Bananas. Grapes. Apples. They’re all yummy and they’re all great for you, but like anything else, they can become humdrum if you eat them constantly, without a little exotic variation. Living in California, I have access to quite a few exotic specialty fruits, which are also more common now in any urban supermarket. However, I have a tendency to walk past some of the stranger (okay, more unusual) looking fruits and stick with the tried and true. Unfortunately, this can lead to some real boredom.
Although exotic fruits and vegetables still represent 1 percent of all produce sales, “some things once introduced as specialty items are now mainstream and not considered exotic anymore,” said Karen Caplan, president of Freida’s Specialty Produce in Los Alamitos, Calif.”
This quote comes from a neat article I read on ABC’s website, called “13 Weird Fruits and Vegetables – Exotic Produce.” They’ve got some pretty neat stuff on that list, some of which I’m going to try for the first time. There are a few that I don’t plan to try. However, some of the fruits on their list are actually the favorites I’m about to share. I guess one person’s exotic fruit is someone else’s apple.
You may have heard of this fruit, also called a Paw Paw Melon, in a song sung by Baloo in “The Jungle Book” movie. I don’t know how tropical it is, but my brothers and I ate them whenever we visited my cousins in Alabama. They may not be native to America, but they do still grow in some parts of the South and they’re one of my favorite fruits. Some people think they taste like a cross between a banana and pineapple. I think they taste like a pina colada or some kind of tropical pudding. Either way, they’re delicious. Just cut them open and eat with a spoon.
The cherimoya is a fruit that I saw sometimes in Latin markets, but never tried until I went to the home of a wonderful older lady from Puerto Rico. I’ve been hooked ever since. They’re ripe when they’re mostly brown and smell a bit like vanilla. Just slice open, get rid of the black seeds and scoop out the flesh. I think it tastes a lot like vanilla custard.
Also called carambola, the star fruit is really common in South Florida, where I first tried it. They’re beautifully star-shaped when you slice them horizontally and you can eat the skin. They have a texture that’s a lot like watermelon, but a flavor more like a Granny Smith apple. They’re delicious in fruit salads or on a fruit plate and they’re loaded with Vitamin C. Choose one that has a nice strong melon-y smell to get a ripe fruit.
If you watch Food Network much (or are addicted, like certain vegetarian bloggers) you’ve probably seen celebrity chefs using Meyer lemons. They’re grown here in California, and I love them for making lemon sorbet. They’re sweeter than regular lemons and not as acidic. The skin is thinner than a regular lemon, too. Pick nice heavy ones – they have the most juice.
Tomatillos are also popular on the Food Network, especially with Bobby Flay. They’re the ones that look like green cherry tomatoes, but with little paper blazers on. They are related to the tomato, but they have a sweeter taste. They’re amazing for making salsa verde!
I’m going to have fun trying some things I’ve never eaten (dragonfruit is one) and I’d love to hear what exotic fruits are a normal part of your diet. We all need to shake things up a bit from time to time and exotic fruits are a great way to do it.
Surprisingly sweet and juicy orangey flesh with few seeds. The outside skin is thick as are the membranes inside the fruit. Sometimes called a Uniq fruit, ugli fruit comes from Jamaica and lacks the tartness of a grapefruit. It’s very sweet like a tangerine and easy to peel, but there might be a challenge to get consumers to buy it if they’ve never tasted it before, pointed out Caplan. “Whoever thought of the name did a really good job,” she added.