Rutab dates: One of the most exquisite treats of fall is the Barhi date when it's been ripened to the stage that goes by the Arabic name of rutab. At that point, the date is completely ripe but has not yet begun to dry. This makes the fruit soft almost to the point of being liquid and sweetly honeyed. It used to be that these rutab dates were available only for a couple of weeks a year, but the folks at Flying Disc Ranch in the Coachella Valley say they've figured a way to make them last through spring.
Flying Disc Ranch, $6 per pound
Hawkeye apples: The modern Red Delicious apple is the poster boy for bad fruit. Bred during the last 50 years to be a deeper and deeper red, it now has a peel that is tough and bitter. But the original Red Delicious was a pretty good apple. Found in an Iowa orchard around the turn of the 20th century, the first tree -- a genetic "sport" -- supposedly was allowed to grow only after the farmer failed in repeated attempts to cut it down. When it turned out to have good fruit, he propagated it, and the rest is history. This apple, which See Canyon owner Mike Cirone diplomatically calls the Hawkeye, after its Iowa roots, is actually golden-green with only pale red stripes. And the flavor is very, very good. In fact, when See Canyon was an important apple-growing area back in the early part of the century, this was its signature variety.
See Canyon Apples, $2.40 per pound
Fresh cayenne: Most of us know cayenne pepper only in its dried form, notable as a kind of one-note punch in the palate. It's hot, but not much else. But fresh cayenne has a lot of nuance, both fruity and vegetal. Lest you think that its slim, graceful shape makes it some kind of softy, forget it. This is a pepper that still packs a lot of pop. Chop it and use it -- cautiously -- for flavoring just as you would dried red chile flakes.
Windrose Farm, $6 per pound