25. Every week, buy one exotic fruit you’ve never tried. It could be something as relatively common as a mango, or as unique as a lychee. Here are some tips on what these fruits are and how to enjoy them:
Asian pear. Also called an Oriental, Chinese, salad, or apple pear, this firm pear is meant to be eaten immediately when it’s hard. It’s sweet, crunchy, and amazingly juicy.
Cherimoya. Also called a custard apple, this large tropical fruit tastes like a combination of pineapple, papaya, and banana. Purchase fruit that’s firm, heavy for its size, and without skin blemishes or brown splotches. Let soften at room temperature, then refrigerate, wrapped, up to four days. To serve, cut in half, remove seeds, and spoon the fruit from the shell.
Guava. Sweet and fragrant with bright pink, white, yellow, or red flesh. Buy when it is just soft enough to press, and refrigerate for up to a week in a plastic or paper bag. To use, cut in half and scoop out the flesh for salads, or peel and slice. Try cooking and pureeing slightly underripe guava as a sauce for meat or fish.
Kiwi. This fruit never took off until they changed the name from Chinese gooseberry to kiwifruit. Now it’s one of the most popular of the exotics. With a flavor that’s a cross between strawberries and melon, kiwis are ready to eat when they’re slightly soft to the touch. Peel and chop, or cut in half and scoop out the flesh with a grapefruit spoon.
Lychee. Once, lychee trees were found only in southern China, but the popularity of this tropical fruit has caused its spread (it is now widely raised in Florida). The lychee fruit is about 1 1/2 inches in size, oval, with a bumpy red skin. Peel off the inedible skin and you get a white, translucent flesh similar to a grape, but sweeter, surrounding a cherry-like pit. Eat ‘em like large grapes, one after another. They’re available only for a few months a year, but buy a pound next spring and discover why Asians call lychees the king of fruits.
Mango. One of the most commonly eaten fruits in the world, along with bananas. The flavor is a combination of peach and pineapple, but spicier and more fragrant (it is sometimes called the tropical peach).
Papaya. Soft, juicy, and silky-smooth flesh with delicate, sweet flavor. The center of the papaya is filled with small, round, black, peppery-tasting seeds, which can be eaten but usually aren’t. Peel, then slice into wedges or cut into chunks, or slice in half, remove seeds, and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Unripe papayas can be peeled, seeded, and cooked as a vegetable, and you can grind the seeds like pepper for adding to sauces or salads.
Passion fruit. Passion fruit has golden flesh with tiny, edible black seeds and a sweet-tart taste. When ripe, it has wrinkled, dimpled, deep purple skin. To serve, cut in half and scoop out the pulp with a spoon.
Persimmon. Delicate in flavor and firm in texture, persimmons can be eaten like an apple, sliced and peeled, and are great in salads.
Pomegranate. Available in the fall, it’s the seeds of this crimson fruit that you eat. Each tiny, edible seed is surrounded by translucent, brilliant red pulp that has a sparkling sweet-tart flavor. Choose fruit that feels heavy for its size with bright color and blemish-free skin. They can be refrigerated up to a month, while the seeds can be frozen for three months. To serve, cut the fruit in half and pry out the seeds. Use them to top ice cream, sprinkle into salads, or simply as a snack.
Quince. Tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear, with a dry, hard, yellowish-white flesh that has a tart flavor. Better cooked than raw. Quinces keep up to two months wrapped and refrigerated, and are primarily used for jams, jellies, and preserves.
Star fruit. Although they look exotic, most star fruits today come from south Florida. Slice them crosswise for perfect five-pointed star-shaped sections as a garnish or for fruit salads. Star fruit’s flavor combines the best of plums, pineapples, and lemons.
Tamarillo. This subtropical fruit is sometimes called a tree tomato, but the comparison ends there. Native to South America, this egg-shaped fruit has a glossy outer skin that hides crimson fruit that turns golden when cooked or heated. The orange-yellow flesh, studded with a swirl of edible dark red seeds, has the texture of a plum and is slightly tart. To peel tamarillos, plunge into boiling water for about 30 seconds, then slip off the skins. Cut crosswise into slices.