Nature is full of surprises, and you realize this every time you come across something exotic. NutriNeat has compiled some juicy facts about a few rare and exotic fruits.
Native to the Peruvian Amazon, the Mauritia flexuosa palm produces fruits covered with brown scales. Known as aguaje, this fruit has edible yellow pulp that covers a hard nut. The vitamin A content of this fruit is said to be five times more than that of carrots.
Think about fruits, and the names that cross your mind would be apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, etc. All these fruits are easily available in almost all parts of the world. The rapid expansion of global trade in fruits has added a great variety to the existing choices. Though you have easy access to an endless list of fruits and vegetables, there are many more, that you have probably never heard of.
Have you ever seen a feijoa, quince, inga, or ackee? All of them are exotic fruits with some interesting features and amazing flavors. Some of them may not look like typical fruits, but are delicious to taste. They may come in weird shapes and odd names. However, most of them are highly sought after. For example, the fruit of the baobab tree (Adansonia Digitata) is said to be highly nutritious. This fruit resembles a large mango in size. It has a hard shell and the dry pulp comes out in pieces, when the fruit is broken. The pulp is sweet and can be consumed fresh. It is also used in cooking. Apart from the baobab from Africa, there are several other fruits that can look strange, but are very much in demand. Here is a list of some exotic fruits that are found in different parts of the world.
Ackee is called ‘vegetable brain’, because of its peculiar shape that resembles the human brain.
There are certain fruits that look strange and weird. Ackee is a classic example, and is a far cry from the typical fruit. It is produced by a tree (Blighia sapida) that belongs to the family of lychees and longans. Native to West Africa, ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, where it is consumed widely. Fully grown fruits can be around two to four inches in length and resemble pears in shape. The green fruits turn red as they ripe, and split open, thereby exposing the cream-colored arils. Each aril is topped with a black seed. Arils constitute the edible part of the fruit. They have to be properly cleaned and boiled in water before cooking. Cleaning includes removal of small red veins on the arils. The cooking water has to be discarded. Ingestion of unripe and improperly cooked arils may cause Jamaican vomiting sickness, as they contain toxins called hypoglycins.
Akebia/Chocolate Vine Fruit
In China, akebia is considered as one of the best herbs for boosting fertility.
Akebia is a wild fruit that is now commercially cultivated and sold in stores. Native to Japan and Korea, the plant Akebia quinata produces chocolate-scented flowers. Hence, the name chocolate wine. However, its fruits are not chocolate-flavored. The shape, color, and size of the fruit may vary with different species and their cultivars. Usually, oblong or cylindrical fruits are commonly seen. The fruit of Akebia quinata can be light green, brown, or purplish. The edible gelatinous pulp has tiny seeds that are difficult to separate. When ripe, the fruit splits open, revealing the translucent pulp that can be slightly sweet with the combined flavor of banana, passion fruit, and coconut water. So, harvest the fruit, before they open naturally. Once the fruit turns soft, split it open through the seam of the pod. Scoop out the flesh into a bowl and consume it. Avoid chewing the seeds that will turn bitter. The rind is also used for cooking.
It takes almost a year for the bael fruit to ripen on the tree.
Bael or wood apple is produced by the tree Aegle marmelos, which is native to India. The tree is highly valued for religious as well as medicinal purposes. The fruit looks like a pomelo, and has a hard yellowish-green shell. The shell has to be broken, in order to scoop out the pale orange pulp. The sweet and aromatic pulp can be eaten as such. It can also be used for making sherbet. The pulp can be tangy in some fruits. Bael fruit is said to be useful for curing various medical conditions like diarrhea, ulcer, constipation, respiratory problems, scurvy, etc. Bael is also known as stone fruit and golden apple.
According to the Finnmark Act, cloudberries can be picked only if you consume them on site.
This is another wild plant (Rubus chamaemorus) that is very popular for its fruits. The plant is native to the Arctic and subarctic regions, and is closely related to strawberries and raspberries. The golden yellow fruits are soft and juicy, with a high water content. Cloudberries are rich in vitamin C. Each fruit comprise 5 to 20 drupelets that appear as globules. The cloudberries resembles raspberries in size. The plant is not commercially cultivated, and those found in stores are handpicked from the mountains. So, this fruit is really expensive. Handpicking cloudberries is a source of income for the locals. An increase in demand resulted in a simultaneous rise in picking cloudberries. So, laws have been enacted in various places to restrict people from picking these fruits.
Cupuacu is believed to boost the immune system and prevent diseases.
Cupuacu (Theobroma grandiflorum) is a tree that is native to South America. The fruit of this tree is also known by the same name. Cupuacu is an oblong fruit that weighs two to four pounds. The brown-colored fruit can be around 8 inches long. It has a hard outer covering and a fragrant white pulp inside. The flavor of the fruit is often described as a combination of chocolate, pineapple, banana, and pear. Cupuacu fruit is claimed to be a superfood that is highly nutritious with numerous health benefits. The tree is commercially cultivated, and the fruits are used for making various food products. They are also used as an ingredient in cosmetics like body lotions.
The fruit is named after the Brazilian botanist, João da Silva Feijó.
