These exotic fruits look wonderfully strange, and they taste of adventure.
By Allison Kade
"I ate a whole lemon, raw, and it was delicious," says Katie O'Neill, a Philadelphia-based medical student. No, she wasn't on drugs, but her perception was chemically altered: after eating miracle fruit, nearly everything tastes (temporarily) sweet. The experience is so psychedelic that many have dubbed it "flavor tripping."
Miracle berries, native to West Africa, are a trendy example of the weird world of exotic fruits. A sure sign that you've landed somewhere new, such fruits intrigue and challenge us, whether by their unfamiliar size, shape, texture, or smell. The stinky durian fruit, for instance, has become infamous among travelers to China and Southeast Asia.
Such crazy, beautiful, and above all, natural fruits are a vivid reminder of the planet's incredible, if precarious, biodiversity. As many farmers mass cultivate the same breeds of common fruit over and over again, other versions may die out to make room for bestsellers like Golden Delicious. At the same time, fruits once considered exotic (like mango or, recently, acai) can find their way into the American mainstream, which makes encountering an unfamiliar fruit that much more of a tantalizing novelty.
Keep reading for more exotic fruits bound to stimulate your senses.Akebi fruit
This brilliantly purple fruit thrives in northern Japan, in the Tohoku area, but only briefly, making an appearance for about two weeks in early autumn. It grows on a wild vine and, for many Japanese people, is a symbol of the changing seasons. When the fruit is ripe and ready to eat, it pops open on one end. The gooey pulp inside is slightly sweet, while the rind is slightly bitter and is usually used as a vegetable. Do as locals do, and slurp up the flesh along with the seeds.
Native to southeastern Brazil, this strange bowling ball-esque fruit grows right off the main tree trunk. The deep-purple fruits have a white pulp inside that can be eaten raw or used in jellies. "Jaboticaba was very fun to eat," recalls Tyler Burton, who lived in Brazil for two years. "You gently bite into them and the juice squirts out into your mouth, and you spit the seed and skin out."
What's green and scaly all over? Cherimoya fruit, although the inside is white and creamy, with many dark brown seeds. It's currently grown throughout South and Central America and South Asia (the name originally comes from the Quechua word chirimuya). Mark Twain called it the "most delicious fruit known to men," and generations later, that reputation is holding up. Dan Clarke, who works for Real Peru Holidays, a company that specializes in vacations to Peru, says, "The usual English translation for it is 'custard apple,' which sounds tasty enough, but doesn't come close to capturing the creamy sweetness."
Found in the tropical rainforests of Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and northern Brazil, these Amazonian fruits are oblong and fuzzy. Their outer shells are very hard and thick, and one fruit generally weighs two to four pounds. The pulp inside smells like a mix of chocolate and pineapple-only logical once you know this fruit is related to cacao. In fact, its pulp is similar enough to cocoa butter that it's sometimes used in cosmetics. Meanwhile, the juice has been said to taste like a pear, with a hint of banana. Like the superfruit acai, cupuaçu has so many great phytochemicals and nutrients that it is sometimes used in food supplements.Fingered Citron fruit
Also known as Buddha's hand, this fruit has long yellow growths that really do resemble fingers. It's used, appropriately enough, for religious offerings in Buddhist temples, mainly in China and Japan. Fingered citron is also a chef's favorite. At Portland's Pazzo Ristorante, chef John Eisenhart makes marmalade from it in the winter. Pastry chef Megan Romano of Chocolate & Spice Bakery, in Las Vegas, slices it paper-thin and poaches it in simple syrup to use as a chip to garnish ice cream or sorbet. And Vera Dordick, a trained pastry chef and former culinary instructor, particularly likes infusing the fruit in vodka: "so much more fragrant and flavorful than regular lemons," she says.
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