disappointed they didn’t print instructions on it in ink made out of food coloring. All the recipes I searched for turned up complex sweet potato concoctions like salads and pies. I thought it best to try the sweet potato basically on its own for my first sampling so I didn’t become biased against it if other ingredients made it taste nasty. I settled on a quick and easy sweet potato fries recipe which involved slicing the sweet potato up and tossing it with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, ¼ tsp of salt, and ½ tsp of paprika. Then I baked the slices for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, turned them and baked for another 10 minutes.

This was a recipe I might need to destroy every copy of for the safety of mankind. The knowledge, it is dangerous. The fries were delicious. I ate the whole batch, which was bad because I used a sweet potato the size of a mutant guinea pig. I attempted to put half of the batch in a Tupperware bowl to stick in the fridge, but I kept picking out just one more fry before putting it inside. Eventually all I was left with was an extra Tupperware container to clean. If I make this again, I will have to be sure to buy a very small sweet potato since I obviously have no self-control.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
Home: Main index


Anne • March 22, 2007 at 12:53 pm

You can buy sweet potato fries at Costco :)


Allison • March 22, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Hahaha! The same thing happened to me when I made fries out of a butternut squash! I ate basically the entire batch at once. A few stragglers made it through, but mostly because I had cut them too small and they burned while the rest cooked.

Eating an entire squash in one sitting can’t be that bad for you right?

In similar news I’ve totally fallen in love with the idea of bento lunches. This is a totally random obsession, as I am not Japanese, nor do I really know anyone who is. But checking out the amazing looking lunches at http://www.cookingcute.com has encouraged me to try my hand. She has some truely strange fruits that I had never heard of before–but I’m off to an asian grocery store this weekend to try and find them!


Les • March 22, 2007 at 12:59 pm

I think the only fruit that can absolutely not stand, and I’ve tried it several times, is grapefruit.



Kat • March 22, 2007 at 1:07 pm

You might really like the “Eat Fresh, Stay Healthy” cookbook:


It’s out of print, but you can often find it at used book stores or the library. The book is alphabetical by fruits and then veggies. For each fruit or veggie, the authors explain the basic nutritional value, a little history of the food, how to tell if the fruit/veggie is ripe, and the common ways to prepare the item. They also explain when the item is in season, so you know when it might be cheaper to buy them. After the 2-3 page summary, they offer 3 or 4 more elaborate recipes for each item, but like I said, the basic summary explains how to clean, prepare and cook the fruit or veggie, so you can go basic or go fancy. I love it because I can find things at the produce store and then look up what the heck to do with them at home.

As for your Asian pears, they are known for being much more crunchy than Bartlett pears, so they are often used in salads. Asian pears with a little bit of mixed greens, a little cheese and some vinegarette is heavenly.

Glad to hear you are having so much fun exploring new fruits and veggies. I keep meaning to find the starfruit you mentioned so I can try it out.


Laura I. • March 22, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Les– Not like grapefruit! GASP! I’m probably biased, though, by a childhood spent with a lovely, great-taste-producing tree growing in my backyard. I will say there are different varieties–so maybe you just haven’t found the right one? Texas grapefruit tends to be milder/sweeter than Ruby Red or White Marsh . . . .

Store-bought oranges are a fruit I have trouble with. For the most part, blech.

PQ–Even if it was a big batch of sweet potatoes, think of how good it was for you–all that fiber, all the vitamins! I know volume consumed is important, but as a baby binge food, you could do worse:-)


Chris (Diary of a Fatman) • March 22, 2007 at 1:23 pm

McCain (available at Kroger–at least here in the South) has a KILLER sweet potato fry. We spray them with a little Crisco Olive Oil spray and sprinkle Chili powder. You can eat a whole freakin’ bag for about 300 calories…not that I’ve ever done that or anything.


Vamp • March 22, 2007 at 1:28 pm

I’m glad I’m not the only one who overdoses on the sweet potato fries.. they’re sweet heavenly goodness and deserve to be drowned in ketchup and crunched in my mouth. :P I can count the 12 or so needed per serving and some more “accidentally” just happen to fall out of the bag too! I bought mine at the Super Wal-Mart!


lme • March 22, 2007 at 1:40 pm

Love sweet potatoes.

You can cook them just like regular potatoes. You can bake them in foil under the broiler. You can stab a fork in several times and microwave for 8 minutes give or take. Slice down the middle and add a little teeny bit of butter or margarine, whatever you use, a little teeny bit of brown sugar or splenda, and some pumkin pie spice.

You can peel and cut into chunks and boil. Mash and add some reserved cooking water or some milk, a little butter or margarine, brown sugar or splenda, and pumpking pie spice.

Easy, cheap and yummy.


susan • March 22, 2007 at 2:04 pm

PQ – sweet potatoes cooked as Ime suggests are great but add some cinnamon to it and it is out of this world!


