Health enthusiasts, foodies, chefs and almost everyone with an acquired taste for delicacies never fail to swear by the most humble and tastiest gift of nature – “Fruits”, and this article is about the rather strange, rare or exotic ones. Fruits are the only naturally available whole foods that are available in many shapes, sizes, textures, colors, and tastes that would take a lifetime and yet you might have only scratched the surface in terms of the varieties available. Each and every level of the food chain can be linked to having this sweet, sour, juicy and what not parcel of health and taste. From the days of “apples keeping doctors away” and “mango – the king of fruits”, enthusiasts have found a new passion in exotic fruits; fruits that might not be naturally grown in an area near you. From the Brazilian Passion Fruit to the South Asian Longan, there’s a long range of fruits with exotic names and tastes that await your taste buds. So here we try to list out 15 exotic fruits available around the world that are quickly turning into global favorites.
The national fruit of Vietnam tops our list. This sweet-sour creamy fruit reminds you somewhat of a fiery red dragon with a soft sweet heart. Being a summer fruit, it is harvested in many parts of the world.
Health benefits: Vitamin C along with having very low-calorie content, easily digested carbohydrates, seeds high in omega 3 & omega 6 fatty acids which support the health of the heart. It also contains Lycopene, said to prevent prostate cancer.
Enjoy Eating: Best way to enjoy a dragon fruit is to scoop it up using a spoon and relishing it directly, some might even try to make smoothies or add a dash of sweeteners to enhance the experience. Try this delicious smoothie: Dragon Fruit Smoothie.
African Star Apple
This tropical fruit, native to Africa, looks a bit like our humble orange and is available mostly during the cold months of December to April. It has a bright orange/brown color with edible skin & dark brown seeds covered with creamy pulp which is usually eaten as is. The ripe ones are sweet in taste and are allowed to fall from the trees naturally instead of being picked up.
Health Benefits: Rich in anti-oxidants, Vitamin C, Calcium, Phosphorus, low calorie and contains no fat. Used for reduction of inflammations, curing hypertension, heart issues and much more.
This indeed is a strange fruit which looks like a palm with fingers and hence the strange name. It is also called fingered citron. The origin of this kind of citron is commonly traced back to the Far East, probably north eastern India or China, where most domesticated citrus fruits originate. Areas such as the coast of Southern California as well as inland valleys are considered ideal for planting. Most varieties of the Buddha’s Hand fruit contain no pulp or juice.
Health Benefits: This yellow fruit is rich in Vitamin C, Calcium and fibre.
Enjoy Eating: Though esteemed mainly for its “exquisite form and aroma”, the Buddha’s Hand fruit can also be eaten (often as a zest or flavoring) in desserts, savory dishes and alcoholic beverages (such as vodka) or candied. The sliced, dried peel of immature fruits is also prescribed as a tonic in traditional medicine. This fruit is also served as traditional offerings in Buddhist temples.
Cactus figs are oval shaped cactus fruits. The thick prickly skin is full of liquid and protects the flesh. The soft and juicy flesh is slightly sweet and has lots of edible seeds. Originating in the deserts of Mexico, this fruit has small prickly spines all over the exterior which must be peeled carefully before consumption.
Health Benefits: It is a tropical desert fruit containing Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Niacin, and Phosphorus.
Enjoy Eating: It has a wide variety of applications starting from its use to make appetizers, soups, and salads along with entrees, vegetable dishes, and in bread, desserts, beverages, candy, jelly, and even drinks.
This fruit can be termed as a gift from the Gods since the holy Chocolate (from the cocoa beans/seeds embedded in the fruit) as we know is made from this. Though being linked to the ancient Mayans, Cacao is widely distributed from south eastern Mexico to the Amazon basin with production being highest in tropical countries like Ivory Coast and Ghana. Also known as the food for Gods, the humble cacao pod has also had its use as a currency many centuries ago.
Having a bitter taste in its natural form it contains a large amount of Vitamin E, D, B and Magnesium. It has been linked with cures for stress, heart diseases, etc.
Enjoy Eating: It might not be a good idea to pop a seed (popularly referred to as cocoa bean) from a cacao pod directly into your mouth, but there are thousands of ways we can and we do enjoy this beauty, be it in the form of chocolates, drinks and what not! The pulp is used in some regions to prepare delicious smoothies and juices. The fermented pulp is also distilled into alcoholic beverages in the United States.
This fruit has quite a strong odor which tends to drive people away, but some might find it intoxicating too. If you are brave enough to master the stench and go for a bite, you will be amazed by the texture and taste it has to offer. Though, with an abominable stink, this fruit almost resembles a jackfruit and can mostly be traced to Thailand and few other South East Asian countries.
Health Benefits: This fruit is high in Vitamin C & B6, a great source of energy so perfect for people pursuing diets that are fruit based, a good source of healthy fats, high in iron and copper and also contains tryptophan and folic acid.
Enjoy Eating: Another way to enjoy this fruit without being a daredevil, is by trying out durian ice cream which is both odorless and delicious. Here’s a Durian Ice-Cream recipe
Despite its name, the egg fruit most resembles a yellow version of the widely popular Avocado fruit. Though native to Southern Mexico and Central America it is cultivated in countries such as Brazil, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines for its fruit. It has a sweet flesh, with a texture often compared to that of a hard-boiled egg yolk, hence its colloquial name “eggfruit”.
Health Benefits: It is rich in Beta-carotene, Iron, Protein, Calcium, Vitamin C, Niacin, high in calories.
Enjoy Eating: It can be eaten as-is in the ripe form, or the ripe fruit can be made into jam, marmalade, pancakes, and flour. The ripe flesh is blended with milk and other ingredients to make shakes or it is sometimes added to custards or used in making ice cream.