As the name rightly suggests, this fruit has the flavor of pineapple and guava. Otherwise known as guavasteen, feijoa is produced by a small tree called Feijoa sellowiana. The oval-shaped fruit has a green skin that covers a granular flesh and a juicy, aromatic inner pulp. An average fruit has around 30 small seeds embedded in the pulp. The sweet flesh may have a tart flavor, and the raw skin is usually discarded before consumption. Ripe fruits are delicate and will get bruised as they fall to the ground. So, harvest the fruits before the tree drops them.
Grumichama is considered as an endangered species.
As the name rightly suggests, grumichama tree (Eugenia brasiliensis) is native to Brazil. It produces purplish black fruits that taste like cherries. Some varieties produce orange-colored fruits. The long-stemmed, green fruits turn red, purple, and blackish as they get ripe. The thin-skinned grumichama fruit has a diameter of around an inch. The sweet and juicy pulp is reddish-white with one to three seeds in the center. The fruit can be consumed as such (after discarding the seeds) or used for making pies, jams, and jellies.
Inga Bean/Ice-cream Bean
The ice cream bean can be as long as 100 centimeters.
This fruit is produced by a legume tree (Inga edulis) that is native to Central and South America. The long bean pod has black seeds covered with a white cottony pulp that is sweet and edible. The pulp has the flavor of vanilla ice cream. Otherwise known as pacay, ripe ice-cream beans can be easily opened using the hands. The pulp can be consumed after removing the seeds. There are numerous inga species, but the fruits of Inga edulis and a few others are considered edible. Inga trees are very popular as nitrogen fixing trees.
Jaboticabin, a compound isolated from the fruit, is believed to have anti-cancer properties.
Native to South America, the Brazilian grape tree or jabuticaba (Plinia cauliflora) produces small grape-like fruits on its trunk. The purple-colored fruit has a diameter of three to four centimeters. The fruit has a thick skin that covers white jelly-like pulp which holds one to four seeds. These fruits are consumed fresh, and are also used for making jams, jellies, wines, etc. Rich in vitamin C, jabuticaba contains several antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. It is said to be beneficial for treating respiratory problems like asthma.
The miracle fruit can make sour foods taste sweet, and hence the name.
As the name rightly suggests, the miracle fruit contains miraculin―a glycoprotein that coats the taste buds once the fruit is consumed. It has a sweetening effect that lasts for around 30 to 60 minutes after consumption. So, even sour and bitter foods taste sweet if you consume them after eating miracle fruits. Native to West Africa, miracle fruit trees (Synsepalum dulcificum) produce red-colored berries that are ellipsoid in shape. These fruits can be around two to three centimeters long, with a single seed inside. Though it is known for its sweetening effect, the miracle fruit is not sweet in itself. The pulp of ripe berries can be consumed as such. They are also available as freeze-dried granules and tablets.
Endosperm extract of unripe nipa palm fruit is rich in antioxidants.
This fruit is produced by the nipa palm tree (Nypa fruticans) that grows in the estuaries located along the coastline of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The fruit is chestnut brown in color, and develops on a single stalk. It consists of woody nuts arranged in a globular shape. Each woody nut contains a sweet jelly inside, and it is used in desserts. The jelly is collected from the immature fruits of the palm tree. The jelly is pale-white, soft, and juicy in unripe fruits; whereas ripe ones have hard flesh that is milky white in color. Once ripe, the woody nuts separate from the stalk and floats away. The whole fruit has the size of a soccer ball, and each individual nut can be around 6 to 8 inches long.
The word pepino means cucumber in Spanish, and the fruit is also known as English pepino or pear melon.
Pepino dulce is a fruit produced by Solanum muricatum, a shrub that belongs to the Solanaceae family. So, pepino dulce is closely related to tomatoes and eggplants. Otherwise known as pepino melon or melon pear, the fruit has a taste that is similar to honeydew melon, cucumber, and cantaloupe. The size, shape, and color of the fruit may vary with different cultivars. Usually, they are seen in light yellow color (or yellowish-green) with dark streaks. They can be round to oval in shape. The yellowish flesh is juicy and sweet; and has small, edible seeds located in the center. Ripe fruits can be consumed fresh.
It is the calyx of the flower that expands and covers the physalis fruit.
The unique feature of the physalis fruit is its lantern-shaped papery covering. The fruit is golden yellow in color and resembles a small tomato in shape and size. There are several species that belong to the genus Physalis and family Solanaceae. So, these plants are also related to tomatoes and eggplants. Only a few species of this genus produce edible fruits. Physalis is sweet with a slightly acidic taste. Ripe fruits contain small seeds embedded in the pulp. Ingestion of unripe fruits may cause health problems in some people. These fruits are eaten fresh and are also used in pies, fruit salads, etc. The flavor of physalis resembles strawberries and pineapple.
It has been suggested that the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, and the golden apple in Greek mythology were actually quince, which is one of the earliest known fruits.
