The summer is just around the corner! And that means one thing – time to enjoy those light and fresh dishes that will help us get through all the Mondays that are in the way of the summer vacation. But does this rule of light and fresh meals applies to desserts too? Absolutely!
You can enjoy delicious and tasty desserts all summer long – just add fresh Mediterranean fruits and you’ll have vitamin-packed sweets!
Before you dig into the recipes and dessert ideas, let’s determine what fruits are considered to be from the Mediterranean, and how are they cultivated. Then, we’ll splurge on the flavors and nuances of freshness and sweetness!
Fruit Cultivation In Mediterranean Regions
The Mediterranean climate is ideal for growing and cultivating a range of fruit species. Such a climate is characterized by cool, not cold winters, mild to warm springs, and warm to hot summers with just a little bit of rain. These conditions are highly suitable for fruit production.
People of the Mediterranean nurture light and fresh diet so besides whole grains, vegetables, seafood, beans, and nuts, fruits are one of the most important ingredients of both Mediterranean cuisine and diet. Some of the traditional fruit and nut crops of this region include grapes, figs, olives, pomegranates, apricots, citrus, almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachios.
Mediterranean agriculture is unique thanks to its mixture of diverse bio-cultural activities. This type of agriculture is defined by climatic conditions and it is determined by the dominance of the agriculture of citrus fruits, along with floriculture and horticulture.
Citrus fruits, olives, and grapes are mainly cultivated for export, so the Mediterranean lands are often referred to as the orchard lands of the world. Now, how cool is that!
So, what exactly fruits are we talking about here? Let’s take a look and see what are some of the most typical fruits you can find in the Mediterranean countries. All the fruits are divided by their type and categorization so we’re going to talk about citrus, stone fruits, berries, and – figs. Which are actually not considered to be a fruit, but we’ll get to that later. And yes, these days, all of the fruits we’re about to mention are cultivated all over the world, however, they are mostly present in the Mediterranean region and diet.
Now, let’s fruit things up!
In the ancient Mediterranean, citrus fruits such as citrons and lemons were the status symbols of the nobility. Today, citrus cultivation is widespread in the countries of this region. In order to be classified as citrus, fruit needs to be juicy with a sharp taste. The most popular fruits in this group are oranges, lemons, and grapefruits. However, a lot of fruits that are today known as citrus are actually the results of hybridization. At the beginning of the cultivation, the 4 original citrus species were pomelo, citron, mandarin, and papeda. Some of the most classic citrus fruits in the Mediterranean are the following.
- Oranges. Sweet fruit that is peeled and eaten fresh or squeezed for juice.
- Grapefruits. This fruit is known for its large, sour to a semi-sweet, bitter flavor.
- Mandarins. Often called mandarin oranges, this fruit has vanilla and spicy component in its nuances.
- Lemons. This citrus has a strong taste that combines bitter, sour, and harsh flavors. It is used to add specific nuance to the main dishes or desserts.
- Pomegranates. Sweet fruit that often gives a headache when needs to be peeled. It is known for its natural sweetness but it still isn’t as sweet as other types of fruits.
This fruit classification is also known as drupe fruits. Stone fruits have a thin skin and a stone in the center that contains the seed. These are fleshy fruits and they are a part of the traditional Mediterranean diet. Some of the most popular stone fruits are dates, peaches, cherries, and apricots. They are consumed fresh and raw as a healthy snack but can be used for the preparation of many recipes including main dishes and desserts, as well as tasty jams and spreads. Stone fruits are highly seasonal as most of them won’t ripen after being harvested. With different seasons, come different stone fruits, so you can always pick them up as fresh snacks or key baking ingredients.
- Nectarines. Smooth-skinned peach with bright, juicy, and sweet flavors. It can be eaten on its own or used for pies and tarts.
- Dates. Dates are often added to Mediterranean dishes and are consumed for breakfast, dinner, or as healthy snacks.
- Peaches. Yellow peaches are bright and acidic, and they have a tangly flavor. As they ripen, they become juicier, sweeter, and less acidic. The yellow color darkens to deeper tones.
- Cherries. This fruit is known for its deliciousness. Its sweetness can range from mild to intense. Major cherry orchards are in Turkey, Italy, Spain, and other Mediterranean regions.
- Apricots. These stone fruits are small in size but come in specific yellow-orange skin and with tangy-sweet flesh.
- Olives. Yes, olives are stone fruits! They come in a wide range of colors, textures, and flavors. Olives can be used for both food and drinks.
Berries are considered to be fruits with simple fleshy bodies with many seeds. There are more than 400 different species of berries. Their color varies from yellow and white to red, purple, and blue. Of course, depending on the variety, berries can have different flavors – from sweet and juicy to tart and bitter. Berries are known to be extremely delicious and nutritious fruits, and they are often referred to as the starting signals of the summer season. These fruits can be eaten raw, as well as used in jams, syrups, juices, and desserts.
- Strawberries. Often referred to as the fundamental crop for Mediterranean countries. Fresh strawberries contain a mix of fruity, caramel, and green notes.
- Blueberries. These fruits have a sweet taste with just a bit of acid nuances. They come in characteristic dark purple-blue color.
Figs: Fruit Or?
Figs aren’t technically a fruit, even though they are often associated with that term. Figs are actually inverted flowers. Fig trees don’t flower, their flowers bloom inside the pear-shaped pod. And that pod eventually matures into the fruit.
