It’s fruit trivia time! Which fruit originated in China 4,000 years ago and is a relative of the peach? Your first guess might be the nectarine, right? It is, in fact, the petite and beloved apricot- a fruit rich in vitamins A & C. It made its way slowly westward from China, through the Mediterranean, and finally over to North America, where it mainly settled in California. California produces 95% of our country’s apricots. Yum!
When you hear the word “fruit,” usually the typical names pop to mind: apple, banana, pear, orange, peach, etc. But this month you’ll need to think outside the box, as it is Root Vegetable and Exotic Fruits Month. Have you ever heard (or tasted) any of these?
You can use a fruit knife to taste-test some of these fruits (although some have a hard outer shell, so you might need something a bit stronger!)
Before cutting up all of the fruit you might be baking with for Thanksgiving, have a quick taste-test by taking a small segment out with your fruit knife. If it’s not quite ready, leave it out to ripen for a few more days and it’ll be ready for whatever delish pie you’re going to make next week!
People use a fruit knife to sample the inner area of watermelons, cantaloupes, and other fruits. They also use them to design tasty displays on serving trays. A great fruit (and vegetable) knife will have these qualities…
Size. The length of the knife, closed, runs from 4 5/8″ to 5 3/4″. People in the fruit business choose the size best suited for their products.
Material of the Blades. Stainless steel is the best, longest lasting blade material. The acid environment is hard on other metals.
Material of the Handle. Usually the handles are stainless steel, but to guard against the acidity of the fruits, some are made of plastic.
Number of Blades. They come with one or two blades.
Kind of Blades. Smooth or wavy are available. The wavy ones will cut easier through the tough skin of a cantaloupe.
Carry Pouch. Some fruit workers like to keep their knife handy, by having a pouch attached to their belt.
The most popular selection is the 5 3/4″ fruit/vegetable knife 95-113e.
The original folding fruit knife was made of silver and mother-of-pearl in the late
1700’s in England. Why those materials? Silver is relatively soft, but it is resistant to the citric acid that would eat away at steel. Also, silver has anti-microbial qualities, which would tend to keep the knife free from harmful growths of bacteria. Mother-of-pearl is also impervious to citric acid, and it adds to the beauty of the knife. The less expensive fruit knives had celluloid handles, which would also be resistant to the acid content of fruits.
Today, most fruit knives are made of stainless steel. Sometimes plastic handles are used, to make the knife handle last longer.
In America, the fruit knife became popular in the 1930’s. Many companies would have their logo imprinted on the plastic handles in their corporate colors. They would give these as advertising products to their customers. Many are found in the possession of knife collectors today.
These specialty knives are made with very long skinny spear blades. Some blades are serrated. They are used by fruit and meat inspectors to get a sample from deep inside the product. The inspectors can then examine the smell, texture, and color of the product.
Besides the normal maintenance that you would give any pocket knife, here are some tips specifically for your fruit knife.
Wash it or rinse it thoroughly, to get rid of fruit residue. The acid content of oranges, lemons, tomatoes and some other fruits would etch the stainless steel.
Dry it to remove all traces of the rinse water. This will prevent some steel parts like the spring and pins from rusting. Even some grades of stainless steel can experience some degree of rusting.
Oil it with cooking oil instead of non-edible oil.
Store it in a clean environment, so you won’t contaminate your fruit next time you use it.
Use a knife-friendly cutting board. Never cut on a ceramic board, because it would dull your blade immediately.
As with any other knife, here are some general tips:
Keep it sharp. The sharper it is, the easier it cuts. Instead of using a stone, I prefer the type of sharpener that has two steel wheels. That way I don’t get any stone grindings contaminating the works. Then rinse and wipe the knife off before use.
Never use your knife as a pry bar or hammer.
Keep it in the pouch when not in use. This assures it won’t get contaminated or misplaced.