From their spot in sun to my snowy stoop in the cold

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." – Albert Camus, French author, journalist and philosopher

This time of year, fruit baskets make their way into our frostbitten homes – juicy pink grapefruit, oranges, tangelos, pineapples and the like. This is perhaps to rub it in, since while we scurry around in a long state of frozenness up North, elsewhere summer carries on quite nicely without us.

I get the same sense when I shuffle past the exotic fruits section at the supermarket and become fixated on, let's say, pomegranates and mangoes, which grow in South Florida and Southern California.

The closest I've ever come to eating a pomegranate is downing a glass of cranberry-pomegranate juice. I do not know what God was thinking when He created this homely, pithy hard shelled fruit. But when I see one and utter its name, I feel transported vicariously to the tropics.

Now, when it comes to mangoes, I am not quite as lost, since I have tried them fresh and frozen. Mangoes have a slimy texture and are mildly sweet taste, like peaches. They are quite tasty in smoothies and fruit salads.

Kiwis – I can't get enough of them. When very ripe, the sweet juicy lime innards and lovable fuzzy brown peel makes this tiny piece of fruit downright cute. However, removing the inedible peel is difficult without taking too much fruit with it. Once inside, the artistry of soft edible seeds, arranged so perfectly in a black circle, is unmatched by any other fruit – except for watermelons, maybe.

Surprisingly, kiwis grow in warmer parts of the Northwest U.S. and as far north as Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. And, they do well in warm protected regions in almost all areas of the United States where temperatures do not drop below -25 degrees. Growing on hardy vine plants, kiwis need a lot of protection from strong winds, which totally rules out growing them here in the Midwest.

Mention persimmons and kumquats and I can go on and on. Ordinarily, most people who have lived all their lives in Zone 5, areas that are low on the vegetation hardiness scale, well; we wouldn't have a clue about persimmons or kumquats.

Call me an oddball, but I just happen to know a thing or two about both. My first encounter with these divine fruits was in Los Angeles, where my parents lived their later years until they passed away in 2005 and 2007. From the moment I first sunk my teeth into a juicy ripe persimmon and traversed the tart orange-like kumquat, I was a goner.

Looking very much like tomatoes, persimmons are sure to fool the eye, as their soft fleshy texture oozes a full-bodied cherry-plum-peach taste. Odd thing is, when I spotted persimmons at my local grocer's, I hardly recognized them for the faded orange coloring. This was unlike the rich red hue of freshly picked and ripened varieties I grew accustomed to in Southern California.

Now, kumquats are in a league all of their own since they are in the citrus family but no peeling is required. This small oval cross between a lemon and an orange possesses an extremely tart and mildly sweet flavor – an acquired taste that's for sure. Trust me; eating right through the citrus peel to its juicy center is other-worldly in a delectably delicious sort of way.

Like popcorn and potato chips, once you get started on kumquats, it is very, very difficult to stop. Not such a bad habit, though, since this miniature treat is quite nutritious.

This time of year, Mom and Dad always would mail a box of fresh persimmons and kumquats from their spot in the sun to my snowy front stoop in the cold. This most surely created in me "an invincible summer."

2013 © Copyright Paula Damon.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email  boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at my-story-your-story@blogspot.com and find her on FaceBook.

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