Don’t let their exotic looks intimidate you—they’ve got exotic flavor to match! Next time you’re in our produce aisle, take home a taste of the tropics with some of these uniquely delicious fruits. To help demystify their appearance and how to eat them, we’ve put together a few tips and insights for you.
As mythical looking as its name suggests, the dragon fruit or pitaya, is an edible pod that grows off of flowering cacti. Don’t let the unusual exterior fool you, the very mild interior can be mixed into a variety of dishes and smoothies for a powerful burst of nutrients.
These little fruit shine as brightly as their name. When cut crosswise, the reason for its name is revealed. The yellow flesh tastes a little like a green grape—sometimes sweet with a hint of tang. Try it in fruit salads, by itself or as a drink garnish.
- This small, roundish fruit grows on a vine from spectacular flowers. When ripe, the fruit’s skin is slightly wrinkly. It’s easy to eat; cut it in half and spoon out the fruit and seeds—they’re edible. Or, add it to oatmeal or salads.
You’ll know your lychee is ready-to-eat when the bumpy skin turns pinkish-red and gives a little when gently pressed. They’re only about an inch in diameter and though the skin looks tough, it’s easily pierced with your fingernail, then peeled like an orange. The texture is similar to a grape, but be aware of the pit in the center.
The tamarind looks like a brown bean pod. The fruit becomes paste-like and sweeter as it ripens, which is why it’s also called the date of India. The shell can be easily cracked, so you can pull the fruit away from the strings that hold it in place and eat around the seeds.
The creamy texture of this high-altitude fruit lends to its other name, custard apple. The exterior is green and looks scaled, but the luscious fruit can be described as a combination of tropical flavors like banana, coconut, strawberry and mango. Cut it in half and eat with a spoon, but be aware the large, dark seeds are quite hard and inedible.
From skin to seeds, the entire guava is edible—dive in—the rind alone has more vitamin C than an orange. Guavas have a sweet, slightly floral flavor that is delicious and unique. Like any fruit, they’re great eaten alone, mixed in with a smoothie or added to fruit salad.
From a tropical evergreen tree, the deep, reddish-purple tough skin of the mangosteen is inedible, but the inner fruit has pale white sections like citrus. Sweet and tangy, the flavor has been likened to strawberry, kiwi and plums, as all of these and completely its own. It remains an indescribably delicious mystery you have to try!
The beautiful orange color of persimmons is carried throughout the firm flesh of the fruit. They look a little like a tomato and are best eaten when slightly firm. Cut them into wedges for an easy on-the-go snack with a honeyed, almost pear-like flavor. If they get too soft? You can bake them in quick bread like you would bananas or make easy freezer jam.
What looks like a leafless, hard stalk resembling bamboo is the sweet treat sugar cane. When choosing a stalk, favor those that are thinner and heavier versus a thicker lighter one. To cut it, score it all the way around, then break it rather than trying to cut all the way through it. Once peeled, you can chew the fibrous stalk to enjoy the nectar (but don’t swallow the fibers, discard them). Or, cut into thin stalks and use as skewers or swizzle sticks to impart the sweetness to your food and drink.
This boulder of a fruit has an almost coral-like exterior. The biggest surprise is when its tangy flesh is cooked up, it has a texture similar to meat. Next time you’re looking for a meatless dinner, try this giant. Sauté the ripe fruit with onion and garlic, add barbeque sauce and allow to simmer for 15 minutes—serve on tortillas.
This little fruit is strange looking. Their alien appearance and spiny exterior might make you think they’re inedible … but that would be incorrect. Totally tasty, these exotic fruits have a tender texture and a sweet flavor similar to wild grapes. Cut the circumference of the fruit and remove it to reveal the spherical white fruit that harbors a pit.
Shaped like a beautiful reddish egg, the tamarillo is also known as the tree tomato. When you cut it open, the seeds are nestled much like they are in a tomato and are edible as well. The skin tends to be bitter though, so best blanche and peel your tamarillo before eating. Or, enjoy its complex fruity and tomato-like flavor by cutting it in half and dig in with a spoon.