Fresh Ideas Uncommon Fruit

Rather than reaching for fruit you know already, try something new! Many fruits aren't well known in the United States because they grow in tropical or subtropical areas. Fortunately, today's transportation systems are increasing the variety of fruits available from near and far—at all times of the year. Look for these or other unusual fruits in the produce department of your store, in the canned food aisle of your supermarket, or in Asian and Hispanic food stores.

Red bananas, amnazano bananas, apple bananas, plantains—not just yellow bananas! To help make fruit an adventure, try different varietals of common fruits, too—perhaps apples, bananas, oranges, plums, and pears—for their unique flavors, textures, and perhaps cooking qualities.

  • African horned melon, also known as Kiwano, is unique in appearance: spiked, oblong shape, goldenorange color, with juicy green fruit inside that tastes like cucumber, banana, and lime.
  • Asian pear looks like a yellow apple—and has a similar firm, crunchy texture. It's sweet and juicy and nice to eat as a whole fruit or mixed in salads.
  • Atemoya (a-teh-MOH-ee-yah) is a cross between two fruits: cherimoya and sweetsop. With a green skin, it has a petal-like look. Inside, the cream-colored, custardlike pulp is studded with large black seeds and offers a mango-vanilla flavor.
  • Blood orange is a tart, yet sweet orange with flesh that's either bright red or white with red streaks.
  • Cherimoya (chair-ih-MOY-ah) (custard apple) has a custardlike consistency and flavor. On the outside it looks like a little green pineapple without leaves. The inside has little black seeds. It tastes like a mixture of fruit flavors: strawberry, banana, pineapple, and mango. It's best to eat it as whole fruit; just cut it in half, remove the seeds, and scoop out the fruit.
  • Cape gooseberries are juicy and bittersweet beneath their "Chinese lantern" skin. They're tasty with meat, other savory dishes, and desserts.
  • Feijoa fay-YOH-ah, or fay-JOH-ah) looks like a kiwifruit without fuzz. Inside its cream-colored flesh is sweet, fragrant, and pearl-like. To eat it, remove the skin, which may be bitter, cut it in half, and scoop out the fruit. It's a great recipe substitute for apples or bananas.
  • Guava (GWAH-vah) (guayaba, or gwey-AH-bah) is a sweet, fragrant fruit that's about the size of a lemon. Its peel varies in color from yellow to purple, and the fruit inside may be yellow, pink, or red. Eat guavas as whole fruit, or in sauces, salads, juices, frozen desserts, and jams.
  • Kumquat (KUHM-kwaht), in the citrus family, looks like a small, olive-shaped orange. Because the peel is very thin, a kumquat is eaten with the peel on— either uncooked or cooked with meat, poultry, or fish. Slice it as a garnish or for salads.
  • Longan (LONG-uhn) is a small, round, cherry-sized fruit with a thick, nonedible brown shell. Inside, the white, juicy fruit, which surrounds a large black seed, is fragrant and sweet.
  • Loquat (LOH-kwaht), a small, pear-shaped fruit, is light orange in color on the inside and the outside. Somewhat tart, it has a pit, which must be removed. Loquats are eaten whole, and often prepared in salads or in cooked poultry dishes.
  • Lychee (LEE-chee) (litchi), a fruit that's just 1 or 2 inches in diameter and has a pink to red shell. Inside, the fruit is white and sweet with a consistency like a grape. Its seed isn't edible. Lychees make a nice snack or a dessert just as they are.
  • Mango, a sweet-tart and juicy fruit, ranges in size and shape. It can be about 6 ounces to 5 pounds, and it may be round or long. Its inedible peel is orange when ripe, with orange fruit inside and a large seed. The best way to eat a mango is to either peel back the skin and eat it with a spoon . . . or remove both peel and seed and cut into pieces. Mangoes are eaten in fruit salads, smoothies, and desserts and may be prepared with cooked meat, poultry, rice, or grain dishes.
  • Mangosteen (MAN-goh-steen), small in size, has an inedible leathery brown skin. Inside, the soft, white, juicy fruit divides into segments. Buy this fruit canned; it's rarely available fresh.
  • Papaya (pah-PEYE-ah) (pawpaw) may weigh from 1 to 20 pounds in an elongated, oval shape. Its inedible peel is yellow or orange, with an orange fruit inside and many black seeds. It has a tart, sweet flavor that is delicious as is or mixed in salads.
  • Passion fruit (granadilla, or gra-nah-DEE-yah) is a small, spherical fruit with a leathery peel, which may appear shriveled. It has a perfumelike, sweet-tart flavor. The color varies from light yellow to reddish-purple. It may be eaten as a whole fruit or added to salads, sauces, desserts, or beverages.
  • Pepino (puh-PEE-noh), ranging in size from a plum to a papaya, is a fragrant fruit with a smooth, golden skin that's streaked with purple. Inside, the yellow flesh is juicy sweet. Enjoy a peeled pepino whole, or cut it for salads or garnishes.
  • Persimmon (puhr-SIHM-uhn) looks somewhat like an orange-red tomato with a pointy end. If it's ripe, it's sweet. If not, a persimmon is mouth-puckering, bitter, and sour. It may be eaten as whole fruit or used in desserts and baked foods.
  • Pomegranate (PAH-meh-gran-uht) is unlike any other fruit. It has a red, leatherlike peel; inside, membranes hold clusters of small, edible seeds with juicy red fruit around the seeds. The flavor is both tart and sweet. Pomegranate seeds are often used in salads and in many cooked dishes.
  • Pomelo (pom-EH-loh), a huge citrus fruit, can be as big as a watermelon! But it's more commonly the size of a cantaloupe. In many ways it looks and tastes like a grapefruit, but the sections are not as juicy.
  • Prickly pear (cactus pear), which is yellow-green to deep yellow, is the fruit of the cactus plant. It has a sweet, mild flavor. It should be peeled and seeded before eating. It may have small hairs or needles in the peel that can be uncomfortable if they get into your skin. The fruit itself is eaten fresh or used in salads, sauces, and other dishes.
  • Sapodilla (sah-poh-DEE-yah) is a small, egg-shaped fruit that has a rough, brown peel. Only the creamy pulp inside is edible—when it's ripe. The flavor is mild, much like vanilla custard.
  • Starfruit (carambola, or kar-am-BOH-lah), with its unique shape, forms stars when the fruit is sliced. The flavor varies from sweet to tart. It can be eaten as fresh fruit, in salads, or as a garnish.
  • Tamarillo (tam-uh-RIH-yoh), with its tough but thin peel, is about the size and shape of a small egg. Because it's so tart, it is often sweetened with sugar. Often it is used in baked or cooked foods.
  • Ugli (UH-glee) fruit is a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. It's sectioned on the inside but looks like a small grapefruit on the outside.
  • Zapote (zah-POH-tay) (white sapote) is a sweet, yellowish fruit about the size of an orange.

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