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Exotic Peculiar Fruits
What makes these peculiar?
Some of these will be old family members to some and wild-eyed strangers to others. Living in the U.S.A., we have access to a huge variety of foods but your average supermarket carries only those items that sell well and quickly. Ethnic markets are available to many of us and that is where you will have to go to find some of these items, others, well you might have to grow your own or travel out of the country.
So, what’s on your dinner plate tonight? Your choice of foods was determined a long time ago and you had little to do with it. If you want to know what someone eats, you can start by looking at a map, people eat what grows locally, they eat the foods their parents ate and they eat according to their religious strictures. Finally, in the industrialized world, we eat what big business wants us to buy, so grab a bag of genetically modified Cheetos and read on.
Some of what I present here are staples in other large parts of the world but are mostly unfamiliar here. Potatoes may be a staple on your dinner table but much of the world has other ideas of what to eat. All cultures have some primary source of carbs, which provides calories and not much else. Throughout history, the availability of fruits and vegetables has determined the health and even the prosperity of cultures. The British couldn’t have created an empire if not for the humble lime. Those “Limeys” were so called because they brought limes on their ships to avoid scurvy.
In these descriptions, I try to give a bit of info about the flavor of each, for those that I am familiar with I give my own opinion and if I’m not familiar with the item I offer opinions culled from research. If you have a different opinion, please, leave a comment! Describing a flavor is difficult and subjective.
Naming, I try to include the most widely used names for the listings below but some have so many names in different countries, cultures and groups that the list of names becomes an essay by itself. When that happens, I limit the names to one or two lines. Each entrée starts with the most common name but with so many names for so many items you may need to use the find function of your browser to locate a particular name.
To find nutritional information most of these are in this database of nutrition: http://nutritiondata.self.com/
This article comes from my ongoing research and is updated from time to time so bookmark me and come back! If you want to know about something that is not listed here please leave a comment below.
Organic Fruit Farm, Travel Video
Abiu (Pouteria caimito) yellow star apple , camio, caimito amarillo , luma or cauje, temare, abio, and abieiro Native to the Amazon region of northwest Brazil. The pulp has a smooth creamy texture, and it is said to taste like flan with notes of vanilla and caramel. Production thus far has been concentrated in southeast Brazil and in Australia, Ovoid to round fruits, 1 ½ to 4 inches in diameter, about the size of a peach, with a pointy end, 10 to 25 oz The peel is smooth, tough, and pale to bright yellow when ripe. The pulp is white, translucent, jelly-like, mild-flavored, and sweet in better selections but insipid in undesirable trees. There are 1 to 5 brown seeds. Immature fruit exudes a gummy latex; fully ripe fruit have little to no latex. To eat this fruit out of hand, use utensils to cut and scoop the flesh out to avoid the latex in the skin. Occasionally seen in farmers markets in tropical areas but rarely if ever exported.
Aguajefruit (Mauritia flexuosa), moriche palm, ité palm, ita, buriti, or aguaje (Peru), Moriche palm fruit is edible. The fruit of a palm tree that grows in and near swamps and other wet areas in tropical South America. This unusual fruit is covered in reddish scales, which must be peeled away to get to the flesh. High vitamin A, E and C content and used to make juice, jam, ice cream. Popular in the Amazon jungle, the fruit is often eaten by scraping the flesh over your bottom teeth to separate it from a large internal seed. The pulp is also occasionally used to treat burns and has been found to block UV rays, making it a natural sunscreen. Juice is consumed fresh and sometimes fermented into an exotic wine. Availability is mostly in the form of cosmetics and supplements. Some people think that eating aguaje fruit will give you bigger hips - and an hourglass figure.
Ackee originated in West Africa but during the 18th century it was brought to the West Indies (7000 islands in the Caribbean including Cuba and the Bahamas) and now is the primary area where ackee is grown and consumed. Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, and ackee and salt fish is the national dish. Ackee is poisonous when unripe, over-ripe or improperly prepared but it has high nutritional value rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin A, zinc, and protein.
The fluffy, yellow flesh is the only part of the ackee which is edible, the black seeds and the pink skin is highly toxic. If you find fresh ackee in your area be sure to discard the seeds and any traces of pink fiber in the flesh. Fresh ackee is quite rare outside of the area where it is grown but it may be available canned. Flavor is said to be mild, taking on the flavor of the dish prepared and depending on the author, resembles eggs, nuts or even mushrooms. Prepared ackee resembles scrambled eggs.
