Other Exotic Tropical Fruit

Other Exotic Tropical Fruit
ababai
ababai
Ababais resemble small papayas, and can be cooked or grilled without losing their shape. They're hard to find outside of Chile, where they're grown.
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ackee
ackee
The pulp of this fruit looks and tastes like scrambled eggs when cooked, and Jamaicans like to serve it with salt cod. Look for cans of it in Caribbean markets. Warning: Only the yellow pulp on ripe ackees is edible. Eating underripe ackees that haven't opened on their own, or eating the pink portion of ripe ackees, can cause vomiting and death.
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breadfruit
breadfruit
This is the plant that the H.M.S. Bounty was carrying in the South Pacific when its crew mutinied. Captain Bligh's goal had been to transport the seedlings from Tahiti to the Caribbean, so that slaves there would have a ready source of starch and calories. Breadfruit is highly perishable, so fresh ones are hard to find outside the tropics. The canned version is a good substitute. A seeded version is called a breadnut.
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canistel
canistel
This is a very sweet fruit, roughly the size of an egg, with a shell the color of an egg yolk.
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carissa
carissa
You won't find these in markets, but these tart plums are great for making preserves.
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cashew apple
cashew apple
This Brazilian fruit looks like a squishy apple with an odd-looking stem growing out of it. According to botanists, though, the grayish "stem" is actually the fruit, and it encloses the kidney-shaped cashew nut that we're familiar with. The cashew apple is the yellowish-orange part that's attached to the fruit. This fruit is juicy but somewhat astringent due to a high concentration of tannin. Be careful of the grayish substance that encloses the nut. It contains toxic oils.
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Chinese date (fresh)
Chinese date (fresh)
These are usually dried, but you can sometimes find fresh dates in late summer and fall. When you get them home, let them ripen on the counter for awhile until they become soft and sweet. Chinese are different than middle eastern palm dates.
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dragon fruit
dragon fruit
This comes from a cactus native to Central and South America, and has a mild flavor. To eat it, either peel it or cut it in half and scoop out the white, polka-dotted pulp with a spoon. Select dragon fruit by pressing it gently. It should give just a little.
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durian
durian
The weird and smelly durian has attracted a cult-like following. It's called the King of Fruits by aficionados in Southeast Asia, but Westerners usually don't care much for its mild oniony flavor. Once cut open, the durian eventually gives off such a strong and foul odor that it's banned on Singaporean subways. Look for it in Asian markets. The boiled seeds of the durian are called betons.
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feijoa
feijoa
To eat feijoas, just cut them in half and scoop out the pulp with a spoon. They also make terrific preserves and syrups. Look for them in large supermarkets. If they're hard when you buy them, allow them to ripen at room temperature until they give a bit when you squeeze them, then store them in the refrigerator.
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guava
guava
These bruise easily, so markets usually sell them while they're still hard and green. Allow them to ripen at room temperature until they become yellow and very aromatic, then either eat or refrigerate them. The peel and seeds can be eaten along with the juicy pulp, but some people remove them.
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illama
These are hard to find outside of Mexico or Guatamala.
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jackfruit
jackfruit
This is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world--it weighs up to 100 pounds. It's hard to find fresh in the United States, but Asian markets sometimes stock canned jackfruit. The yellowish pulp tastes a bit like banana. The seeds can be boiled and eaten. Watch out for the sap--it can stain your clothes.
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langsat
langsat
This sweet and sour fruit from Southeast Asia looks like a small potato. Don't eat the bitter seed inside.
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litchi
litchi
his popular Chinese fruit is about the size of a walnut, with a bumpy red shell encasing white translucent pulp that's similar in texture to a grape. The flavor is sweet, exotic, and very juicy. Don't eat the shell or the seed. Fresh litchis are available from May to July. If you can't find them, canned litchis are a good substitute. Don't confuse fresh litchis with litchi nuts, which are sun-dried litchis that have a much different texture.
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longan
longan
Longans are very similar to lychees and rambutans. You can buy them fresh (in the summer), dried or canned.
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mabolo
mabolo
These look like rust-colored fuzzy apples.