Resembling the watermelon, the pear-shaped water apple too has a high water content that results in a crisp and refreshing flavor. Also known as Thai wax apple, bell fruit and rose apple, the water apple is actually a berry. It is native to an area that includes the Greater Sunda Islands, Malay Peninsula and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Health Benefits: The fruit packs Carbohydrates, Vitamin B1, B2, B3 and C along with Calcium and Potassium.
Enjoy Eating It is mainly eaten as a fruit but works great when used to flavor or garnish drinks.
7 times bigger than a grapefruit, Pomelo has big and juicy citrus segments once you get through the thick outer layer. Pomelo is native to South and Southeast Asia.
Health Benefits: It reduces Mucus and fights viruses, contains Vitamin C, Beta-Carotene, B 11 vitamins and Ascorbic acid.
Enjoy Eating: Normally eaten like an orange, it can also be made into jams, marmalades or be candied or pickled. My take: take the paprika powder with salt and lime and mix it well with the extracted citrus pulp to make a spicy-zingy delicacy.
This sweet and smooth custardy fruit bursts with a tart-like flavour. Easily converted into a component for both desserts and savory dishes, it brings a refreshing zing to anything it’s added to. And there are the great alcoholic boozes that this fruit seasons up.
Health Benefits: That long list of health benefits commonly attributed to passion fruit is due to the nutrient, mineral, and vitamin content of the fruit, which includes antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, iron, phosphorus, fibre, and protein. It is known for its positive effects on immunity, digestive health, cancer prevention, blood pressure and improved circulation.
Enjoy Eating: Scoop up the sweet ripe pulp directly and relish, or add to sauces, jams or even drinks.
Feijoa comes from the highlands of southern Brazil and part of Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay, and northern Argentina. They are also grown throughout Azerbaijan, Iran (Ramsar), Georgia, Russia (Sochi) and New Zealand. The fruits have a juicy sweet seed pulp and slightly gritty flesh near the skin. The flavor is aromatic and sweet. A warm temperate to subtropical plant, Feijoa needs some winter chilling to fruit.
Health Benefits: Feijoa packs a lot of Fibre, Folate, Protein and Vitamin C.
Enjoy Eating: The fruit is usually eaten by cutting in half, then scooping out the pulp with a spoon. It is popular in New Zealand to stew them in a pot with sugar and serve hot with vanilla ice cream in the wintertime. Feijoa can also be torn or bitten in half, and the contents squeezed out and consumed.
Resembling a cross between lychee and small lime, Guinep has a large seed with a thin layer of pulp. Small and tasty, this Jamaican fruit makes for a perfect travel snack.
Health benefit: This sweet and tangy Jamaican fruit contains amino acids which help in regulating blood sugar along with Vitamin A, C and fibre.
Enjoy Eating The pulp of the guinep fruit can be made into a refreshing juice, a jam, sauce, and used in desserts; or just pop the peeled fruit into your mouth, suck the flesh and spit the seed (in a dustbin, of course ðŸ˜Š) on the go.
This fruit resembles the tomato, but cut it open and taste, it’s quite a different world here. The ripe persimmons are soft and have sweetness almost akin to dates. Asian countries like China, Korea and Japan are the world’s leading Persimmon producers. The fruit matures late in the fall and can stay on the tree until winter. Persimmon trees also make for a great sight and picnickers are often found to flock around it.
Health Benefits: It packs a lot of Manganese, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Dietary Fibre.
Enjoy Eating: It can be eaten as a snack or made into dessert items like pies and sweet pickles or juices.
With its translucent and juicy interior, the longan is almost a replica of the lychee. It grows in grape-like clusters and is named so because the peeled fruit looks like an eyeball. The longan is a tropical summer fruit and is believed to originate from the mountain range between Myanmar and southern China.
Health Benefits: It is rich in Potassium, Riboflavin, Vitamin C, and has very low-fat content.
How to eat: Apart from being eaten fresh, the sweet, juicy, succulent fruit is also often used in Asian soups, snacks, desserts, and sweet-and-sour foods, either fresh or dried, and sometimes preserved and canned in syrup.
Also resembling the soft and juicy interior of a lychee and a longan, rambutan has a weird spiky exterior. The rambutan is native to the Malay–Indonesian region and other regions of tropical Southeast Asia, and also is a tropical summer fruit.
Health benefit: It is a good source of Copper, Vitamin C, Manganese, and Dietary Fibre.
How to eat: Eat the sweet pulp directly, rambutan pulp can also be made into cocktails, jams and other desserts. You could also try these very good rambutan recipes (pun totally intended)
Now since all the above-mentioned fruits might be difficult to source but once you get lucky, who’s to stop you from buying quite a lot more than you could finish in a go. But the problem with such seasonal fruits is that they may rot away within a few days, so what option do we have? Freezing fruits is the exact way to store these wonders for a long time, but there’s a proper way of doing it since thawing might turn your fruits into a watery and pulpy mess. The better way to freeze fresh fruits might be to cut and peel them (for apples and peaches) and remove pits (like in peaches) and chopping them down into bite sized pieces – just the way we would have used them in the first place. Berries can be left as a whole. Then the fruit pieces can be frozen as a single layer on a baking sheet. The frozen solid fruit chunks can now be stored in the freezer for a longer time in air-dried container bags. Though it might not retain the essence of a fresh fruit, it would still work great with desserts or jams or even a quick frozen snack maybe.
If you are wondering if there anything exotic which is native to India, doesn’t look further here is the list of exotic fruits which are native to India, the second largest producer of fruits.