Salma Gundi • March 22, 2007 at 2:05 pm

I identify with the entirety of your post! I also have been having adventures in fruits and veg. The scariest fruit so far was the quince. The vegetable that I have not yet managed yet to like is spaghetti squash.

The sweet potato, tho – man … have you had it mashed yet, with chipotle peppers in adobo and a little laughing cow or butter? ooo la la – good in a whole nother way than the fries.

Best wishes to you :)


Jancd • March 22, 2007 at 2:12 pm

I think the easiest was to bake a sweet potato is to scrub it with a soft brush, spray with “pam”, and bake at 350 degrees till soft. Sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy.

The baked fries are also delicious.


psychsarah • March 22, 2007 at 2:13 pm

Sweet potatoes-the best kept secret in produce! Like you, I never had a bad experience with them, but I don’t think I ever ate them as a kid (my parents don’t like them). I tried them about a year ago, and now my husband and I are addicted! I throw them in soups/stews in the slow cooker, I love the oven fries, I love them baked like a regular potato. They rock!! About the Asian pears, they are the only type of pear I like, but alas, like you, I am halted by the expense! Props to you for trying different fruits. I am pretty adventurous with my veggies, but I’m fussy about fruit for some reason or another. Not a lot of luck beyond apples, citrus, pineapple and grapes! I intruiguing review!


Kris • March 22, 2007 at 2:36 pm

I love smashed sweet potatoes, and the way i like them best is to take them and smash them, add a bit of fat-free 1/2 & 1/2 and light butter, and chop up some canned chipotles very fine and add those and some of the adobo sauce in the can to the sweet potatoes. (Adjust to spiciness taste, of course.)

So, so, so good!


Flora • March 22, 2007 at 2:55 pm

I used to think I didn’t like vegetables, then I found out I just don’t like your typical lettuce salad with vinegary dressing. The weird vegetables and fruits that everybody else hates are my favorites. Lima beans, cauliflower, beets, sweet potatoes, bitter greens, grapefruit: bring ’em!

Continuing the weirdo theme, I don’t like sweet stuff on my sweet potatoes. I just scrub them and bake them like regular potatoes, then split them in half and add a tiny dab of butter, salt, and LOTS of black pepper. That’s my favorite way to highlight the perfumy sweetness of sweet potatoes.

For cauliflower, I’ve found that steaming, then serving drizzled with a tiny bit of butter melted in a pan with garlic is just heavenly. Lima beans are good warm (steamed or microwaved), with a basic olive oil vinaigrette. Beets are good as a replacement for about half the potatoes in your potato salad. And the way to make bitter greens is either in rice, with chicken stock, or else sauteed with olive oil and garlic. Grapefruit needs nothing at all to be delicious (the white ones have the most flavor), but if you really want to gild the lily you can broil it with brown sugar.



Cat • March 22, 2007 at 2:59 pm

Hey, Just wanted to say I’ve been reading your blog and you are such an inspiration to me. Just wondering if your still on the South Beach Diet plan, and if so, which phase.


mal • March 22, 2007 at 3:57 pm

I do a Saturday morning thing with mixed white and sweet potatoes. I cube them, steam them, then sautee them lightly with some parm. LOOK OUT. We have never had leftovers of this, either, NO MATTER HOW MUCH I MAKE.

Sometimes the best portion control occurs at the checkoutline.


Joyce • March 22, 2007 at 5:03 pm

I never tried Butternut Squash until I started low-carbing. I just didn’t even know how to begin to cook it. A girl I used to work with told me to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, then bake it in the oven. The hardest part is cutting in half. It is delicious though with alot of the same seasonings as the sweet potatoes everyone has talked about. You can also cut it up and mash it. Very good!


Janice Bridge • March 22, 2007 at 5:17 pm

Great post. . . .continue to explore. . . . there is a world of great produce out there. (By the way, if you decide to allow yourself white potatoes, then can be prepared exactly like you prepared the sweet potato. . .and are yummy. I have decreased the oil to half Tablespoon and they still come out fine.

Jicama! Have you tried Jicama. Peel, slice, eat raw, add to salad, etc. 5 ounces make a generous snack, 50 calories, 11 grams of carbs, of which 6 are fiber!

melons – cantaloupe, honeydew and the new sweet round watermelons. Peel whole, slice of a small part of each end, so the melon can stand on its own, then start from the top and slice down and around to remove the rind. Cut in half, scoop out the seed, turn over cut side down, and slice. . . delicious and only 10 calories an ounce.

acorn squash. . . follow Joyce’s advice, only when you have scooped out the seed, put about 6 small chunks of pineapple (I use fresh, but canned will do) into the whole. Bake at 350 until the flesh is soft – about 45 minutes