Akebia Akebia quinata (Houttuyn) Decaisne – Chocolate Vine or Five-leaf Akebia
The skin of akebia fruit ranges from a bright purple to whitish purple. Native to China, Korea, and Japan. The flowers of akebia smell a little like chocolate so it is also called chocolate vine. Thrives on a wild vine in northern Japan, in the Tohoku area, but only fruits briefly, in early autumn. In Japan akebia is iconic for the changing season the way we regard falling leaves. When the fruit is ripe and ready to eat, it pops open on one end. The pulp inside is seedy, faintly sweet, and rather insipid, not highly regarded. The rind is slightly bitter and is usually used as a vegetable or stuffed with minced meat. Some minor use in traditional Chinese medicine. Akebia vines are considered an invasive species in the US.
Balsam apple or Balsam pear
There is some confusion between Balsam Pear, or Balsam Apple (Momordica balsamina) and the bitter melon (Momordica charantia ). Balsam pear is NOT the same plant and in fact, balsam pear may be toxic, depending on ripeness. Even botanists at the University of Florida seem to share this confusion. After reading many sources of information about Balsam Apples and Bitter Melons the best I can offer is that the ripe fruit, skin and seeds are probably toxic and purgative, Simultaneously this vegetable is widely used is Asia and Africa Cerasee, or bitter melon, has so many healing properties that researchers brought it to the University of Miami to study it. They discovered that an enzyme in the ripe fruit can inhibit growth of cancer cells. Other research finds this an excellent choice for skin problems like Psoriasis. Bitter melon also contains a chemical that acts like insulin to help reduce blood sugar levels. It is an easy vine to grow but in warm climates, it can become a noxious weed. Please see the comments below from Backyard Campian for one person's experience with this plant.
Bitter Melon, Bitter Gourd, Bitter Cucumber, Chinese Cucumber, (Momordica charantia).
Also known as Foo gwa, Mo gwa (China); Karela (India); Pare, Peria (Indonesia); Ampalaya (Philippines).
The fruit of a tropical climber, related to the cucumber, bitter melons grow to a maximum length of 8 in. The skin is light to bright green and warty when immature, which is when it should be eaten. The fibrous seed core should be cut away, leaving a thin ring of flesh. Bitter melon is widely used in Asia where it is thought to possess blood-purifying and cooling capabilities. Bitter melons contain quinine, making it valuable in tropical areas, where malaria is a problem. Bitter melon is cooked by braising or steaming, and to a lesser extent by stir-frying. Its young tender shoots and leaves can be eaten like spinach. The bitterness may be reduced by salting and washing thin slices and bitter melon is often used in dishes with strong flavors and spices.
There are several biologically active substances in bitter melons that make it valuable in traditional medicine
BLACKBERRY JAM FRUIT (Randia formosa)
A bushy tree with fragrant white flowers. Fruits look like small feijoas, and are 1 inch long and 1/2 inch wide. They really do taste like a blackberry jam
Black Sapote, (Diospyros digyna) Chocolate Pudding Fruit, Zapote Prieto
Black Sapotes are a type of persimmon native to Mexico and Guatemala. The fruits are the size of a tomato with 2 to 10 dark reddish brown seeds, although some trees bear seedless fruit. Unripe black sapotes are very astringent, irritant, caustic and bitter. The skin is inedible. It turns deep yellow-green as it ripens while a fully ripe specimen will have dark brown skin. The flesh of the fruit has the texture of stewed prunes. The flavor is rich, mild and sweet often likened to chocolate pudding. In Mexico, the fruits are in season from August to January, and in Florida, they are available from December through February. Very popular in Mexico they may be available in Hispanic markets during season. Often eaten with a spoon in milk or orange juice, they are also made into ice cream, drinks and wine.
Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)
is related to the jackfruit tree. Unripe breadfruit is hard and the interior is white, starchy and somewhat fibrous. When fully ripe, the fruit is softer, the interior is cream colored or yellow and pasty, also sweetly fragrant. Breadfruit is named because the flavor of the fruit is reminiscent of freshly baked bread. There are over 200 named varieties of breadfruit but the tree is super-tropical, not withstanding temperatures much below 60 degrees F. Breadfruit is a staple in many tropical regions of the world but is seldom seen outside of the tropics. Unripe (light green with no brown spots) breadfruit is used in soups and curries while ripe breadfruit (dark green, few or no brown spots) is suitable for roasting.
