Broadening My Horizons: Tropical Fruits!
Last week I was contacted by Frieda’s: The Specialty Produce Company to see if I was interested in doing a tropical fruit tasting at one of my local supermarkets. I was immediately intrigued because while I eat a lot of fruit, I can’t say I’ve been too adventurous with it. I tend to always buy the same fruits and I thought it would be interesting to expand my fruit knowledge and try some I’ve never had before. Since I assume some of you may also be in a fruit rut, I took a bunch of photos and thought I’d share my personal findings with you. I liked some of the fruits more than others, but I’m really glad I tried them all and I found a few I’d definitely buy in the future. I encourage you to follow my lead and try a new fruit the next time you go grocery shopping!
The first fruit I noticed when I approached the tropical fruit display was this spiky, porcupine-looking Rambutan. I was a little intimidated by the fact that it looked like it might prick me, but the tendrils coming off the fruit are soft and nothing to be afraid of. To get to the good part you can actually just peel through the skin and squeeze the fruit out (see photos) – it’s that easy! This turned out to be one of my favorites of the fruits I tried. The flavor is sweet and the texture is similar to the inside of a grape. There is a pit in the middle, so if you pop the whole thing in your mouth you’re going to have to spit it out. I would definitely recommend trying this one.
I love bananas, but it’s hard to find ones that are perfectly ripe. I really liked this red banana because it tasted similar to a regular yellow banana, but at just the amount of ripeness I like – before they start getting brown. Maybe a little bit of that tanginess you get when they’re a little pre-ripe. Evidently that is part of their natural flavor. The texture is the same as a normal banana. I really enjoyed these.
These were definitely my favorite fruit I tasted. Not only are these bite-sized kiwi adorable, but they instead of the fuzzy skin their big brothers sport, these mini versions boast a smooth and completely edible skin – no peeling required! Baby kiwi are about the size of grape tomatoes and you can eat them just like you would grapes. The insides are sweeter than a normal kiwi and the skins are a little bit sour. I could easily go through a container of these babies in one sitting. I’ll be buying these again!
Dragon Fruit (Pitaya)
The first thing I noticed about these is that they’re really cool looking. I love the bright pink and green petals (I happen to like those colors *cough cough* - look around!). The skin is not edible though, and once you slice it open the fruit is actually white with a plethora of tiny black seeds throughout. The texture seemed similar to that of an average kiwi and the flavor was only slightly sweet. Honestly, with as bold and beautiful as this fruit looks, I expected a lot more flavor. It’s a little bland. That’ll teach me not to judge a book by its cover!
The sign for this fruit proclaimed that it has a “sherbert-like texture” and I was excited to try it, but I didn’t love this one. Unfortunately the only notes I wrote down next to it were “smooth, creamy & soft, weird taste” which is not very descriptive. To jog my memory of what "weird" tasted like I just googled cherimoya and it appears that other people absolutely love it and think it tastes like a combination of a whole bundle of other delicious fruits I love mixed together. I don’t know why I didn’t taste that when I tried it, but evidently Mark Twain said it was “the most delicious fruit known to men,” so maybe I just had a bad one. Find out for yourself and let me know what you think!
Star Fruit (Carambola)
This fruit obviously gets its nickname from its cross section resemblance to a star shape. The skin is edible, so once you wash and slice the fruit you can eat the whole thing. The Produce Manager at Tops told me that it’s ripe when the edges turn brown, so keep that in mind when picking them out at the store. I liked star fruit a lot and would eat it again. The texture is hard to describe…maybe like a cross between apple and celery? The flavor is citrusy, which surprised me, and a little sweet and tart. These are often likened to a mix of apple, pear and citrus all together and I agree with that assessment.
I was excited to try this one since I’d had it juices and smoothies before but had no real concept of what it would taste like on its own. The texture is very similar to a pomegranate, with juice pockets around seeds making up the inside. I decided to press a spoon in to burst the pulp and drink the juice. It smelled absolutely delicious and the flavor is very sour and also sort of sweet, like a sour candy. My immediate thought was “this would be amazing in a cocktail.” I was told that the more wrinkled the skin is, the riper the fruit inside, so choose the wrinkly ones! This was another one of my favorites. In my notes I wrote "I like this one!!" and underlined it. That's a good sign!
Persimmons look a lot like a tomato, but they’re harder, like an apple. The skin is edible but I tried it cut up and peeled. The inside looks similar to mango and I found the texture to be similar to cantaloupe. The flavor is very sugary. If you like your fruit super sweet, this one’s for you.
Prickly Pear/Cactus Pear
Prickly pears have a bright pinkish-red, thorny exterior and the inside fruit is an equally vibrant magenta color. Once you peel the skin off the fruit inside has a lot of seeds throughout. I tried to eat it that way, but I wasn’t a fan of being stuck with either swallowing the seeds or spitting them out in front of the managers at Tops. The texture is soft and mildly sweet. The flavor was alright, but not my favorite. Online others have described the flavor profile as being a cross between bubble gum and watermelon. I hate bubble gum flavor, so I’m sure that contributed to my unenthusiastic reaction to this fruit. The juice might be good added to other things, but with all those seeds to pick through I found the flavor wasn’t worth the hassle.
That’s my review of the tropical fruits I was able to try! I loved exploring the new flavors and I hope you’ll all be a little more willing to try some new fruits as well. I definitely found a few that I’ll surely be buying in the future!
Thank you so much to the managers at Tops Friendly Markets on Maple Road in Amherst, NY for letting me sample so many different fruits and for all the great information you provided about each one. I had a blast at my fruit tasting!