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mangosteen
mangosteen
Some claim that this is the most delicious fruit on the planet, though it's hard to find in the United States. It's about the size of a tomato, and has a leathery, mottled skin.
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monstera
monstera
You'll probably have to go to Florida to find this bizarre tropical fruit. It looks like a banana covered with green scales, which buckle and separate as the fruit ripens. Beneath the scales are kernels of pulp, which you scrape off like corn from a cob. The kernels have a pleasant tropical flavor and creamy texture. Wait until the scales separate before eating the kernels--unripe monsteras can irritate your mouth.
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Otaheite gooseberry
Otaheite gooseberry
This tart fruit looks and tastes like a gooseberry.
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passion fruit
passion fruit
This nutritious, aromatic fruit has a tart, sweet flavor. The sweet purple variety is the most common, but you can also find yellow passion fruit (sometimes called golden passion fruit), which is more acidic, and a giant version that has a more subtle flavor. Choose fruit that have wrinkled skins (indicating that they're ripe) and heavy for their size. To eat one, cut it in half and scoop out the pulp. You can eat the small seeds, but some people remove them.
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pawpaw
pawpaw
Australians use this name for the papaya, while others use it for the cherimoya. A real pawpaw has a dark brown peel and orange flesh. Eat only after it's completely ripe.
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pepino
pepino
These are juicy and have a mild melon flavor. You can eat the peel if you like.
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plantain
plantain
These look just like large green bananas, and they're usually cooked before eating. Hispanic and Caribbean use them like potatoes, either frying them or boiling them in stews. Different recipes may call for plantains in varying stages of ripeness, with their skins either green, yellow, or black. A green plantain will first turn yellow and then black if allowed to ripen at room temperature. As it ripens, the pulp becomes sweeter and less starchy.
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prickly pear
prickly pear
The pulp of these cactus fruits is a brilliant red or, occasionally, a yellowish green, and it tastes a bit like watered-down watermelon. Cooks exploit the color by adding slices of the pulp to fruit salads, or by puréeing it and straining out the seeds. They're quite popular in Hispanic countries and around the Mediterranean.
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rambutan
rambutan
These are similar to litchees and longans, but they're covered with soft spines. Peel before using.
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rose apple
rose apple
These rose or green fruits are pear-shaped and are said to taste like rose water. The seeds are poisonous.
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rosella
rosella
This is grown in Africa.
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salak
salak
These are about the size of a plum and are covered with brown scales.
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sapodilla
sapodilla
This fruit looks like a bald, brown kiwi fruit.
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soursop
soursop
This large, dark green fruit is covered with soft prickles. The pulp has a slightly acidic, tropical flavor. Don't eat the seeds or peel.
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star apple
star apple
These are similar to star fruit, only with purple skins.
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tamarillo
tamarillo
This fruit is notable more for its ravishing beauty than its flavor. It's about the size of a oblong plum, with a smooth peel that can be purple, red, orange, or yellow, with the yellow variety tending to be a bit sweeter. Slicing it in half reveals black or orange flesh (the darker the peel, the darker the flesh) surrounding a nest of seeds. It's more acidic than sweet, and tastes a bit like a tomato. It's best if it's peeled and cooked before eating.
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tamarind
tamarind
The pulp from the tamarind pod is used as a souring agent in Latin America, India, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. To extract the pulp, shell the pods, put them in a saucepan, then add enough water to completely cover the pulp. Simmer for about half an hour, then strain out and discard the seeds. It's a nuisance to do this, so many cooks simply buy the extracted pulp in bricks, jars, cans, powders, or bottles. There's also a sweet tamarind, which looks like the sour variety and is used primarily to make drinks.
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toddy palm seeds
toddy palm seeds
These are seeds from the toddy or jaggery palm. Sap from the same tree is used to make jaggery (a kind of sugar), wine, and vinegar. You have to cook them before you can eat them. People in Indian and Southeast Asia roast and split the seeds, then suck out the yellow gelatinous pulp inside. It's available frozen or canned in Indian and Southeast Asian markets. Be careful if you pick your own: the red fruit surrounding the seeds contains oxalic acid, which can burn your skin and do even more damage if eaten.
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