Cainito, (Chrysophyllum cainito) star apple, golden leaf tree, abiaba, pomme du lait, estrella, milk fruit, aguay
A tropical tree native to the lowlands of Central America and the West Indies. The fruit and especially the skin has a lot of latex in it and when locals eat it they grease their lips so as not to have the latex cling. Flavor is mild and sweet, said to resemble caramel, best served chilled. Tree is strictly tropical so cultivation in the US is limited to back yards in South Florida. Fresh fruit is available only in the areas where it grows and rarely if ever makes it to markets, but small amounts are imported and make it to Hispanic, especially Brazilian markets. Mostly eaten out of hand, some fruit is also used in ice cream and ices.
Cape Gooseberry, Inca berry, golden berry, giant ground cherry, Peruvian groundcherry, Peruvian cherry
Cape gooseberries are closely related to the tomatillo and they have a similar papery husk (calyx) surrounding the fruit. The fruit look like miniature Chinese lanterns. Peel away the papery husk and you find a small round berry about the size of a marble, with numerous small yellow seeds. It is bright orange and sweet when ripe, making it ideal for snacks, pies or jams. There are some studies which show the cape gooseberry to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The cape gooseberry has been grown occasionally in California but generally only on a small scale because it tends to be a labor intensive crop. Now, what little we see for sale is likely to be imported from Mexico. In the husk they will last up to 4 weeks in the ‘fridge.
Carambola, (Averrhoa carambola) starfruit, balimbing or saranate,
Carambolas make excellent garnishes for fruit plates and such but the fruit is mostly insipid. Flavor when ripe is barely sweet and when unripe can be quite sour, aside from that they have very little flavor but look wonderful. Fruit cut in cross section resembles a five pointed star. Carambola trees are classified as subtropical so they will take a touch of frost but this makes them viable only as pot plants or trees in areas that rarely see frost.
ANNONAS: custard apples
ANNONAS: There are several species of Annonas any of which may be (mistakenly) called a custard apple. The fruit is highly perishable and not widely shipped out of their home region.
Atemoya, (Annona × atemoya), is a hybrid of two fruits – the sugar-apple (Annona squamosa) and the cherimoya (A. cherimola) – which are both native to the American tropics. The flesh is not segmented like that of the sugar-apple, similar to the cherimoya. It is dense, very juicy and smooth, tasting slightly sweet and a little tart, reminiscent of a vanilla custard. Sometimes called the Florida cherimoya and is available seasonally in south Florida from September up to January in specialty produce markets.
Cherimoya (Annona cherimola) Anona, Cherimoya, Chirimolla, Chirimoya, Sherbet-fruit Native to the Andean-highland valleys of South America. The fruit is oval, 4 to 8 inches long with a smooth or slightly bumpy skin. The flesh is white, with many dark brown seeds in it. Mark Twain called the cherimoya "the most delicious fruit known to men” “deliciousness itself”. Neither the seeds or the skin are edible. Cherimoya is actually a compound fruit in which many fruitlets have fused into a single fruit. These fruitlets are called carpels so those bumps on the skin are individual fruits, fused with others. The fruit has a “sherbet-like texture” The flavor is called a blend of banana, pineapple, papaya, peach, and strawberry. Others describe it as tasting like commercial bubblegum. Production is increasing but cherimoyas are still fairly rare outside of California where they are grown in the U.S.
Custard Apple, (Annona reticulata) wild-sweetsop, bullock's-heart, or ox-heart The custard apple is probably native to the West Indies but it has spread through Central America to southern Mexico. The English name Custard Apple has been widely misapplied to other species and to the hybrid ATEMOYA. The fruits shape is irregular, heart shape or spherical. The size ranges from 7–12 cm (2.8–4.7 in). Ripe fruit is brown or yellowish, with red highlights and a varying degree of reticulation, depending on variety. The fruit is juicy, sweet and pleasant, akin to the taste of 'traditional' custard although some fruits may be hard and unpleasant tasting.
Sugar apple, Sweetsop (Annona squamosa) The Sweetsop probably comes from Jamaica although with extensive cultivation the origin is uncertain. The fruit is usually round, looking something like a lumpy pine cone, 6–10 cm (2.4–3.9 in) diameter and weighing 100–230 g (3.5–8.1 oz). The flesh is sweet, and tastes like custard with hints of pineapple. Fruits may be white to light yellow although there is at least one cultivar with reddish to purple flesh and skin.
