“Opposites attract,” says John Schlimm, author of Grilling Vegan Style (Da Capo, 2012). “When that steel or cast iron grill with a flame meets beautiful fruits, it just becomes something incredible,” he says. Grilling causes the sugars in fruit to caramelize, creating new smoky concoctions that remind you how decadent, yet low-calorie and chock-full of vitamins, fruit can be.
“Grilling fruit is such a simple process,” Schlimm says. But he does have a few tips for fruit-grilling newbies. Always brush whatever fruits you’re grilling with a little bit of olive oil. “The oil adds another element to the flavor profile,” he says, and it keeps fruits from sticking to your grill grates. He also suggests starting to grill your fruit over indirect heat, which isn’t as intense as a direct flame or hot coals. Finally, don’t “set it and forget it.” Fruit doesn’t take long to grill, so stick close to your grill and keep a close eye on it. All that being said, fruit is easy to grill, he says, and here are the best ways to get started!
Few people think to grill watermelon, Schlimm says, but it’s one of his favorite grillable fruits. He tosses it with arugula and a balsamic dressing to make a watermelon salad. Leave the rind on or off. It’s up to you, he says. Just keep a close eye on it. Watermelon’s high water content can cause hot water to spew out and burn you, if you’re not careful. By the same token, let your watermelon rest for a few minutes to cool off before you dig in.
Learn More: Grow Sweet, Juicy Watermelons
Photo: (cc) Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr
Peaches, plums, and even apricots make perfect grill companions, as do all other stone fruits. They’re more delicate, Schlimm says, so leave the skins on and then peel them afterwards (or just leave the peels on). There are few summer desserts tastier than grilled peaches with ice cream, but they also pair well with grilled pork tenderloin, chicken, or steak. Schlimm adds them to a salsa that includes red onion and jalapeños.
Photo: Ellie Miller
When it comes to grilling fruit, peaches and exotic tropical fruits, such as pineapple, get most of the love. But if pie-eating has taught us anything, it’s that apples become exponentially more delicious when cooked. And they’re even better on the grill, where the heat softens and sweetens the fruit from the outside.
Extra: Heirloom Apples
Photo: (cc) N Stjerna/Flickr
Think you can’t grill berries? Stick ’em on a skewer and watch them melt into grilled perfection. “With strawberries, that grilled smoky flavor plays so well with the sweet strawberry taste,” he says. His favorite party trick: At your next barbecue, set out bowls of strawberries and other fruits you like and let your guests make their own fruit kabobs that they grill themselves. Each kabob takes about 7 minutes to grill completely.
Growing Guide: Organic Strawberries
Photo: Mitch Mandel
Learn how to crack open a coconut, and you’ll have the most unique, but easiest, dessert you’ve ever grilled. Schlimm’s suggestion: Once you’ve cracked your coconut, grill it, white side down, until the white flesh turns a golden brown. When it’s ready, carefully scrape the flesh away from the shell with a knife, then dip that in melted chocolate. Schlimm prefers vegan chocolate sauce, but if you’re not vegan, a good organic dark chocolate, like Equal Exchange, works too. “It’s simple, simple,” he says.
Photo: Rodale Images
If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, grill figs and add them to your ice cream, or even wrap them in prosciutto and serve them as appetizers. Select figs that are ripe but firm; if they’re overripe, they won’t hold their shape when subjected to a grill’s high heat.
Learn More: How to Overwinter a Fig Tree
Photo: Rodale Images
Grilled banana split? Absolutely. Cut a banana in half lengthwise, leaving each half in the peel. Coat the cut sides with brown sugar, and grill them for about 3 minutes each side (you don’t want them to get mushy). Pop the bananas out into a bowl, top with ice cream and chocolate sauce, and you’ve got the perfect summer dessert.
Photo: Rodale Images
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Not many people think to cook cantaloupe, let alone grill it, Schlimm writes in his book. But he says the grilling process deepens the melon flavors. You can cut a cantaloupe into thick cubes you place on skewers. Either way, once you try it, you’ll want to repeat it all melon season.
Learn More: Your Guide to Growing Cantaloupe