Exotic tropical fruit
The five most delicious fruits from the Tropics
Have you ever tried tropical fruits? I don't mean pineapples, bananas or mangoes, but fruit that's decidedly different from the everyday selection. Deliciously different too.
To bump up my fruit intake I've been trying new and exotic fruits and discovered the wonders of five delectable fruits growing almost on my own doorstep.
Why not try these tropical fruit delights? Even if you don't live in the tropics, the modern wonders of refrigeration and fast transport can bring even the most exotic tropical fruit to your table.
You've probably seen lychees in cans but, with the miracles involved in modern transportation, they could turn up, fresh, at your supermarket.
I've tried the tinned variety and they're not too bad. Then there's lychee wine, I've tried that too, ice-cold, to accompany a seafood salad. Refreshing, a quaff for a hot night but not something I'd drink frequently.
A lychee is a most attractive fruit with translucent, pearly white flesh and a hard brown seed.
Peel the rough crimson skin before eating and keep the seed for the compost. For quick eating just bite the top off, squeeze the fruit straight into your mouth and spit the seed out. Simple. Not an overpowering taste.
Rambutans are a lot like lychees, just not so sweet. A lot hairier too!
They have an almost- tart, refreshing taste, just lovely on a hot day. Put them in a salad, or use as an after-dinner fruit. Simply peel away the skin to expose the flesh then enjoy!
Make a fresh and colourful fruit salad by peeling and removing the stones from rambutans, then tossing together with sliced strawberries, sliced green kiwifruit and cubed rockmelon.
.Rambutans can also be poached in a syrup or added to stir-fries.
How to Prepare Rambutan and Lychee
"King of Fruits'
Dine on a Delicious Durian
The King of Fruits
Durian is a strange, bumpy-skinned thing known as "the King of Fruits", and notorious for its odd spiny shape and pungent smell.
You really have to try one to appreciate its exquisite flavour. I approached my first durian with some trepidation (it smells funny) took a tiny bite and now I'm hooked!
These jungle rainforest trees are enormous, as high as 40m. They take 8-10 years to fruit. It's worth the wait!
Durians are packed with goodness. Very low in cholesterol and sodium, and a good source of thiamin, vitamin B6 and manganese. It's also packed to the spines with vitamin C.
Watch out for the smell
On the nose
Orangutans love durian, they don't mind the whiffy aroma (some people could say durians stink) for the smell means nothing when it comes to chomping into a beautiful tasty durian.
It amazes me how any human came to eat a durian in the first place - it must have been for a bet! - for once cut open, the fruit smells frightful.
Many hotels ban tourists from taking durian to their rooms. The trick is to eat it fast! You have about 10 minutes before the smell gets too much. (You can devour a durian in less than 5 minutes if you really set your mind to it).
Durian from Tree to Table
How to eat a Durian
It's a race against time!
To determine if durian fruit is ripe, people smell the bottom of the stem. If the smell is strong, it's ready to eat. By the time a durian has been exported and reached you, the stem smell has faded, and you would then use the tapping method.
This is achieved by hitting the fruit with a stick and listening for a slightly-hollow "thunk".
Wipe down your largest chopping board or lay a newspaper out on the floor and chop the durian in half using a cleaver. It opens to reveal four seeds covered in pale yellow flesh. You dig out a giant seed and proceed to suck the creamy flesh.
Beware, it's very sweet, very filling, and you don't have much time!
Largest Tree Borne Fruit in the World
A sort of large family size durian
Another fruit with a prickly outside, jackfruit looks a bit like durian in a large economy size. It's also a little bit on the nose.
The jackfruit is indigenous to India, but spread early throughout Southeast Asia and Indonesia, and now grows in northern Australia.
The amazing jackfruit tree bears the largest tree-borne fruit in the world. A single fruit can weigh as much as 36 kilograms and be a metre long!
To bear this weight, the flowers and fruits of jackfruit don't grow on branches but grow directly on the tree forks or tree trunks.
How to Prepare a Jackfruit
A vegetarian substutute
Crack open a jackfruit and you will find the pods or "bulbs". We call them the seeds in Australia, but they are actually a kind of fleshy covering for the true seeds or pits, which are round and dark like chestnuts.
Jackfruit can be eaten green, cooked in various forms, as well as eaten ripe. The fruit has a creamy sweetness with hints of pineapple and banana. The seeds, with their nutty taste and texture, are just gorgeous.
Jackfruit is very similar in texture to chicken, making an excellent vegetarian substitute for meat.
Cooking with Jackfruit
- Six Recipes from Australia
Jackfruit Recipes at Food Down Under Recipe Database - 6 Recipes for jackfruit
Mangosteen - "The Queen of Fruits"
If durian is the King of Fruits, then mangosteen is the Queen.
Mangosteen is round and purple, somewhat smaller than a tennis ball. To eat it, you can crush the brittle yet moist rind with your palms to reveal the pure-white delicacy inside. The bitter rind is inedible, and the fruit comes in the form of variously sized wedged segments, the largest of which may hold a solitary seed.
It's said that Queen Victoria offered knighthood to any subject who could bring her a mangosteen fruit in prime condition.
Sadly, because of the impossibility of preserving the fruit during the weeks-long journey no one received the prize. It's been suggested that, thanks to the Queen's quest, the fruit achieved the title of "Queen of Fruits," but mangosteen lovers will tell you it has nothing to do with Victoria and everything to do with its taste.
Mangosteen tastes like ice cream
In different flavours
The mangosteen tastes more like icecream than anything else besides icecream. And you never know what flavour of icecream.
Sometimes a mangosteen can taste like strawberry icecream, sometimes vanilla. And sometimes you would swear you are eating a peach. Whatever the individual taste of each fruit, it's delicate and divine.
I sympathise with anyone who can't get a fresh mangosteen.
taryneast passes on a handy tip she picked up in Thailand.
How to tell if a Mangosteen is ripe -. If it's solid as a rock it's not ripe. You want one that has a peel that you can press your thumb into.
What are they?
Xanthones are powerful phytonutrients found in few plants and are composed of stable carbon-structure molecules. It's easier to say that xanthones have been shown to be potent antioxidants and to inhibit inflammation.
The mangosteen fruit is believed to contain one of the highest concentrations of xanthones in any one edible source.
I'm not a scientist, I eat mangosteens because they taste so good.
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© 2008 Susanna Duffy