Champagne grapes, Black Corinth grapes
Champagne grapes are deep purple to reddish-black and grow in miniature clusters. This very small grape offers a sweet and mild flavor. Crisp and seedless, champagne grapes are usually pea-size or smaller. Offering a slight crunch, their minute stems are edible. These are excellent garnishes, sure to get remarks. Champagne grapes are available in specialty stores and high-end markets. Despite the name, they are not used for making Champagne, nor wine.
Chinese Bayberry, (Myrica rubra) Japanese Bayberry, Red Bayberry, Yumberry, Chinese strawberry tree
Native to Southeast Asia these have been cultivated for at least the last 2000 years. The fruit is one and a half to two and a half centimeters in diameter, with a round, knobby surface that is usually a deep, bright red color, but may vary from white to purple. The fruit’s pulp is similar in color, but may be somewhat lighter, sweet, and very tart. A single seed that is about half the size of the fruit is located in the center of the berry. Usually eaten out of hand, the seeds, leaves, and roots are also commonly used for medicinal purposes and the bark of the tree is used as a yellow dye. The fruit is also canned, dried, pickled, juiced, and made into wine. The fruit has a very short shelf life, is easily bruised and rarely if ever make it to American markets. Numerous medicinal uses are claimed for this fruit and research is continuing. This is strictly a tropical fruit tree and will be killed by frost.
Dragon fruit, (Hylocereus undatus), (Hylocereus megalanthus) Pitaya Fruit, strawberry pear
Dragon fruit is the fruit of a cactus native to Central and South America. This is difficult to impossible to find fresh in markets although they may be available as plants and seeds. The dragon fruit flesh can be white, red, or magenta to varying degrees depending on variety. To eat a dragon fruit simply cut it open to expose the flesh and eat the flesh and seeds. The fruit's texture is a bit like the kiwifruit due to the presence of black, crunchy seeds. The flesh, which is eaten raw, is mildly sweet, mostly rather bland, juicy and low in calories. The seeds have a nutty taste but they must be chewed to make them digestible.
Feijoa, (Acca sellowiana) (Feijoa sellowiana) pineapple guava, guavasteen,
The fruits range from 3/4 to 3-1/2 inches long and vary in shape from round to pear shape. The skin is waxy, blue-green to grayish green, sometimes with a red or orange blush. Skin texture may be smooth or rough and pebbly and quite thick to 5/8 inch thick. The fruit has a strong aroma before it is fully ripe. The flesh is thick, white, granular and watery with translucent central pulp enclosing the seeds. Flavor is sweet, not particularly tart and is said to be a combination of pineapple and guava or pineapple and strawberry. Feijoas are delicate and easily bruised so little of the crop makes it to American markets. Ripe feijoa will yield to pressure somewhat like a just-ripe banana and are best when they drop off the tree.
Goji berries Dried
Goji berry is also called the wolfberry. (Lycium barbarum) It is a bright orange-red berry that comes from a shrub that's native to China. According to dietitian Lauri Boone berries (not just goji berries) are "the ultimate anti-aging superfood," Chinese medicine practitioners commonly use goji berries to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, maintain eye health, and nourish the liver and kidneys. While all of the berries are full of beneficial nutrition claims go beyond any reasonable veracity. Research is ongoing into the goji berry and what actual benefits may be derived, however, if you expect any food to take the place of a healthy lifestyle and diet, be prepared to be disappointed. The flavor tends to be mildly sweet and sour with some varieties having a flavor similar to tomatoes and other varieties more closely tasting like a berry. The ads we see telling us that this brand of goji berry comes from Tibetan highlands are mostly just hype, the berries come mostly from commercial farms in China. Only rarely available fresh, most gojis are
sold dried in this country.
Granadilla - Passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) (Passiflora edulis flavicarpa) parcha and aracuya
Many species of passion fruit are called granadilla. Incredible flowers that remind some of the Passion of Christ gave this plant its English name. The pulpy flesh which surrounds the seeds is the part that is eaten, sometimes the seeds are also eaten. Grows widely as a weed in subtropical climates. The fruit may be round or oval fruit, 1-1/2 to 3 inches wide, has a tough skin with colors ranging from dark purple with faint, fine white specks, to light yellow or pumpkin color. The fruit is filled with an aromatic mass of seeds, each surrounded by juicy puld enclosed in a membrane. Flavor is musky, somewhat similar to guava and sweet/tart to tart. The purple granadilla is preferred to the yellow as it is less acid, more flavorful, and has a higher proportion of juice.