Judith • March 22, 2007 at 5:44 pm

Funny coincidence – I experimented with a sweet potato last night too! I boiled mine and then mashed them with a little splenda. It was good stuff. Even my kids liked it – and they were amazed when I told them that sweet potatoes were one of their favorite baby foods. I also occasionally eat them “baked” in the microwave – only takes 4-5 minutes or until you can poke it with a fork and it’s tender. I used to eat these the Texas Roadhouse way, with marshmallows and brown sugar and all – but find that they’re almost as good (and much more healthy) with just a sprinkle of cinnamon and Splenda.


marygrace • March 22, 2007 at 7:50 pm

mashed sweet potatos are really delicious with some maple syrup and miso mixed in. i love sweet potato fries as well. but my favoriteeee vegetable dish is roasted cauliflower. just cut the cauliflower into florets and place them on a baking sheet with a little bit of olive oil and salt. i usually keep the oven at about 425F. they are done in about a half hour, you’ll see parts of the cauliflower has gotten carmelized. i could eat a whole head of roasted cauliflower for dinner alone, and sometimes i’ll even toss it with some pesto. MMMMMMMMM!


Deb • March 22, 2007 at 11:19 pm

My favourite way to eat sweet potatoes is to bake them – then put a little butter and a little salt on them.

Yummy and very simple.

If you have a big sweet potatoe, you can share it with a friend. :)



Chris H • March 23, 2007 at 6:37 am

Sweet Potatoe… umm maybe we call them Kumera’s here in New Zealand, if that’s the case… yukky! My husband loves them, I don’t. Sad


Debbi • March 23, 2007 at 6:58 am

My young grandson calls plums “plumps.” Which my daughter and I find hilarious.

Can you stand one more way to prepare sweet potatoes? Peel and slice crosswise into rounds. Spritz with olive-oil cooking spray and sprinkle with fennel. Grill until tender. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

If you don’t care for fennel, I think cinnamon would be a wonderful substitute.


Pam • March 23, 2007 at 7:42 am

Okay, nobody asked, but I’ll tell you anyway: my 12 year old daughter’s current favorite is roasted cauliflower. Just chunk it up into 1″-2″ florets, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with something: herbes de provence, curry powder, or parmesean cheese – you get the idea. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes till they look roasted. Or, chunk up any combo of sweet potato, red pepper, onion, eggplant, squash, cauliflower and roast – eat with hummus in a wrap.


Lose Weight With Me • March 23, 2007 at 9:12 am

Silly me, I refused to eat sweet potatoes for years. Then, in a moment of carb-o-weakness right after I started losing weight, I had a baked sweet potato.

I loved it.

Now, sweet potatoes have replaced regular potatoes in my diet nearly 100%. We even have a recipe for oven baked sweet potato french fries that is awesome.



Mia • March 23, 2007 at 10:46 am

I adore sweet potatoes. I’ll take them over a baked potato any day, only in restaurants it’s really hard to resist the butter and brown sugar that they come with.

Your sweet potato fries recipe sounds REALLY good. I’m going to have to try them out….if I can find a sweet potato at the grocery store. Like you, I don’t know the produce section well and have probably passed by them a million times and not noticed. I’m adding it to my shopping list this week.


Teresa • March 23, 2007 at 10:48 am

Your such an inspiration. Love the blog. One of the easiest ways to make sweet potatoes is to pierce and wrap it in tin foil then bake. The same way you would make a regular baked potatoe.

Wishing you continued success.


Debbie • March 23, 2007 at 4:34 pm

It’s hard to believe you’d never had a plum before. I love them.

I don’t like sweet potatoes that much, but I love yams. Go figure.


Mymsie • March 24, 2007 at 1:06 am

Mmmm mmmm, love sweet tators! You can easily cook them in the microwave like you would a regular tator. Just make sure to poke holes in it with a fork so it doesn’t explode! Then you’d have sweet tator microwave scrapin’s. :)


Melissa • March 24, 2007 at 11:11 am


Can you give us an example of your daily menu now that you are so close to goal? Do you eat snacks, dessert? Thanks!


lovelines • March 26, 2007 at 7:35 am

Mm, those sweet potato fries sound delicious!


Rebecca • January 28, 2009 at 5:03 am

Your attempt to put away the sweet potato fries reminds me of a grilled vegetable dinner I had. I sliced, brushed with olive oil, and grilled sweet potato, zucchini, and umm…other veggies. The goal was some that night with garlicky aioli, and save some for a pizza the next day. The sweet potatoes did not make it to the next day!

And now I have a couple more yummy recipes. I didn’t know you could make healthful “fries”, and never thought of chili peppers in adobo with sweet potato! Woohoo!


Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

Man looking into telescope

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

Lick the Produce: Odd things I've put in my mouth
Half-Marathon: Less fun than it looks
European Vacation

"What distinguishes us one from another is our dreams and what we do to make them come about." - Joseph Epstein

Learn to run...online! Up & Running online running courses