Figs grow well in the Mediterranean region thanks to the favorable climate, so the produce is of its highest quality. They are common ingredients in the Mediterranean diet and cuisine.
Fresh figs have a sweet, honeyed taste, while their texture is soft and squishy. If dried, figs are sweeter and they feature a chewy texture. Fresh or dried, figs are great for cooking and baking.
Fruity Desserts & Recipes
Now that you know what types of fruits are a part of the Mediterranean diet and cuisine (we didn’t mention every single one of them as there are many more fruits to choose from), how can you incorporate them into delicious summer desserts?
This mostly depends on your own preferences and whether you like biscuits, simple cakes, puddings, spreads, or some other type of fruity dessert. There are many options on what you can do with fresh fruits, so let’s see what are some of the recipes you can do this summer for family or friend gatherings, or just as a simple snack made just for you!
Chocolate and strawberries are already known as a match made in heaven! You can make classic homemade brownies or buy a store mix where you need to add none or just a couple of additional ingredients. Once the mixture is finished, spread it into the baking pan. Top the mixture with chopped strawberries. Make sure to lightly press down the strawberries, and that’s it! Bake and then enjoy the flavors!
Biscuit With Cherries
Now, this is really one of the easiest desserts you can make. And it is great for the summer! This is a traditional Croatian recipe that beautifully combines a classic biscuit with cherries. To prepare this dessert, you just need to make your classic mixture for the biscuit made from eggs, sugar, flour, yogurt, oil, and baking powder. When the mixture is done, spread it in the baking pan and top it with berries. Lightly press down the cherries and you’re done. Baking time takes about 40 minutes or the classic timing you take for preparing the biscuit.
Tart or a pie, the choice is yours! You can use any tart or pie recipe for this one, the only difference is that you layer figs at the top and not your usual fruit such as apples, strawberries, or pineapples. Figs are known for their really specific flavors and no doubt you’ll love them in this combination!
Arancini & Limuncini
This is a bit different dessert but it definitely deserves your full attention! Arancini are made of orange peel, while limuncini are made of lemon peel. Once you peeled these fruits and turn their skin into small strips, put them into cold water for a day or two. Make sure to change the water 2 to 3 times a day. After that period, boil the water and place the strips in for 5 minutes. Repeat this 3 times, every time with fresh water. Boil once more only fresh water and sugar, and then add the strips. Let everything cook for 20 minutes and that’s finally it! Drain the strips made from oranges and lemons, sprinkle them with sugar, and let them dry for 2 days. Enjoy these snacks!
Greek Orange Pie
Greek orange pie or portokalopita is an old-fashioned cake made with phyllo pastry. Once the biscuit is baked, it needs to be topped with a syrup made of sugar, honey, cinnamon stick, and freshly-squeezed orange juice. When the cake rest, both at room temperature and in the refrigerator, you can serve it with a scoop of Greek yogurt. Quite refreshing and light dessert! This cake is the Greek’s favorite dessert for treating a house guest.
Grilled Peaches With Yogurt
This one is really easy to make, but it is so delicious and ideal for the summer! The peaches need to be grilled on the grill or on a grill pan. Make sure just to spray the surface with nonstick spray! Grill both sides of the peaches for about 2 minutes and that’s it. Serve them with a yogurt or even vanilla ice cream! This is a great snack for your kids too!
Fruit Pizza Cookies
This dessert is great as finger food for the summer gatherings and birthday parties. You can make your own vanilla cookies, just the classic ones you love. The cream topping can be anything you want – a classic whipped cream frosting, mascarpone cream with powdered sugar, or even a scoop of Greek yogurt. Once you decide on what cream you want, add fresh Mediterranean fruits – strawberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, oranges, or whatever your favorite fruit is! You can even make small characters by using fruits too. Your kids will love that!
Cheesecakes are really popular as desserts. But have you ever thought of preparing a cheesecake without cooking it while serving it in glasses or jars? That way, all the layers will create a beautiful aesthetic while the flavors are basically the same as with a classic cheesecake! All you need to do is to make the same mascarpone cream as you would with a classic recipe. Grind the crackers and mix them with melted butter. And then you just combine the layers! You can start with cream, then add crackers, top them with strawberries, and repeat all the layers one more time. And that’s it!
Frozen Yogurt Bars With Fruits
Oh, this is surely one of our favorite recipes for the summer! What do you need for it? Just yogurt and your favorite fruits – we recommend strawberries and blueberries! Pour the yogurt on the baking sheet placed in the pan. Spread it well with a spatula. Top the yogurt with strawberries and blueberries, and then place the pan in the freezer. When it is done, cut it and serve it! Yummy!
This one is a pretty classic dessert option but it is really popular during the summer! Especially due to the fact that you can use any type of fresh fruit – cherries, blueberries, oranges, mandarins, and more! Combine fruit any way you want, you can add the cherry juice to the entire mixture, as well as cinnamon. Before serving, cool down the salad and top it with whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate sprinkles, or melted chocolate, you can add a bit of alcohol too!
To Wrap It Up
Ah, the beauty of the freshness and sweetness of the Mediterranean fruits are well known during these summer months. What more could we ask for in the terms of delicious desserts and snacks! Fruits are really versatile ingredients, they can be used in many ways in the preparation of many recipes.
Light and fresh – that’s the rule for the summer! Include fresh Mediterranean fruits into your menu and enjoy the sweetness all summer long!