Sunday, April 13, 2003

On the way to work this morning I happened to notice a shesek tree full of ripening fruit in one of the gardens I passed. The dictionary tells me this is called loquat in English. It's a very popular tree in Israeli gardens. Our old apartment had three impressive specimens. Every spring when I noticed fruit ripening on our trees I would say to myself that this year we'd take the ladder down and pick some. We never actually got round to it although we lived there for eleven years. The trees and the fruit belonged to all the neighbors in the building, of course, but no one else bothered either. There were always customers for the sweet soft fruit though, besides the birds - the school kids from the ultra-religious boys' school across the road. I often used to come across a red-faced kid with bulging cheeks and pockets, sneaking guiltily out of the garden. I always pretended not to see. Half the fun is the fear of being caught. I should know.

We used to have the most wonderful mulberry tree on my route home from school. In season, we used to climb it and stuff ourselves with as much of the sweet fruit as we could, before the neighbors started shouting. I think most people can tell similar stories. I know Dad can. When I was growing up on Mount Carmel you didn't really have to climb the neighbors' tree to eat. There was a lot of fruit just growing wild, free for the picking. You had the carobs and the sabra fruit (which required certain skillfulness to pick and prepare for eating, otherwise you got the prickles on your fingers and on your tongue) and then there were the tznobarim, the nuts of the pine that my mother-in-law calls by their Ladino name of pinyones and uses in many delicious recipes.

When we used to eat them we didn't need a fancy recipe. All we needed was a lot of pine trees (preferably overshadowing a side walk, otherwise the tznobars got lost among the pine needles, and a big stone with which to break through the hard shell, and we were in for the meal of our lives. Our high school had plenty of pine trees and when I was little Our Sis used to bring me bags full of them, which I would take down to the sidewalk to break open and eat. When I grew up I was amazed to discover you can buy bags of them in the supermarket, shelled and ready to cook. But they're never nearly as succulent and delicious as those I collected myself from the sidewalk as a child.