Guava (Psidium guajava) guayaba, guyava, apple guava, jambu batu, kuawa
Native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America, guavas have been cultivated for millennia. Guavas are now cultivated and naturalized throughout the tropics and subtropics including Hawaii and Florida. Guava fruits may be round, ovoid or pear-shaped, 2 - 4 inches long. Different varieties vary greatly in flavor and seediness. The best guavas are soft when ripe, with a creamy texture and rind.. The flesh may be white, pink, yellow, or red. The aroma is sweet and musky. There are many small edible seeds. Flavor is something like a mixture of kiwi, mango and strawberry. Guava are a favorite ingredient for Latin bakers and we see many guava pastries in Hispanic markets. Guavas are sometimes eaten out of hand but more often they are used in cooking or sliced as an ingredient in salads or smoothies.Guavas also have a high amount of pectin making them ideal for jellies.
Strawberry guava, (Psidium littorale ) is a closely related cultivar with a flavor said to be a mix of passion fruit and strawberry.
Jackfruit is the world’s largest fruit with specimens coming in at over 100 pounds. In Brazil the jackfruit tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is considered an invasive species and is being culled in some forests. The fruit is eaten when unripe and cooked as a vegetable and ripe when it can be eaten raw. In this country jackfruit is only available canned or dry but in its native countries it will be found fresh in the market. Often used in curries, the ripe flesh may be spread out to dry making a kind of fruit leather. Flavor of the ripe fruit is said to be mildly sweet, juicy with flavor like a mixture of banana and pineapple. The unripe fruit has a “poultry like” texture and makes the jackfruit a good substitute for meat for a vegan diet. Seeds are cooked and eaten like beans.
Jujube is not just a candy at the theater, it is actually a red date originating in China. Some jujubes are being grown on the west coast but they only appear in specialty market and by mail order. This fruit has been enjoyed in China for over 4 thousand years and you will find calls for it in the more authentic Chinese cookbooks. Flavor when fresh is mildly sweet and resembles the date we are used to but the jujube is crunchy with a soft interior. Available dried all year and fresh in late summer to early autumn. There are hundreds of varieties of jujubes and fresh ones may be yellow to green or red or some mixture of those colors. Dried jujubes will be dark brown to dark red and leathery. Soak dried jujubes before use.
Kiwano, (Cucumis metuliferus) Horned melon, Jelly melon, Melano, African horned cucumber
Native to Semiarid regions of southern and central Africa, kiwanos are small, (4 to 5 in) yellow fruits with “horns” The green pulp can be very brightly colored approaching neon which, posed against the yellow skin makes this a beautiful fruit to behold. To look at this fruit you would think you were going to enjoy some exotic tropical treat.. What you get is seeds covered in a gelatinous pulp with a flavor somewhere between cucumber and zucchini. Eat a kiwano by sucking out the pulp and spitting out the seeds, although some eat the skin and/or the seeds.
This overlooked member of the citrus family gets little use here but more use in Asian cuisines. The flavor is like a sour orange but the skin is sweet while the flesh is tart. Kumquats are about the size of a large olive. Many uses are possible from using them fresh as a garnish on salads or eat out of hand to enjoy the contrast between sweet and sour Kumquats make excellent marmalades and to flavor muffins or cakes. Another use is to cook alongside a pork or ham roast or even a roast chicken. Kumquats are available fresh from Florida between November and March
Loganberry, (Rubus loganobaccus)
Loganberries are bramble fruits of the rose family that originated in the United States, at Santa Cruz, Calif., in 1881. Raised from seed, American lawyer and horticulturist James Harvey Logan created this hybrid between the wild blackberry of the Pacific coast and the red raspberry. Berries are wine-red and flavored somewhere between a blackberry and a raspberry but more tart. Eat them fresh or add them to cakes and muffins or make wine or jelly with them. Season is short, from June through August and availability is limited unless you live on the west coast. Loganberries have made the trip across the Atlantic and are being raised in Great Britain
Longan (Dimocarpus longan) Dragon's Eye
This native to southern China is often considered the poorer cousin of the lychee. In Asian cuisines the longan is very popular in its own right. Fruits are usually about the size of a very large grape. They have a thin yellow-brown skin around a translucent white pulp with a single dark seed, hence the name "Dragon's Eye." The fruit is sweet, juicy and some say slimy and apart from being eaten fresh, is also often used in East Asian soups, snacks, desserts, and sweet-and-sour foods Longans are much eaten fresh, out-of-hand, but some have maintained that the fruit is improved by cooking. Flavor is similar to the lychee but milder and less tart.
