Guide to Exotic Fruits
The oldest known cultivated pear, the fragrant Asian pear dates to 1100 B.C. It is very juice, crisp and slightly sweet. Color ranges from green to yellow to brown. Select firm fruit. Refrigerate three to four weeks.
Asian Pear Uses: Eat out of hand, add to fruit salads, bake like apples.
Also called a prickly pear, this sweet, somewhat bland berry has a melon-like aroma and small, hard seeds. It comes from a variety of cactuses and ranges in color from green to purplish-red. Buy firm, ripen at room temperature up to two days, then refrigerate up to three days. Take care with the prickles.
Cactus Pear Uses: Carefully peel the skin, slice or cut lengthwise, and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Serve cold. Use in marmalades, jelly, ice cream or dessert toppings and blended drinks.
Also called a custard apple, this tropical fruit is native to Central and South America and has creamy white pulp with large, black, almond-shaped seeds. Its flavor resembles a delicate cross between a pineapple, papaya and banana. Select blemish and bruise-free fruit, ripen at room temperature until soft, and then refrigerate, well wrapped, up to four days. Serve well chilled.
Cherimoya Uses: Slice it in half, remove seeds and scoop out flesh with a spoon. Add to tropical fruit salads, puree for fruit drinks or use as a topping for ice cream or pudding.
The skin color of guava fruit varies from yellow to green to pink. Flesh may be pale yellow to bright red. It tastes sweet to sour, so eat only when very ripe. Choose tender fruit with some yellow; store at room temperature until soft. Refrigerate up to two days.
Guava Uses: Enjoy alone or use in jams, jellies, sauces or deserts.
Kiwano Horned Melon
Grown in New Zealand but originally from tropical Africa, these spiked melons with edible seeds have jelly-like pulp and a sweet-tart flavor evocative of bananas and cucumbers. Select fruit free of bruises and splits; store at room temperature up to two weeks. At peak ripeness, it turns golden orange.
Uses: Slice into wedges or cut in half lengthwise and eat directly from shell with a spoon. Use shell as a serving dish for ice cream topped with the pulp or for fruit dips.
This bright, yellow and white ribbed gourd has white, crispy flesh arid is aromatic. Choose firm, symmetrical melons with good rind color and a dull, waxy texture. Store uncut melons up to five days at room temperature. Wrap cut melons in plastic and refrigerate up to three days.
Korean Melon Uses: Eat fresh in wedges or cube and add to fruit salads. Use as a garnish or serve with ice cream.
These miniature orange "footballs" are entirely edible, with a sweet skin and tart pulp. Choose firm, glossy fruit and store at room temperature up to two days, then refrigerate up to two weeks.
Kumquat Uses: Enjoy whole, or slice into salads or desserts.
Native to Brazil, this is the largest berry around. Its leathery, purple-brown skin becomes brittle and wrinkled when ripe. The yellowish, jelly-like pulp has a lemony, tart flavor and contains many small, black edible seeds. Select one heavy for is size; pulp is ripe when skin is wrinkled. Refrigerate up to one week.
Passion Fruit Uses: Cut fruit in half and scoop out pulp with a spoon. Use to top ice cream or add to blended drinks.
Classified as a fruit, but mostly served as a vegetable side dish. Cooked green, plantains have a starchy taste with no banana overtones. Cooked ripe, they have a sweet banana taste with a cheesy, gummy texture. Select firm; do not refrigerate until ripe. To peel plantains, cut off ends. Cut slit lengthwise through inner curve of skin. Cut crosswise into one-half inch rounds and, beginning at slit, pry off skin.
Plantain Uses: When green, bake, slice, fry or add to soups and stews. When more yellow, bake or saute and add brown sugar, cinnamon or dash of lemon juice.
Grown in China and Japan since ancient times, this fruit is pale orange to brilliant orange-red and is nearly seedless. It has a sweet, mild flavor. Store in a cool place; use within a month. Blemishes or black spots on the skin do not affect the interior. Refrigerate ripe fruit up to three days.
Also known as carambola, it resembles a star when sliced crosswise. When ripe, the skin turns a thin, glossy yellow with brown spots along the ridges indicating sugar development. Flavor ranges from tangy sweetness to lemon tartness and the fruit can be eaten in its entirety. Store at room temperature until ripe, then refrigerate in covered container.
Starfruit Uses: Slice and enjoy. Add to fruit salad or use in jellies, tarts and drinks.