Quince is a fruit produced by a small tree named Cydonia oblonga that belongs to the genus Cydonia in the family Rosaceae. So, quince is related to apples and pears, and resemble them in looks. Ripe fruits are yellow with a smooth skin, and have a flavor that resembles guava, pineapple, and pear. However, these fruits are not eaten fresh, as they are too tart. Once cooked, the hard flesh of the ripe fruit turns soft, pink, and fragrant. It is commonly used in jams, marmalade, and a whole lot of other recipes. You may replace apples and pears with quinces for preparing tarts, pies, tortes, compotes, etc.
Rose Apple/Plum Rose
Rose apples are also called water apples, love apples, wax apples, mountain apples, cloud apples, etc.
Though the fruit is called rose apple, it is not related to apples or roses. Even the appearance, flavor, and texture are different. Usually, fruits produced by four species of the genus Syzygium are referred to as rose apples. The image shows the bell-shaped fruits of Syzygium samarangense. The fruit has a thin, waxy skin and a watery flesh. The cottony core carries seeds. These fruits are often consumed fresh, but are also used in salads and pickles. Otherwise known as water apple or plum rose, the water content in rose apples is compared to that of watermelon. Fresh and ripe fruits are crunchy, crispy, and are slightly sweet.
The most expensive variety called ‘Gula pasir’ is the smallest and sweetest.
The name snake fruit is derived from the reddish-brown scaly skin of the fruit. It is produced by a small palm (Salacca zalacca) that is native to Malaysia, Indonesia, Bali, Timor, etc. The leaves of the palm have long, spiny, petioles; and the fruits develop from its base. Even the fruit skin has tiny spikes that are often removed before bringing them to the market. Each fruit has the size of a medium fig and a pointed tip. The skin can be removed easily, and the flesh is found in three lobes that resemble garlic cloves. Each lobe contains a single seed. While some varieties have a dry and crumbly texture, others are soft and juicy. The flesh has a slightly acidic, but sweet flavor, which is often described as a combination of pineapple, pear, and banana. There are around 30 cultivars of snake fruit.
Star apple juice is sweet and milky white. In Vietnam, the fruit is called ‘vu sua’, which means breast milk.
These purple-colored fruits are produced by a species (Chrysophyllum cainito) that is native to the Caribbean. They are large trees that belong to the family Sapotaceae, which has other edible fruit species like sapodilla or sapota. Star apples are purple-colored fruits that are sweet and delicious. Green-skinned varieties are also seen. They are round with a diameter of around 2 to 3 inches. Otherwise known as milk fruit, each star apple has around 10 brown-colored seeds that are hard and flat. It has a leathery skin that sticks to the rind. Both the skin as well as the rind contains a bitter latex. So, cut the fruit carefully, and spoon out the white pulp. Usually, the fruits are chilled well before cutting them. Star apples are often consumed with other fruits, like mangoes, pineapples, citrus fruits, etc.
In Jamaica, this fruit is called ‘vegetable mercury’ as it is believed to be beneficial for liver health.
This is another fruit that is related to tomatoes, and is produced by a shrub (Solanum betaceum) that belongs to the family Solanaceae. Native to Peru, Chile, Ecuador, and Bolivia; this species can grow as large shrubs or small trees. Tamarillos are egg-shaped fruits with a length of around 5 to 10 centimeters. Ripe fruits can be yellow, orange, red, or purplish-red in color, and some may have vertical stripes. While yellow fruits are sweeter, red ones have a slightly tart taste. The pulp can be eaten fresh after removing the skin, or can be used in stews, chutneys, curries, etc. The flavor of the flesh is often compared to that of passion fruit, tomato, and kiwifruit.
The ripe fruit may smell like rotten cheese, but the odor reduces after peeling.
Velvet apples or mabolos are produced by a tropical tree (Diospyros blancoi) that is native to Philippines. The reddish-brown fruit has velvety fur and hence the name. The velvet apple has a maximum length of around 10 centimeters and a width of around 12 centimeters. It has a thin skin with golden hair and a pinkish-white flesh that is mildly sweet, firm, and dry. The skin emits a strong odor, but the flesh is aromatic. The core of the fruit consists of around 10 wedge-shaped seeds that can be as long as 4 centimeters. There are numerous velvet apple cultivars that vary in color, flavor, etc. Seedless varieties are also commonly available. The fruit is often consumed fresh, but can also be used in salads and desserts.
The fruit is also known as Chinese bayberry, Waxberry, or Chinese strawberry.
Native to China, Myrica rubra is a tree that produces purplish-red edible fruits called yumberry. There are numerous yumberry cultivars, and their color may range from white to purple. The flavor of the fruit is compared to that of strawberry, pomegranate, and cranberry. The fruit is spherical in shape with a maximum diameter of 3 centimeters. It has a dimpled skin, and the color of the flesh is similar or lighter to that of the outer color. The core of the fruit has a single seed that can be half the diameter of the fruit. While ripe fruits can be consumed as such, they can also be preserved in various forms like jams and jellies. Even the dried fruits and juice of yumberry is available in stores. It is also fermented to prepare alcoholic beverages.
These are only a few among the exotic fruits that are not commonly available. There are many others that you may have never seen or heard of. You may come across such rare and exotic fruits as you visit new places. However, consume such fruits only after confirming that they are safe to eat.