12 Exotic Fruits Worth Seeking Out
These exotic fruits pack a healthy punch and are surprisingly versatile: Learn what to look for and the best ways to enjoy them.
Adapted by Lauren Gniazdowski from Eat Yourself Healthy (Reader's Digest Association)
Looking like a plump, yellowish-green pine cone, the custard apple, or cherimoya, has sweet, slightly granular flesh with large shiny seeds. It is a good source of fiber and also provides vitamin C and niacin.
Choose fruit that is even in color, with no dark or splotched areas. When ripe it will just give when gently pressed (like an avocado). To ripen, keep at room temperature; thereafter store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Try this recipe: Pink Cherimoya Sorbet
From Eat Yourself Healthy
Crunchy, juicy and slightly sweet, this type of pear is a useful source of vitamin C and provides some fiber. Also called nashi (the Japanese word for pear), Chinese pear and Oriental pear, it may be small and yellow-green in color or large and brown, and the skin may be smooth or sprinkled with russeting, according to the particular variety. When cooked, Asian pears never become completely tender, but retain their shape and firm texture.
Asian pears are hard when ripe, unlike common pears. Store them in the fridge, where they will keep well for a long period – longer than apples. They are delicious raw and chilled, as well as cooked.
Try this recipe: Asian Pear and Frisee Salad
The juicy dense flesh of this fruit, also called physalis, provides vitamin C and fiber as well as beta-carotene. Sweet with a slightly sharp aftertaste, it adds an intriguing flavor to both sweet and savory preparations, either raw or cooked.
Choose yellow or orangey gooseberries, avoiding any that are greenish. If spread out, still in their papery husks, on an uncovered plate, cape gooseberries will keep in the fridge for up to a month.
Try this recipe: Lemon Verbena Tart With Cape Gooseberries
Cactus or Prickly Pear
The fruit of several varieties of cactus, this has sweet, brightly colored pulp that smells of watermelon, and a multitude of hard black seeds. The flesh is rich in fiber and also supplies vitamin C and potassium.
Choose fruit that has a fresh color and no moldy spots. If it gives when gently pressed it is ripe (it should not feel soft and squishy). Fruit that is firm can be left to ripen at room temperature. Once it is ripe, store it in the fridge, where it will keep for up to a week.
Read up on: how to cut and prepare prickly pears for juicing
Eating 3–4 raw lychees will provide two-thirds of your daily requirement of vitamin C. As these fruit are so luscious and beautifully perfumed, this is much more pleasurable than swallowing a vitamin pill.
Choose lychees that feel heavy and full, with no cracks or shriveling of the shell. The rosier they look, the fresher they will be. The fruit, still in shells, keeps well in the fridge – up to 2 weeks, although some of the perfume will be lost.
Adventurous cook? Try this recipe: Lychee Mascarpone & Emeror's Seven Treasures Macaroons
Called a 'hairy lychee' because its flesh is very like that of a lychee, the rambutan contains half the vitamin C of lychees.
Choose fruit that feels heavy and full. If tender and ripe, store in the fridge.
For a showstopper, try this recipe: Asian Tropical Fruit Salad
This egg-shaped fruit has a smooth, glossy, deep-red skin, and the dark apricot-colored flesh inside resembles that of a tomato. In fact, its flavor is more like a pleasantly tart tomato than a sweet fruit – all of which explains why it is also called 'tree tomato'. A good source of vitamin C, this vitamin is retained if the fruit is used raw in a salad.
Choose firm heavy fruit. When ripe it will give slightly when pressed and will be fragrant. Keep at room temperature until it ripens, then store in the fridge for up to a week.
Try this take on salsa: Ecuadoran Tamarillo Salsa
This elongated oval fruit has a thin green skin and slightly tart, softish granular flesh. An excellent source of vitamin C, it also provides small amounts of the B vitamins. Feijoa is delicious both raw and cooked.
Choose fruit that is fragrant. If it is not tender, leave it at room temperature for a few days – eat only when ripe and creamy-soft, otherwise feijoa can be rather bitter.
Try this recipe: Feijoa Coconut Loaf
Star Fruit (Carambola)
This fruit is a useful source of vitamins A and C, plus potassium and fiber. Its juicy, crisp flesh and attractive shape make it a decorative addition to puddings as well as to savory dishes, and it does not discolor once cut.
Choose juicy-looking fruit with a good color; avoid any with brown or shriveled edges. If the fruit is at all green, leave it to ripen at room temperature until the skin is completely yellow; the fruit should have a lovely perfume when ripe. Once fully ripe, store the fruit in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 2 weeks.
Try this healthy and delicious: fruit salad recipe.
A portion of fresh guava can contain over five times the your daily needs of vitamin C, and even canned guava contains four times. Guava is also a useful source of fiber. The hard, edible seeds are as high in vitamins as the sweet juicy flesh, so you may want to try eating them too.
When tender-ripe, guava has an intense floral aroma. Fruit that is slightly green, but still tender with some aroma, will ripen at room temperature, so buy it if that is all that is available. Once fully ripe, it can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days (do not refrigerate unripe guavas).
Want a twist on traditional barbeque sauce? Try this recipe: Guava Cilantro Sauce
A portion of quince is a good source of vitamin C, although as this fruit requires cooking to be edible most of that vitamin is lost. Quince also provides a useful amount of fiber, and it is this fiber, or pectin, that makes quince so ideal for naturally jelled confections.
Choose fruit that is aromatic. Once ripe (it will be yellow all over), it can be kept in the fridge, but wrap each fruit individually as quince bruises easily.
Try this recipe: Poached Quince
Fresh dates are energy dynamos – these little batteries contain 30 calories (kcal) per date. They also provide vitamin C (a 100 g/3½ oz portion, which is about 4 dates, supplies almost a third of the requirement) and useful amounts of fiber.
Choose plump, glossy fruit and store it in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 2–3 days.
Try this easy appetizer recipe: Bacon Wrapped Dates