Lychee, (Litchi chinensis) leechi, litchi, laichi, lichu, lizhi
This tropical fruit is native to China and being grown now in many parts of the world. The skin is pink-red and roughly textured that has to be removed to expose a layer of sweet, translucent white flesh surrounding one dark brown inedible seed. Flavor of a lychee is said to be much better in the fresh fruit than in the canned version. Flavor is described as sweet and flowery like sweet perfume. Lychees are an important fruit in Chinese and other Asian cuisines. Some lychees are grown in Florida and Hawaii and fresh ones may be available at high-end groceries. Season is mid-June to mid-July.
This is a very deadly fruit where even the bark and leaves can damage you if you handle them, do NOT touch your eyes after you touch this tree or its fruit. This is so toxic that you can expect burn like blisters on the skin that has come into contact with the sap and temporary blindness if you get it in your eyes,
In Spanish speaking South America this is known as "la manzanilla de la muerte, which translates to “the little apple of death,” or as arbol de la muerte, “tree of death.” Found along coastal areas throughout the Caribbean the fruit looks like a little somewhat warped green apple. This tree even has the legend of having killed the explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. People who have tasted this fruit say that at first bite it is pleasantly sweet but then they "noticed a strange peppery feeling in our mouths, which gradually progressed to a burning, tearing sensation and tightness of the throat".
Mangoes (Mangifera indica)
Mangoes have been cultivated in Southeast Asia for millennia but have spread around the world to tropical and subtropical areas. Now they are quite common in supermarkets everywhere. They may range in weight from four ounces to more than four pounds, in color from greenish yellow to brilliant red, and in shape from rounded to long and narrow. To choose a mango at the market, give it the old sniff test, the best have a pleasing sweet fruity aroma others have a chemical smell. Because mangos are picked before they are fully ripe, ripen them at room temperature until the fruit becomes soft and yielding. The flavor of the mango is described as a tropical blend of peach, pineapple, and apricot something like a very ripe melon. The flesh of the ripe mango has a buttery texture surrounding a large, flat, in, slice off the two flattest sides. Next slice a grid pattern in the flesh, then just push the skin of the slices, inverting the slice so the flesh sticks out and the skin is on the hollow side. Slice the cubes off the skin and enjoy. Refer to the picture for a simpler view on preparing a mango to eat. Before the introduction of refrigeration mangoes were only available pickled, in some parts of the country the name “mango” was used for other pickled foods, one of these was the bell pepper. Eventually, bell peppers started being called mangoes. To this day there are people that call bell peppers “mangoes.”
Mangosteen, (Garcinia mangostana)
The tropical mangosteen needs to have its own fan club. People who have tried this fruit describe it rapturously. “like that of the finest nectarine, but with a dash of strawberry and pine-apple added." Or, “They exhude a sweet perfume approaching that of the raspberry and have the taste of strawberries." Or, "...an abundant white, juicy pulp, soft, sweet, slightly acidulated, and with a delicate, delicious flavor, which recalls that of a fine peach, muscatel grapes, and something peculiar and indescribable which no other fruit has." Or, "It would be mere blasphemy to attempt to describe its wonderful taste, the very culmination of culinary art for any unspoilt palate." Mangosteens are just beginning to show up in very limited amounts, in American markets. They have a thick, inedible skin which is fairly brittle yet still moist and easy to peel. The fruit is segmented with a texture something like citrus and a single seed in each segment.
Maqui Berry (Aristotelia
This berry is a recent addition to the club of superfoods. These berries
grow on small trees native to temperate rainforests of Chile and adjacent
regions of southern Argentina. Maqui is not yet commercially cultivated, so
what we find on the market has been collected from the wild by Mapuche indians.
