Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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May 30, 2013

Carrie Stambaugh: The fruits (and veggies) of travel: 5/31/13

ASHLAND — Travelers always unknowingly bring home a few figurative seeds from where they have been. These seeds are often planted somewhere deep in the traveler’s soul, where they take root and grow.

I tend to bring home perennials more than any other variety, and once they start growing, instead of producing they compel me to consume.  The blame for my addiction to the produce aisle lies squarely on my travels.

For example, I could have cared less about what variety of apple I ate until I took my first backpacking trip at 16. It was along the dusty trails of the Northwest I fell in love with the only fresh produce we carried in our packs: juicy Gala apples.

Now, if it is not a Gala, I’m not satisfied. A single bite of the sweet, mild apple transports me back to my adolescence every time. While snacking on one, I often hum the words to one of the silly camp songs we often sang while hiking. The bottom drawer of our refrigerator always has one inside.

The four months I spent hiking the Appalachian Trail in my late 20s infected me an invasive love of spicy radishes and sweet, red cherries. I simply cannot walk by a bunch of shiny red radishes in the store without putting them in my cart. It’s the same with cherries.

This habit started while we were on the AT, when we ate anything fresh we could get our hands on while in town. It has only grown worse in the years since. Radishes, with their spicy crunchiness, are by far my favorite vegetable snack. I never touched one before the AT, but now I eat them almost every day.

I ate cherries before the AT, but now I crave them for weeks before they appear on store shelves in mid-May. When they finally do, for the weeks they are in season, I am constantly eating them.

Each time I pop one in my mouth, I’m taken back to the “green tunnel” of Virginia. It was there, during a 500-mile slog under the almost endless canopy, that Carl and I often shared the fruit with other hikers.

One, a German whose trail name was Eddy, was particularly moved by our offering of fresh fruit. The gesture cemented our friendship.

Just this year, the seeds of two new travels have begun to produce insatiable cravings for new fruits and veggies.

Until my trip to Holbox Island, Mexico, last summer watermelon was not a fruit I would think of mixing into my morning yogurt. Then one day, I had breakfast at La Tortilleria, a small café run out of a home on the island.

The business’ tangy, fresh yogurt is served with homemade granola and chunks of watermelon, cantaloupe, honey dew and mango. It was simply delicious.  

This spring, as soon as the first melons began arriving at my grocery store, I couldn’t wait to get them home and bathe them in yogurt. My mouth waters with anticipation as I wait for the first homegrown watermelons to ripen later this summer.

Most recently, France has given me a desire for endive. Before spending five weeks there I walked by these small. leafy greens without a second thought.

In France, I ate the slightly bitter vegetable a different way in almost every household I visited. It was served raw in salads with walnuts and truffle oil, baked under a blanket of ham and blue cheese, brushed with olive oil and grilled or used a shell for rice and other dishes.

Now that I’m home, I have found myself staring at it longingly in the store and searching in my cookbooks for endive recipes. I have a feeling this cousin of chicory has found a new and permanent place in my shopping cart.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653.

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