What are the best tropical fruits? 15 exotic types to try
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How many of these unusual and exotic fruits can you recognize? (And how many have you actually tried?)
Well, it’s definitely not like comparing apples and oranges! Outside of occasional appearances on sci-fi TV shows (as food from other planets, you know), many of these fruits are still a little alien to most people in the US — including the ones actually grown here.
Here, see what 15 of these tropical and exotic fruits look like, so you can recognize them the next time you see them on display in the produce aisle at your local gourmet or Asian grocery store.
The Mangosteen grows mainly in Southeast Asia, but also in tropical South American countries such as Colombia, as well as in Puerto Rico.
The fruit of the mangosteen is sweet and tangy, juicy, fragrant and somewhat fibrous, with fluid-filled pieces — much like citrus fruits), with an inedible, deep reddish-purple rind when ripe.
“The rambutan, Nephelium lappaceum, is a fruit considered exotic to people outside of its native range,” Notes rambutan.com. “To people of Malaysia, Thailand, the Phillippines, Vietnam, Borneo, and other countries of this region, the rambutan is a relatively common fruit the same way an apple is common to many people in cooler climates.”
Lychee, Litchi chinensis, was first introduced into Hawaii 100 years ago, but has been cultivated in China for nearly 4,000 years, says the USDA. Peeled before it’s eaten, the fruit is whitish colored, as seen below.
Pineberries are much smaller than the strawberries we are used to see today, but what makes the pineberry so distinct is their white flesh studded with red seeds, says VitalBerry BV, European soft fruit suppliers. “The aroma and flavor of pineberries never disappoints — the striking berries have a pineapple flavor.”
Buddha’s hand (Citrus medica/bushukan/fingered citron) is a fragrant citron variety whose fruit is segmented into finger-like sections. The origin of Buddha’s hand plant has been traced back to Northeastern India or China.
The Dragonfruit (pitaya fruit) comes from a climbing-vine cactus species native to the tropical forest regions of Mexico and Central and South America, according to the US Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida.
They also note some of the reasons for the attention being given to this tropical fruit include the reported health benefits associated with the fruit’s high antioxidant properties; and the dragonfruit’s popularity at high-end restaurants is due to its unique taste, beauty and versatility — it can be eaten fresh or turned into juice, desserts, jam, ice cream, cocktails and wine.
The fruit experts go on to say that the refreshing texture is soft, smooth and melting, and the flesh is studded with large, black, inedible seeds. “Almost custard-like, is also known as the custard apple.”
The melon has a sweet and tart, banana-lime taste — a flavor which is enhanced when chilled, say the experts at SpecialtyProduce.com, adding that the brighter the orange skin, the sweeter the flesh of the fruit.
The Horned melon is the size of a large pear and generally weighs less than one pound. Both the seeds and the flesh are edible.
Prickly pears, found on paddle-shaped cactus plants, were originally native only to the Americas. Therefore, it’s not truly exotic for Americans, because these fruits are found all over several Southwestern states, including Arizona — even if they aren’t often eaten.