We all are encouraged to eat five portions of fruit a day. Here are 11 exotic alternative choices for adding to your fruit basket, if you can get them.
11. Carambola – Star Fruit
Named very appropriately for the shape into which this fruit grows, the carambola is also widely known as starfruit. It grows mainly in SE Asia, though horticulturalists say that it could be grown easily in any other tropical location. Looking exactly like a five-pointed star when sliced, this sweet and popular fruit is not just delicious, but also rich in vitamin C and anti-oxidants, while being low in acid, sugar and sodium.
10. Pitaya – Dragon Fruit
The dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, consists of a range of delicious products from several varieties of cactus. The fruit is scattered around various Asian countries and called by differing names depending upon the country of origin, for example strawberry pear or pearl fruit. The edible flesh with prominent black seeds looks very much like that of the kiwi fruit and is eaten raw. Because of a refreshing, if slightly sour taste, this fruit is highly prized by people exercising.
Image: Yun Huang Yong
9. Durian – Smelly Fruit
Another fruit native to the same area as the dragon fruit is the often harshly judged durian. It has a reputation for smelling really awful, which undoubtedly puts some people off eating it. All the same, it is known as the king of fruits because the flesh truly is delicious to eat and very versatile, featuring in many of the dishes that SE Asia is famous for. Although there are well in excess of 30 types of durian plants, only 33% are edible.
8. Yangmei – Chinese Strawberry
Found mostly on the mainland of China, the yangmei or Chinese strawberry tree is covered at the right time of year with a colorful harvest of wonderfully sweet and succulent fruits. The tree is mainly ornamental when placed in parks and gardens, but its fruit with knobby red flesh has a distinctive sweet and sour taste, though the large seed takes up half of the entire area of the fruit.
Image: Wilfredo Rodriguez
7. Noni Fruit
This most peculiar looking fruit has several comic names, such as the dog dumpling and the cheese fruit but it actually is called the noni fruit, once again native to the Asian continent. Certainly alien in appearance, this strange fruit is used mainly to make juice drinks, which are said to be medically very beneficial. Traditionally, the fruit juice is used as medicine, treating menstrual cramps, bowel irregularities and urinary tract infections, though recent scientific testing proved inconclusive as to its effectiveness.
6. Rambutan Fruit
Mainly seen in the area around Malaysia, the rambutan fruit is covered with a spiky, leathery red skin and is very popular with the local people. It is one of Southeast Asia’s best known fruits. Full of sweet and juicy flesh that is widely used in the making of jams, rambutan is readily available in tins. The fruit’s translucent white or pink flesh looks good, tastes sweet and every fruit holds a seed, crunchy and soft, that apparently is mildly toxic if eaten uncooked.
Native to southwestern India, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the jackfruit is also common in Australia and is thought by some to be the largest tree-borne fruit in existence. Inside the fruits, the seeds are surrounded by a juicy, pulpy flesh that by all accounts tastes of mildly flavored pineapple, though the pulp is also employed in the production of sweet chips, and is commonly used in cooking.
Image: Luc Viator
Though considered by many to be very much a Chinese fruit, lychees are not only native to southern China, but also found found in India and Taiwan. The parent trees are evergreen. The fruits, concealed by a tough red covering, contain white flesh with a grape-like texture. These fruits are sweet and very much a treat for consumers. Also having a high vitamin C content, lychees are gradually making their way onto supermarket shelves across the globe.
3. Mangosteen Fruit
It is true to say that strangely shaped fruits grow on several species of evergreen trees, and one native to the Sunda Islands and the Moluccas is the mangosteen. This tree comes up with fruits that are purple on the outside, creamy in texture, and with a unique taste described as being like citrus fruits with just a suggestion of peach. Some scientists have gone as far as suggesting that the mangosteen, highly charged with anti-oxidant properties, may help to lower the risk of contracting certain human diseases including cancer, though this has yet to be proved.
2. Kumquat Fruits
One small fruit that is indisputably of Chinese origin is the kumquat. These relatively small edible fruits do look something like oranges and since they come from trees that are distantly related to the citrus family, they could be cousins. Kumquats are eaten raw (without removing the skin). They are often used in jellies and marmalades, as well alcoholic liquors. Taiwanese people have taken to adding it to tea, and there are those who believe that kumquat boiled in water can help soothe sore throats.
1. Horned Melon Fruits
Although actually native to the Kalahari Desert in Africa, the African cucumber, also known as the horned melon, is a fruit that looks exactly as the name implies it should. These days grown around the world, it is often to be seen in New Zealand, as well as being grown in Australia, Chile and California, USA. When split open, the attractive, dark green pulp both smells and tastes of several things – not just cucumber, as you might expect, but also bananas, limes and passion fruit. The blowfish fruit as it is known in the southern USA is also often used for decorating food and for mixing as smoothies and sundaes.