By Lucy Isabel Noll Anderson
Photography by Jenna Noel
In the spring of last year, I made my first fruit salad for my mom’s birthday. The idea came from a big bowl of mulberries sitting on the counter that my brother and sister and I had collected that morning. It was a surprise for my mom, so I couldn’t ask for any help. I had to make it all by myself using what we had on hand. Luckily we had a lot of fresh fruit in the house, and even some pecans left over from the fall harvest. Since then, I have made many more fruit salads. I never use a recipe, though. I just use whatever fruit is in season at the time.
In my 10 years of life so far, I’ve picked many varieties of fruits. When I was little, my mom would take me to Boggy Creek Farm every week. During spring, the owner, Carol Ann, would let us go into the fields to pick our own strawberries. All of the kids would come out of the fields with their faces, shirts and hands sticky with red juice from the berries. I think Carol Ann knew we ate some.
Loquats are another fruit I like to pick in spring. Several years ago, my family stumbled upon a loquat tree in a neighbor’s yard that was loaded with ripe fruit. Loquats are easy to spot because they grow on low, bushy trees that have dark, shiny green leaves. The fruit is about the size of a golf ball, and, when ripe, turns a deep golden-yellow color. They are sweet and sour at the same time, which is odd at first, but then you will be hooked. Each year we go back to see if the loquats are ripe, and we always ask permission before we pick. Our neighbors are happy to share.
Mulberry trees are also all around our neighborhood, and they produce fruit in the spring, too. Up until a few weeks ago, there was a gigantic tree a block away that gave us tons of fat, purple, delicious berries. We knew when they were ripe because the ground beneath the tree would be purple from the berries. The people who bought the property cut it down. I still don’t know why, and it makes me so sad to see the stump sitting there where a beautiful tree once stood.
In our own yard we have a white mulberry tree just outside my bedroom window. The berries don’t look so great but they taste really sweet. We also have seven huge pecan trees in our yard. And while pecans aren’t fruit, they stay fresh all year long. I often use them in my fruit salad. Under our pecan trees is a forest of fig trees. I spend a lot of time there playing with my sister and two brothers. The fruit we get from them is delicious, and if we can get it before the ants, we are always glad.
My secrets for a fantastic fruit salad are simple, but important. First, I cut the fruit I’m using into bite-size pieces. Second, I use a bowl that’s not too big and not too small (you need to be able to easily stir the salad, but you don’t want it to look lost in the bowl). I use fruit that’s in season, and I try to find what I need in the house, yard or the neighborhood. If pickin’s are slim, though, I use store-bought, organic fruit such as apples and bananas. Make the salad at least a couple of hours ahead of time so that the fruits can all marinate together. Sometimes I add fresh-squeezed lemon juice to give it tartness, and to keep some of the fruit from browning.
Make a fruit salad for your family today. You’ll be proud that you made something so tasty and healthy all by yourself!