Apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, peaches, pears, strawberries, blueberries, grapefruit…these fruits are all great and you probably love them as I do and eat them regularly but the lesser known and more exotic fruits are awaiting to awaken your senses.
Fresh fruits are in abundance year round where I live and summer also brings unique tropical delicacies that you may have never tried or heard of. Right outside my neighborhood in Florida is an amazing produce stand that carries 100’s of items including the common fruits and vegetables and the not so common ones. I love to buy a new item that I haven’t heard of or tried each time I visit. While my kids may laugh at me and think I’m a little crazy, I tell them that the produce place is like Disney World to me 🙂
Check out these fruits that are locally grown here in Florida. Ask at your local farmer’s market, produce stand, or grocery store if they ever carry them or see if you can get some online and give them a try….the flavors are unique and impressive.
While this fruit is mostly cultivated in Asia and Africa it is also grown in the Caribbean, Hawaii and right down the street from my house. It has a very fragrant smell and to me tastes like a combination of a lemon and lime but with the texture of eating a grape. It is very high in vitamin C and is higher in phytochemicals, those great antioxidants, than grapes and apples. The lychee is great eaten alone but also amazing added to a pitcher of water to add flavor or smashed up with fresh mint leaves in water for a very refreshing summer beverage.
CARAMBOLA (star fruit)
The star fruit is seen mostly in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Southern United States. Many of my neighbors have trees in their yard with 100’s of star fruit growing on them. This fruit is low in sugar and to me doesn’t have a very strong flavor. It tastes a little like a green apple with a little citrus and sour flavor. It is used a lot to decorate salads and other dishes as it is very pretty to see and fun for people to eat those star-shaped slices. The star fruit is rich in potassium and vitamin C with a lot of antioxidants.
This mac daddy of a fruit is huge! The produce place usually has one by their entrance on its own little table or wagon and everyone that comes in comments on it. They can be so huge that it makes people wonder what branch on a tree could hold the gargantuan fruit. It is the largest fruit in the world and can weigh up to 100 pounds! They are high in potassium, protein and vitamin B. It grows in tropical to sub-tropical locations. The jack fruit has a musty sort of smell to it and people will tell you that the fruit tastes better than it smells. It is somewhat comparable in flavor to a mild mango, with a little peachy or pearlike taste. The fruit is mostly added to jams, smoothies, juices, ice cream or dried and used in chips or soups.
Plantains are a staple side dish here in Florida. Many restaurants will serve fried plantains or sugary sweet coated plantains with rice and seafood dishes. While they look a lot like large bananas they are typically eaten cooked not raw like a banana. The plantain is a major food staple in Africa, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. Since they fruit all year round they can be enjoyed in any season. They have more starch and less sugar than a banana and have a more neutral flavor like a potato which is why they cook them and usually add sugar and spices. I personally prefer them dried into chips with no added sugar 🙂 The plantain is a carbohydrate source but is low on the glycemic index, unlike potatoes and many grains. They have similar amounts of vitamin C to a sweet potato.
The guava is native to Central and South America and can be seen in many tropical locations. It is a pretty fruit that is usually round or oval and smells a little like a lemon rind. Different varieties can have different colors including green, pink and white. The guava is used a lot to make juices, candies, fruit bars, dried snacks, and desserts. They are rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C (four times the amount in an orange) and also have moderate levels of folic acid. Guava leaves have been used as a remedy for diarrhea and fever and the bark has been used in treatment against diabetes.
There are many varieties of this delicious fruit grown all around me here in Florida. I have a few mango seeds starting to grow at my house right now in hopes that I will have a sizeable tree that may bear fruit by the time my 8th grader has a house of her own….hahahaha. The mango is native to Asia and grows in tropical locations around the world. Almost half of the worlds mangoes are grown in India. Here in Florida kids peel them and eat them like apples, juice running down their faces and all 🙂 I love to eat them raw or mix them into smoothies and salsa. They are great in many seafood dishes and the recipes using mangoes in this area are endless (relishes, chutney, desserts…mmmm). Right down the street from me are mango fields that grow and ship mangoes all over the world.
The papaya is seen mostly in Mexico and Central America. My old neighbor had a few papaya trees growing right along our driveways and they were a lot of fun to watch grow. The papaya is rich in vitamins A and C, folate, and dietary fiber. They also have a variety of phytonutrients including lycopene and polyphenols. This fruit is usually eaten raw without the skin or seeds. It is also used in curries, stews, and salads. Papayas have been used to treat digestive problems, fevers and the leaves have been made into a tea to treat malaria. While a lot of people may be turned off by the smell or taste of papaya, I think they are yummy when mixed into a fruit salad with other tropical fruits or when mixed with juices and smoothies.
Another Mexican native, the annona can grow in areas that do not get below 28 degrees including some areas of Florida. The fruit, also know as sugar-apple, is eaten but the seed kernels can be toxic. The flesh of the fruit is white and creamy and resembles the taste of custard. This fruit is high in vitamin C, manganese, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and potassium. There is a Philippine company that produces a sugar apple wine…I would love to try that some time.
If you read my blog regularly you know about Brad, my avocado tree that I have been growing since he was a little Pit…..hahaha….hence the name. Florida avocados are much larger than the well-known Mexican and Central American variety (Hass) and are green not brown when ripe. Ah, the avocado, how do I love thee, let me count the ways. I can’t emphasize enough how much I love avocados. I eat them every day in my smoothies, salads, on sandwiches, as a dip, in my “milk”shakes and “ice cream”…I could go on and on about my love for avocados. They are a great source of healthy fats, which you need when you eat a plant-based healthy diet (and not the high fat meats, fish and dairy). The avocado is a fruit but with a rich, creamy texture that is not sweet like most fruits.
So, there you have a partial list of some exotic fruits that grow around me and that I like to experiment with in my cooking and diet. Now all this talk about fresh yummy fruit is making me hungry so I think I will hop on my scooter and go over to the produce stand to “pick” out a variety of fresh, natural, healthy food for my lunch.
Choosing healthy living over dying 🙂