Flavor is said to resemble blackberries. Maqui berries are very rich in anthocyanins, giving them high
antioxidant activity. Eating maqui berries or their juice may cause a
significant increase of insulin in the body. If this were proven true, this
would be a good berry for diabetics to consume. Maqui is a relative newcomer to
consumption in the West so research is very sparse however, berries in general
have a good reputation for health benefits and there are no reported problems. Other
reputed benefits say this berry demonstrates antibacterial activity and anti-inflammatory
Mayhaw (crataegus opaca)
This fruit is about 1/2" to 1" in diameter. Ripe from mid-April through early May, its fruit color varies from bright red to reddish yellow. Like the cranberry, this is not a berry for eating raw. Historically, mayhaws have been harvested in forest wetlands although there is now a small mayhaw industry developing. The flavor is said to be “exquisite, like sweet apple with overtones of mango and an aroma of pineapple.” Mayhaw jelly that has been a southern favorite for generations for rural area in the deep south. There are endless possibilities for mayhaws such as flavoring, butter, jam, sauces, pie filling, coffee cakes, ice cream, wine, etc. Availability is mostly in the form of jelly and syrup but a small amount finfd there way into specialty markets in spring.
Mulberry (Morus rubra) (Morus nigra) (Morus australis)( Morus microphylla) Many other cultivars
Mulberries are multiple fruits, clusters of tiny individual fruits clustered together like a blackberry. In most species berries turn dark purple to black when ripe and have a sweet, tart flavor some say is vaguely like a grapefruit.
Naranjilla (Solanum quitoense)
Bright orange fruit about the size of a large cherry tomato. Fruits are covered with numerous fuzzy hairs that rub off when ripe. Pulp is green, acid, described as a combination of rhubarb and lime.. Ripe fruits are eaten out-of-hand by cutting in half and squeezing the contents of each half into the mouth. The flesh, complete with seeds, may be squeezed out and added to ice cream mix, made into sauce for native dishes, or used to make pie and other cooked desserts. The most popular use of the naranjilla is in the form of juice. Commercial juice is available concentrated and canned or put into plastic bags and frozen. The tree is subtropical and will take a touch of frost. The name means little orange but this is actually a member of the nightshade family. Ripe fruits soften quickly so any fruit that makes it to market is picked half ripe and will need to be ripened at home
Papaya (Carica papaya)
The papaya is often called pawpaw or papaw, but this confuses it with the totally unrelated Pawpaw (Asimina triloba ) (see below). Papaya is a tropical tree fruit originating in Mexico. Papaya is a source for the enzyme papain which is a natural meat tenderizer. Indigenous people have used papaya to tenderize meat for millennia and we use it today as powdered meat tenderizer. Papain is the reason why you can’t add fresh papaya or fresh pineapple to gelatin desserts, the papain prevents the gelatin from setting. Cooking destroys the enzyme so use cooked or canned fruit to make gelatin desserts. The skin, flesh and seeds are all edible but generally the fruit is peeled and seeded and just the flesh is served. The seeds are said to be a little bit bitter, spicy and have been used as a substitute for pepper. Green, unripe papaya are also eaten, but more often cooked in curries and stews, even young leaves are cooked and eaten like spinach. Papaya has some medicinal properties that are being investigated and is already used in some folk medicine in the tropics. Flavor is sweet, musky, tropical and a bit like a very ripe melon.
Pawpaw, (Asimina triloba) Paw Paw, Papaw, Poor Man's Banana, Hoosier Banana
Pawpaws are native to 26 states of the U.S. and to Ontario in Canada with a tropical like flavor that resembles a combination of banana, mango, and pineapple. The fruit usually has 10 to 14 seeds in two rows. The seeds look something like dark brown lima beans. The ripe fruit is soft and thin skinned. Pollination is problematic for the home gardener because bees avoid the flowers, flowers are said to be “fetid” so a home gardener is advised to hand pollinate to get a decent yield. There is no significant commercial production of pawpaws (some may be available online) but U of Kentucky is trying to develop the commercial potential. For now, you will have to grow your own.o Experts say the best way to enjoy pawpaws is to eat them raw after they are picked from trees and are perfectly ripe.
PEANUT BUTTER FRUIT (Bunchosia argentea)
Native to South and Central America, this tree is strictly tropical, some is grown in back yards in South Florida but there is no commercial fruit available in markets. Small red-orange fruits have sticky, dense pulp and a flavor resembling peanut butter. The aroma is unmistakably of peanut butter. Mostly eaten fresh, also used for jellies, jams, or preserves. Peanut butter fruits are small, about the size of a peanut and orange color when ripe. Pick when the fruits are just starting to turn orange but still hard. Let ripen fully indoors. Fully ripe when totally soft.
