Tuesday, November 28, 2006


This time of year in South Africa should be the time of harvest festivals. I have bowls brimming with fruit on my window sills. Apricots from our tree, with a blush of pink on their warm skins, wait ostensibly to be turned into jam, but they are too delicious – sweet and juicy – to resist. Every time I pass the glowing bowlful, I sneak one and dribble juice down my chin. There are still strawberries in the garden to be picked tomorrow. Youngberries also ripen on their brambly bushes, tempting you to reach in carelessly and prick yourself on a briar. There are peas from the veggie patch to pod, or just eat raw from the pods. I let the kids do this, as they won’t eat them cooked, but give them a basket of fresh picked peas, they’ll scoff the lot in no time. Gem squash too, those small squashes the size of cricket balls, that steam into delectable mellow flesh in minutes – there are far more than we can eat, gifts of plenty to go home with any visitors.

Our nectarines and peaches aren’t ripe yet, but the shops are full of them, whole trays for R20. The first grapes and litchis are sneaking into the shops under exorbitant price tags. I’ll be waiting till after Christmas to buy them when they are properly in season here. Then the mangos will also be at their best and cheap – we’ll be feasting off mango hedgehogs at every opportunity (I’ll take a photo to show you when we first have them again, it is a clever way of cutting them to eat easily, but defies clear explanation by words alone).

South African Christmas should be a fresh fruit festival, with all this overflowing abundance. The dried fruit of the traditional feast, the mince pies, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding, stollen and all those other good things, come from winter when dried fruit and citrus fruits were the most extravagant things to celebrate with. We should be piling pavlovas high with fresh fruit, quaffing smoothies instead of mulled wine, feasting on summer pudding with cream and leaving the dried fruit confections to the Northern Hemispherites who need it to lift their winter gloom. The trouble is, it is too good - we want mince pies too, we want it all!


  1. I never have been able to cut, divide or figure out how to prepare a mango without ending up with a squishy mess, so I wait with baited breath for the hedgehog way of doing things!

  2. *jealous sigh* can I come visit? Seriously, I think you should celebrate with LOTS of fresh fruit. I know our first Christmas here we found fresh strawberries (grown in Mali of all places!) that we enjoyed on Christmas morning. I'd do a fresh fruit fest, with mince pies as well just for fun.

  3. Back in SA, my mother always does a stunning fruit breakfast on Christmas morning, using all the beautiful fruit (my favourites being lychees). Then we enjoy all the trad stuff later. It's a good compromise.

  4. South Africa sounds about as exciting and exotic as it comes. Yes, definitely post a picture of mango hedgehogs because I just can't picture that one.


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