When was the last time you picked up a fruit that had an unpronounceable name and promised complete unknown within? If you enjoy exploring new tastes, here are 9 funky fruits you have to try.
1) Rambutan, Malaysia/Indonesia
Rambutan—messy haired fruit with juicy white flesh. Photo by kool.angot.
Rambutan is thought to be native to Malaysia and Indonesia but is wildly popular throughout Southeast Asia. Its Vietnamese name, chôm chôm meaning “messy hair,” is a fitting description of rambutan’s fuzzy outer layer.
Inside, the fruit is like a larger, juicier version of a lychee, with soft white flesh and an inedible seed. It is easy to peel and usually eaten raw or added to fruit salad. Make sure the skin is red for ripeness and the “hair” isn’t black.
2) Jackfruit, India
Jackfruit—the largest fruit to be plucked from trees. Photo by abcdz2000.
Jackfruit is thought to have come from India but is now common in East Africa, Jamaica, Brazil and Southeast Asia. It can claim the award for being the largest fruit that comes from a tree, weighing as much as 80 pounds.
It has a tangy banana flavor and its consistency is fibrous with a starchy flesh, which, when it is less ripe, makes a great chicken substitute in Sri Lankan and Eastern Indian curries. Sweet fans can put jackfruit in custards and cakes or eat it as dried chips.
3) Kiwano, Africa
Kiwano—an indecisive fruit that is a cross between a melon, cucumber, banana and lemon. Photo by V31S70.
Kiwano is a fruit of many names—horned melon, horned cucumber and even English tomato. It is thought to be part of the melon family, has a jelly-like flesh and tastes somewhere between a cucumber and banana with the tangy taste of lemon.
In its native land, the Kiwano is eaten as a snack or in salad while in other countries its vibrant skin is regularly used to garnish dishes as well as being an edible fruit. All parts, including the seeds and skin, are edible, though it is more common to eat only the pulp.
4) Fingered Citron, Northeast India/China
Fingered citron, otherwise known as Buddha’s hand. Photo by xeni.
Otherwise known as the Buddha’s hand, the fingered citron can be traced back to Northeast India and China. Unlike most citrus fruit, the fingered citron contains only a small amount of edible flesh and is predominantly comprised of bitter peel.
The fingers stretch around four to six inches in length and despite its often seedless and juiceless attributes, it has still been put to edible use by being candied or used as zest in cooking. The rind can also be added to salad or fish.
5) Ackee, West Africa
Ackee—Jamaican staple, great with saltfish. Photo by DrewToYou.
The ackee is another lychee relative, but much larger. When ripe, the fruit turns red and the skin parts to reveal three black, inedible pips and a soft, creamy colored flesh. The fruit was imported from West Africa to Jamaica in the 18th century, where it became the national fruit.
Ackee with saltfish is Jamaica’s national dish and is popular at breakfast. Beware, though, the fruit is toxic when unripe. Even when ready to eat, it is fully cleaned and boiled for half an hour.
6) Durian, Indonesia/Malaysia
Durian—love it or hate it, everyone should try it . . . at least once. Photo by YIM Hafiz.
Durian requires little introduction on account of its odor, which some describe as a cross between sewers and rotting onions. More appealing is the description given by naturalist Alfred Wallace who claimed the fruit had “a rich custard highly flavored with almonds.” Many describe a mix of the two—a custardy consistency with an onion flavor, but it is worth forming your own opinion.
Do, however, be careful where you try the fruit as it is banned in some hotels. Durian is eaten raw and also added to ice cream, cakes and even cappuccino.
7) Pitaya, Mexico/Central America
Pitaya, otherwise known as dragon fruit, great in a smoothie. Photo by chooyutshing.
Derived from the cactus family, the pitaya, more commonly known as dragon fruit, has a striking look—fiery red with green spikes on the outside and white and black speckled flesh inside. Thought to originate from Mexico or Central America, pitaya is also popular in Asia.
Only the flesh is eaten and is similar in taste to melon or kiwi with a delicate flavor. The fruit has a high water content and is often eaten raw or juiced. The fruit is also known for its flowers, which can be used to make tea.
8) Mangosteen, Malaysia
Mangosteen—no, that’s not a garlic bulb inside. Photo by su-lin.
The mangosteen can be traced back to the Sunda Islands, Malaysia, and is available through Southeast Asia. It has a hard, inedible dark purple skin and inside the white flesh is shaped like a garlic bulb but is sweet and juicy.
Be careful as seeds are tucked inside each of the segments and are bitter. The flesh is most often eaten raw, and in countries where there are restrictions on imports, mangosteen can sometimes be found canned or frozen.
9) Ugli, Jamaica
Ugli fruit . . . but tasty fruit. Photo by Oggie Dog.
The Ugli fruit’s brand name is a fair description of its saggy, wrinkly, brownish skin, but doesn’t do justice to the sweetness inside. Native to Jamaica, the Ugli fruit has links with the citrus family.
The fruit’s taste is a combination of the sourness of grapefruit, the robustness of an orange and the tangy taste of a tangerine. When ripe, its slack brown skin morphs to orange and is sweeter than its tangerine and grapefruit relatives. It is versatile enough for salads, cheesecake and marmalade.
Have you tried any of these funky fruits or are there any that should be added to the list? Let me know in the comments below.
If you liked this article, you might also like: Top 10 Most Daring Delicacies in the World.
Main photo: Want something more exotic from your market stall? by frankartculinary.