Buddha’s Hand (or Fingered Citron) has very little flesh, is juiceless and like most citron, beautiful citrus fragrance. It’s often used just for its peel (candied or as zest). Since they are seedless and the pith isn’t bitter they are great sliced into salads or on fish. Apparently they are available at some Whole Foods stores but I haven’t seen them at our local Whole Foods.
Durians have a thick, spiky skin, are large (typically 6 or 7 lbs or 3kg in weight) and STINK. As a kid living in Singapore and I can remember as soon as someone got on the bus with one in their bag you’d smell it (they were banned from the mono rail because of their smell offending other passengers). Durian is often eaten in fresh segments straight out of the shell. If you can get the soft flesh past your nose it’s sweet and creamy. It’s sweet flavour makes it popularly used in cakes, sweets and icecreams.
My kiwi readers will surely have eaten this fruit because New Zealand is a great spot for growing Feijoas. Many of us ate them in season straight off the garden tree (in my case, my grandparent’s tree). They have a short shelf life and can be easily bruised so are generally consumed in growing regions. Most commonly they are eaten by cutting them in half and scooping out the flesh. I used to be able to demolish a dozen in one go.
Dragon Fruit (Pitaya) is one of the most striking looking fruits. I had a Malaysian customer who likened it to kiwifruit because of the black seedy flesh but on the outside it couldn’t be more different and to me the flavour isn’t up to that of a kiwifruit. The white flesh variety is the most common but there is also a beetroot coloured flesh. Warning, don’t eat the bright pink ones when you’re wearing white.
Kiwano melons (or horned melons) are another spectacular looking fruit. They have bright orange / yellow shells and lime green jelly centres. They are an African native but I used to export them out of New Zealand (although many New Zealanders might be surprised to hear that as they aren’t frequently found in NZ supermarkets). Like all melons, they belong to the cucumber family. Horned melons kind of taste like a cucumber too!
Whilst cashew nuts are common in the West many Westerners may have never seen a cashew apple. The “apples” have a very short shelf life so whilst we are familiar with the seed (roasted, cracked and salted) the de-seeded apples are often juiced, eaten by those living near the crop or given to local farm animals. Technically, it’s not a fruit because the “apple” is actually a stem for the seed (the cashew kernel) but I think these things are interesting. The apple looks like a sweet pepper but it’s fleshy like a mango.
Legend has it that Queen Victoria put out a 100 pound reward to the first to bring her a fresh mangosteen. I have no idea if anyone managed to collect of that offer! Mangosteens need consistently warm conditions to grow so are found in places near the equator. You’ll see these in all the markets in SE Asia. They have a thick purple skin which takes a knife or a bit of effort to get open to the white, fleshy pods on the inside.
I was first introduced to Chirimoya when I lived in Chile. They grow well in high altitudes and are thought to be native of the Andes. They are similar to Custard Apples, Sugar Apples and Soursop (but not quite the same). Chirimoya are about the size of a grapefruit and they are ready to eat when they are bit brown and yield about the same as a ripe avocado. They have big, black shiny seeds and are super, super sweet.
“Rambut” means hair in Indonesian and Malay and so Rambutan is literally “hairy thing”. In Vietnam they are called “chom chom” or “messy hair”. Bright red with soft spines they look a little crazy like “Animal” from Sesame Street. They are quite easy to get open, taste a bit like a lychee or longan with grape-like flesh and have a big seed in the middle. The seed is quite easy to get out but I find it’s easier just to spit out the seeds as I go.
Jackfruit are ginormous. Reaching up to 86 lbs (36kg), 36 inches in length (90cm) and about half that in diameter. Believe it or not, they grow on trees. They are similar in appearance to Durian but aren’t related. The Jackfruit flesh is really fibrous and often eaten when they are not quite ripe in cooked dishes. Such as gudeg, one of my favourite Indonesian dishes which is made with young Jackfruit and coconut milk. Yum!