Anna Plumbaum

Anna Plumbaum

Contributor

Bananas, mangos, and pineapple are treated as tropical fruits in the supermarket — in reality, they are just as commonplace as apples and pears nowadays. But have you heard of pitahaya, durian, and rambutan?

Here are 13 lesser known tropical fruits that are waiting for you in nature’s fruit basket:

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Dragonfruit:

Pink with green tufts, the dragonfruit certainly stands out. There is also a yellow-skinned variety, which is less common. Also known as the pitahaya, it grows from climbing cacti and is widely loved throughout southeast Asia and central America. Cut open, a pink or white flesh is revealed and can be scooped out. The dragon fruit has a subtle sweetness and goes extremely well in smoothies or atop müsli.

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How to cut a dragonfruit

How to cut a dragonfruit

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Passion fruit:

In greenhouses, this plants climbs everything, blossoming beautiful flowers that then give way to the round passion fruit. Their skin is somewhere between red and violet, which, as it is stored, grows darker and more wrinkled. The sweet-sour flesh can be eaten straight out of the skin and goes perfectly with creamy coconut desserts. It can also be used in dressings and chutneys to give them a summery twist.

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Pomelo:

Weighing up to 2 kilograms, the pomelo is the heaviest of the citrus fruits. It tastes bittersweet with a subtle sourness, though the Chinese honey-pomelo is particularly aromatic. In order to get to the light yellow or pink colored flesh, it is important to cut away the thick skin and remove the segments from the pith. Pomelo tastes great on its own or in a hearty salad with coriander and mint.

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Mangosteen:

Due to its unique taste, the mangosteen is known as the king of fruits in southeast Asia. It smells spicy and sweet with a subtle sour note. Beneath the dark violet skin, a segmented white fruit is revealed that bares a remarkable resemblance to large garlic cloves (within some of them are seeds that should not be eaten). Mangosteen tastes best unadulterated—simply peel and eat with your hands.

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Litschi, rambutan, and longan:

Belonging to the same family, these three fruits are of similar size and are easily distinguishable from other hot-climate fruits. Litchis have a pinky-red skin, while rambutan have a red skin with soft, green thorns. Longans are smooth and brown-yellow in appearance. Concealed below their outer layers, is an oval milky-white flesh; each variety tastes slightly different. With their sweet-sour aroma, they go particularly well in tropical ice creams or cocktails.

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Star fruit:

The decorative star fruit is also known as the carambola and grows on trees all around southeast Asia. When ripe, the fruit is bright yellow outside and light yellow within. One eats star fruit complete with its skin, usually cut cross-wise to preserve its star shape. It doesn’t just go brilliantly with Christmas desserts and fruit salads, but also can be used to give dips and sauces an exotic twist.

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Guava:

Guava has eight times more vitamin C than an orange, earning its status as a super food. Originally from Central and South America, they grow from trees that can grow up to ten meters tall. The fruits resemble pears and, depending on the variety, are white, light green, or pink on the inside with a tangy, sour taste. You can eat them raw like an apple, but for those with a sweeter tooth, it can also be eaten as a compote or in a crumble.

Durian:

Durian is very divisive. Some laud it as the king of fruits for its complex, intense flavors, whilst others find the smell of it to be unbearable. Durian are around 30 centimeters long and grow up to 50 meters high in trees in southeast Asia. Underneath the spiky skin are small chambers filled with lung-shaped, yellow fruit. The creamy durian fruit tastes best when just freshly picked.

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Star-, custard-, and rose apple:

These exquisite, tropical fruits all share the word apple in their names but that is as far as their similarities go. All three are extremely difficult to find in Europe and are best tried where they are grown, in southeast Asia and in Central and South America.

Star-apples are most similar in shape and texture to persimmons. You’ll need to cut through the violet-green fruit in order to see the star-shaped interior, where the seeds are. The flesh is white-violet and has a sweet, creamy taste. However, the custard-apple is even creamier, identifiable by its mushy, white insides and black seeds.

Custard-apples really are actually more of a custard than a fruit! Rose apples are very juicy, crunchy and fruity. They are most like pears in appearance, but with a light red peel and sour flesh.

Have you tried one of these tropical fruits or have a favorite recipe with them? Tell us in the comments below!

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