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The Fruit Lady
Honolulu Woman is a Font of Fruit Facts

Fruit Lady audio Listen as the Fruit Lady tells you the right way to fondle produce.

Aug. 25, 2001 -- Ever watch people in the produce section of your grocery store? They peer at plums. They poke at pears. They prod peaches. They sniff strawberries and caress casabas. They look like they must know what they are doing. They don't.

the fruit lady gives advice

T.M. Gorman advises Washington, D.C. fruit shopper David Wiley on how to choose blueberries.
Photo: Dan Mitchell, NPR

"It's funny to watch them," says T.M. Gorman, herself a former pretend fruit expert. Gorman, of Honolulu, Hawaii, is now a self-taught actual expert, and a self-published author of a new book: Fruit: The Ripe Pick, a short, pithy compendium of fruit facts.

Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon this week caught up with Gorman in the produce section of the Whole Foods Fresh Fields market in Washington, D.C., to pick up some free tips.

Such as: cantaloupe. "You don't want to smell it in the store," Gorman declares as she holds a melon to her nose. "I see people smelling them in the store all the time. But you really want to wait until you have it home for a few days -- it will have a strong smell from the stem end when it's ripe."

And: watermelon. "If you slap it, it will ring in the air."

But fruit-slapping is only part of what this book has to offer. Besides tips for selecting and storing fruit, there are fun facts (watermelon is actually a vegetable) recipes (papaya fritters!), and nutritional advice (a medium-sized cherimoya, which Mark Twain called "deliciousness itself," contains about 500 calories.)

Gorman, who still works as an office manager for a Honolulu transportation company, was fed up with fruit that fell far short of her standards, and she decided to study up. The seed for the book idea was planted when she realized she had amassed a higher-than-average level of fruit knowledge. She decided to self-publish, which, she complains, "was another whole fiasco. I had to learn how to do all that."

But the effort bore fruit: She found a national distributor and now her book can be found in several major national chains, and at the big Internet bookstores.

Any last tips? "Don't peel kumquats. The skin is sweeter than the fruit."


Other Resources Gorman's Web site offers more tips, recipes, and facts, and you can buy the book, too.