Pepino Melon, (Solanum muricatum) Pepino Dulce, Melon Pear, Mellow Fruit or Tree Melon
Not a true melon, pepinos are really berries. The Pepino is in the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes and eggplants. A native of South America, Pepinos are grown in many countries. Pepinos grow to 5 inches long, are thin-skinned with golden-yellow flesh and the texture of a juicy melon. The aroma is reminiscent of honeydew, pear and vanilla while the flavor has hints of cucumber. Choose Pepinos with a sweet aroma and no bruises. As the fruit ripens, the purple streaks become more pronounced and the aroma intensifies. The flesh should be firm and juicy – like a crisp cantaloupe – not mealy. Availability is sporadic in the marketplace from February into May. Skin is edible but easy to peel if the skin is tough.
Persimmon, (Diospyro. virginiana)
Two types of persimmons are common in American markets, astringent and non-astringent. Astringent persimmons get their astringency from the presence of tannins, making them unpleasant to eat when unripe. Astringent persimmons need to be eaten when very ripe, almost mushy.
Hachiya Persimmons are astringent, heart-shaped fruit, about the size of a peach. Skin is bright orange. Hachiya variety must be fully ripe. As the fruit ripens, the skin becomes dull in color and has a rubbery texture. When the astringent tannin evaporates, the fruit becomes sweet.
Fuyu persimmons are non-astringent, have a thin, reddish-orange skin and soft flesh. Ripe fruit has a spicy-sweet flavor and is tannin-free. Described as having a flavor compared to a blend of mango and papaya, with apricot notes. Fuyus can be eaten when under-ripe, (but why bother?) Fuyus make up most of the fruit currently market but several other varieties are grown in small amounts. Season runs September through December. Persimmons are very popular in Chinese and other Asian cuisines, there are over a thousand cultivars in Asia.
Plantains, (Musa acuminate)
Plantains are a member of the banana family. They are a starchy and low in sugar that need to be cooked before serving. Plantains are used in many savory dishes much like we use potatoes. Very popular in Western Africa and the Caribbean countries. Plantains are edible from green to through yellow, then fully ripe and black. The flavor develops with the stages of ripeness, when green they are very bland and starchy and as hey ripen they develop more of a banana aroma with a bit more sweetness. They remain very firm and need cooking at all stages of ripeness.
Salmonberry (Rubus Spectabilis)
are native to wet locations in the Pacific Northwest from Alaska to California. The berries ripen from mid-June to late-July. The berries resemble raspberries orange-pink to red in color. Flavor is said to be rather insipid, but variable from one bush to another. They may be bitter depending on ripeness running to semi-tart but high in vitamin C and anti-oxidants although there are people who enjoy these berries. Salmonberries even have their own fan page on Facebook. This is more important as a food source for wildlife than it is for human consumption although Native American tribes used the bark as a poultice and did eat the berries. There is a limited commercial source for farmed berries but the bushes and seeds can be purchased from sources on-line.
Snake Fruit, Salak
is the fruit of a palm tree native to South East Asia. Known as snake fruit due to the reddish-brown scaly skin. They are about the size and shape of a ripe fig. Snake fruit is said to cause constipation, especially if eaten in quantity. According to Mark Wiens, if you eat the inner "film" covering the fruit you can avoid the fear of constipation.
Soursop, (Annona muricata), Brazilian pawpaw, guyabano, corossolier, guanavana
Closely related to the cherimopya, its flavor is described as a “combination of strawberry and pineapple with sour citrus flavor notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavor reminiscent of coconut or banana”. Eaten fresh the fruit is usually cut into sections and eaten with a spoon, but the fruit is also added to drinks or chilled and eaten with cream and sugar. The tree is strictly tropical. There is some limited production in South Florida but this is mostly in back yards not commercial. Inside the fruit is a white pulp with many seeds and fibrous membranes around pockets of flesh. The skin is bitter and inedible, covered with many soft spines. Availability in the U.S. is mostly canned
Surinam cherry, (Eugenia uniflora), Barbados cherries, Brazil cherry, Cayenne Cherry
The flavor is described as “somewhat like a bell pepper with a hint of tomato, grass, and sugar. In fact, the less ripe berries are quite tart and grassy in flavor.” Very juicy, sweet with a touch of bitterness and resin. Used in jams, jellies and pies, to eat fresh, split the fruit and remove the seed, then chill for a couple of hours and the resinous flavor will dissipate.
Tamarind, (Tamarindus indica)
The unripe fruit is considered too acidic for consumption but one ripe it becomes sweeter and is used in desserts, as a jam, blended into juices or sweetened drinks, sorbets, ice creams and many snacks. It is also consumed as a natural laxative. We use tamarind here mostly as an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce and chutneys.