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If you can’t wait for tomatoes, head to Thailand, where sweet, small, thick-skinned fruit are combined with strands of green papaya in a mortar and topped with shell- on, raw blue crab. For sweet shrimp and fresh uni sea urchin, try Montreal, Quebec, where the seasonal delicacies won’t last more than a few weeks. And if you’re dying for figs, hurry to Lima, Peru before the sweet-and-sour green-skinned and purple- hearted variety finishes for the season.
Here’s what else is in season in May around the world:
NEW YORK CITY, USA
Spring is springing in the U.S. Northeast, which means any restaurant with a pinch of bistro credibility will have morels, asparagus and poached egg (probably the duck or hen variety) on its menu. At Café Boulud, spring rhubarb pairs with hibiscus in a jelly to top the terrine of foie gras. And ABC Kitchen is serving crab toast with lemon aioli for crustacean lovers staying stateside.
Highly coveted Alphonsos – the “kings of mangoes” – are on their way out this month while syrupy Kesars – their queens – have appeared for their two months of glory. Last year, Rajdhani Thali Restaurant offered a special mango festival menu until the end of the month featuring cardamom-spiced mango purée with poori bread. At Pebbles in the Crown Plaza in Andheri West, mangoes come in savoury dishes like creamy mango murgh chicken tikka. Other May fruit include Paneer Fruit, a.k.a. rose water fruit or rose apple, not to be confused with the custard-y Asian rose apple or paneer cheese. The fruit is small, yellow, smells like lemon and tastes subtly of rose.
Fall chestnuts have arrived and you’ll find them at Balla Restaurant in dishes like pappardelle with rabbit and cakes with ricotta. Or go straight to the source at Kookootonga Walnut and Chestnut Farm in the Blue Mountains, two hours west of Sydney for a pick-your-own experience. For persimmons, head to ARIA restaurant. There, chef Matt Moran serves the apple-like fuyu type in verjus and serves slices of it with crab, pine nuts, lemon and mint. Look for the soft, juicy hachiya variety at markets. Let it ripen to the point where it’s almost falling apart from ripeness, then turn it upside down, stick a straw in it and suck out the sweet pulp.
Foods from Peru’s desert, jungle, mountain and coastal regions come together in Lima. Head to the Mercado Surquillo #2 in search of figs and jungle ciruela – a relative of the plum that looks like a cherry tomato but pops from its skin like a grape. At the Saturday Bioferia organic market, look for the green skins of lucumà fruit from mountainous Piura. The skin starts to break when ripe, revealing yellow flesh that tastes like butterscotch mixed with cooked sweet potato. You’ll smell the herbal huacatay — Peruvian black mint — wafting from nearby stalls. Casual lunch spots all over the city use it in a traditional, rich cheese sauce on boiled potatoes. But Chef Gaston Acurio uses it at his flagship restaurant in dishes like tuna with tamarind, quinoa and coconut foam.
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
Corn is just being sown in France, Italy and the American Midwest, but it’ll soon be harvest season in South Africa. Head to The Local Grill for the traditional dish Boerewors and Pap, a grilled sausage with white cornmeal porridge. Or go international with barbecue chicken tacos at Coobs served with corn cream, guacamole and salsa. And look for marog. The greens of the amaranth plant grow like weeds and are used in place of spinach.