We have access to plenty of food in North America, and sometimes that means that more types of food exist than we even are aware of. It seems like everything under the sun exists at our local Whole Foods but we're actually not being exposed to a ton of natural foods that are available in other places in the world. We're not just talking regional dishes here, we're talking edible plants that actually grow from the earth. Here are 13 exotic fruits that you not only have never actually eaten, but have never even heard of.
The durian fruit smells so bad that it has actually been banned in some parts of Singapore. Seriously, people have compared its smell to gym socks and onions. Why would someone even want to eat something that smells so rotten to begin with? It's hard to say, but someone must have figured out it was edible at some point. If you did choose to eat it, you would pop open the spiky thing to reach the flesh which supposedly tastes sort of like an almond flavored custard. Smithsonian Magazine has described its taste as "heavenly" which is more than we can say about the average banana.
The ackee is sometimes referred to as a "vegetable brain" because it looks weird like a brain. There are arils inside that are edible but that's the only part that is. If the fruit is eaten incorrectly, it can make you very sick and can lead to Jamaican Vomiting Sickness which can end in coma or death. So be careful with that one. The fruit is native to West Africa but is cultivated in Jamaica, Haiti, and Cuba.
11 Miracle Fruit
The miracle fruit got its name for an interesting reason. When you eat the fruit by itself, it's not super interesting, but when you mix the juice with citrus juice like lemons and limes, you get a sweet taste instead of sour. This is because of a molecule called miraculin which distorts the shape of the sweet taste buds on your tongue. Sneaky. Of course, you have to keep in mind that lemons are still sour even when you can't taste them and their acid can still upset your stomach if you consume too much.
The physalis is part of the nightshade family and has a husk that covers the orange, tomato-like fruit inside. There are actually about 75 to 90 different species of the fruit, and some of them are just grown to be ornamental. This fruit is one of the exotic ones that can easily be grown in a lot of places and people even grow them in their backyards similarly to how you might grow some tomatoes. They're tasty and also look pretty cool.
Jabuticaba berries grow all over the tree's trunk. They look like purple grapes with light colored flesh inside. You usually eat the fruit raw but you can also make it in jams, wines, and liqueurs. The fruit is really good for you as it has some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory anti-cancer compounds, one of which is unique to this fruit. It has a super short shelf life however which is why it's usually only available where it's cultivated.
From the outside, this fruit looks like an orange, but on the inside it's like a green tomato. It's usually described as tasting like rhubarb crossed with a lime. Craziness. It's also known as naranjilla in some places which means "little orange." The fruit has been proposed as an option in the global flavoring industry, except it's challenging to cultivate on a large scale and it needs to be harvested before it is ripe as it gets very fragile.
7 Star Apple
Here I am eating a regular apple while I type and in South America they're eating star apples? The injustice. This fruit looks like a snack fit for a healthy princess. There are a few different related species of fruits that are all called star apples which confuses things a bit, but the version from Vietnam is called vú sữa which translates to milky breast for the milky juice inside I would assume. It's as sweet as it looks as it is often served as a dessert.
The longan is actually really common in China. It's also known as the Dragon's Eye because it sort of looks like an eyeball when you open up its shell (and dragons are always fun). It belongs to the same fruit family as lychee, but it's less tropical tasting. It's very popular in Asian snacks, soups, canned with syrup, and can be simply served up fresh or dried. When the flesh is dried it turns almost black and is used in herbal medicine for relaxation purposes.
5 Purple Mangosteen
From the outside, the purple mangosteen looks like a giant blueberry but with a fluid filled inner flesh common to citrus fruits. It only grows in tropical areas and can be found in parts of India, Asia, Puerto Rico, and it has been introduced in Florida as well. The fruit is juicy and delicious with a sweet and sour taste. In 2007 when it became legal to import them to the United States they sold for around $60 a pound at specialty stores in New York. You can find them canned for cheaper prices, but the canning process takes out a lot of flavor so that kills some of the fun.
The lucuma fruit is super popular in Peru and Costa Rica, although Europeans first reported seeing it in Ecuador back in 1531. People have tried pretty unsuccessfully to grow it in Florida. When eaten raw, the fruit is dry and has a weird aftertaste, but it is commonly made into ice cream, milk shakes, juice, and other types of desserts. Some people say it's sort of like sweet potato, others say butterscotch. In some places, it's dried and used as a natural sweetener.
The marang, in the same family as the jackfruit or breadfruit, is commonly found in southeast Asia and South America. It has a spiny outer shell but when cracked open contains a bunch of sweet arils that are conveniently bite sized. The meat inside is supposed to taste like a juicy banana, and it needs to be eaten quickly to avoid oxidation like a banana or avocado does. The seeds are also edible if roasted or boiled.
The small fruit has a spiky outer skin which basically looks like a hairy creature from the world of video games. Inside, there's little fruit that kind of tastes like a grape. While it looks pretty exotic, it's super common in Malaysia, Borneo, and Vietnam. The fruit is usually sold fresh but is also commonly made into jams and jellies.
1 Sugar Apple
The sugar apple is common in South America and southeast Asia, and sometimes goes by the name custard apple in the Philippines, as well as sweetsop in the Bahamas and Jamaica. Basically, every country has its own name for the fruit. It has a lumpy looking greenish outer shell that can be broken open and contains a white or yellow sweet flesh that tastes sort of like custard. The fruit can actually be made into a sweet wine, and it is a good source of vitamin C and the B vitamins.