Exotic Fruits for the Die-Hard Foodie
There are a number of tasty exotic fruits lining gourmet food stores and produce aisles, just waiting to be pulled apart and devoured by anyone gutsy enough to give them a try. But while passersby may be intrigued by scaly magenta skin and grass-like growth from a fruit, many just aren't sure how to approach food they've never had before.
"These new fruits represent a really great new opportunity for discovery," says Norman Van Aken, chef and author of The Great Exotic Fruit Book: A Handbook of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits.
"At one time bananas were considered exotic, as was pineapple," he notes. "Look how much those have become mainstream."
Three to Try
One of the most eye-catching tropical fruits is the dragon fruit, which looks somewhat like an ostrich-egg-sized orb with the skin of a scaly, bright pink beast.The pulp of this cactus fruit can be purple, pink or, more commonly, white, with little black seeds like those in kiwis. And it tastes like a milder version of kiwi, with a hint of pineapple flavor. All you need to do is peel off the skin and scoop out the flesh to eat by itself or in salads. Produce specialist (and online shop) Melissa's introduced dragon fruits to the U.S. six years ago, says spokesman Robert Schueller. Native to Central and South America and Asia, they're now grown in California and are in season August through November. "The best way is to let them ripen and eat them purely and simply," right out of your hand, Van Aken says. Tropical fruits should be ripened at room temperature, but after that can be refrigerated if you want to serve them cold. Still, "if you want a milkshake, I wouldn't fault you for it," Van Aken adds. Melissa's Great Book of Produce also says that a number of tropical fruits go well with ice cream. The rambutan (photo below right) looks like a small red ball of fur -- or a tentacled sea creature -- but the flesh inside is sweet, not slimy. Closely related to the lychee and longan, rambutans are firmer and have a milder flavor, much like a grape, and grow on trees across Asia as well as in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Just work through the green hairs and peel off the skin to uncover the refreshing white fruit with an almond-sized pit inside.
Goodness in a GlassOne tropical fruit that has jumped in popularity recently is acai, now hailed as a wrinkle-fighting, mind-sharpening antioxidant power food. And acai berries, which boast more antioxidants than pomegranates or blueberries, are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and so-called "good fats" as well.
|Chew on a Cherimoya|
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