Tutti Frutti

Tutti Frutti by Mellissa Martinez


The variety of fruit that once thrived in Claremont and surrounding areas left its mark in names such as Orange County, the grapevine and Pomona, a city that derived its name from the goddess of fruit. One of the wonderful things about living in such a fertile area is that we can enjoy fresh fruit throughout the year.

I know exactly where I can pick an orange, lemon, pear, banana, plum, strawberry or grapefruit for immediate pleasure. Appropriately, the word ‘fruit’ came to English via French from the Latin fr?ctus and earlier fru?, meaning ‘to enjoy.’

Initially, ‘fruit’ referred to actual fruit as well as all profits from the soil, such as vegetables, nuts, grains and acorns. Because of this, there was a strong connection between the fruit and profit as in, fruit of one’s labor. As an example, the related Latin adjective frugi meant ‘economical or useful.’ When combined with the suffix –al, the word ‘frugal’ emerged to refer to a person who is careful or sparing in the use of foods and goods. Other ‘fruit’ related words include ‘fruition,’ ‘fruitful ’ and ‘fructose.’

A less obvious connection to fruit is ‘mellow.’ Although the origin of the word is still uncertain, its meaning comes from the juicy inside of ripe fruit. In Old English, melwe ‘soft, sweet, juicy,’ referred to the inside of ripe fruit. The idea that as fruit ripens, it softens and is made mellow was used for people in the 1500s. Shakespeare, for example, wrote in Henry VI “Call him my king by whom mine elder Brother…was done to death…even in the Downfall of his mellowed years.”

‘Satire’ also comes from fruit. The Indo-European root *sa ‘to satisfy’ led to English ‘satisfy,’ ‘asset,’ ‘satisfaction’ and ‘saturate.’ In Classical Latin, a lanx satura was a full (and satisfying) dish containing a medley variety of fruits. Satura, for short, became satira, which shifted in meaning from a fruit medley to a prose medley. The writing typically focused on various topics, often negatively. By the time satire made its way to French, it described a poem in which immorality or foolishness of others was ridiculed or denounced.

Before the 1600s, the word ‘apple’ was used to describe all types of fruit. A tomato was called a love-apple; cucumbers were earth-apples; and in some regions, oranges are still referred to as golden apples. The Latin pomum ‘apple’ led to ‘pomade,’ as the original recipe for the ointment included mashed apples. The French grenade ‘pomegranate’ is a short version of the Latin pomum granatum, literally ‘apple with many seeds.’ The English-adopted ‘grenade,’ a ‘small explosive shell,’ derives its name from the French grenade because the fragmenting bomb looks like the multi-seeded fruit.

Another god-related fruit word is ‘tantalize.’ This word comes from Greek Tantalos, king of Phrygia, who was punished in the afterlife by being made to stand in a river up to his chin, under branches laden with fruits that withdrew from his reach each time he tried to pick one.

Thankfully, the fate of Tantalos is not likely for the ‘frugivores,’ or fruit eaters, who live in Claremont. My trees are still brimming with oranges and if I walk down the street, I can see apples, plums and pomegranates all beginning to mellow.


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