When you’re in the produce aisle of your grocery store, you’ve probably seen some oddly shaped fruits next to your standard fare of apples and bananas. Some resemble vegetables, while others look a bit intimidating, so you quickly scoot your cart past them.
While you may be a pro at picking out strawberries and watermelon, there are plenty of fruits just waiting to be explored. It’s worth giving these unusual fruits a second pass. Besides, eating colorful fruits can paint a beautiful picture of health.
Phytonutrients in every color
“It’s beneficial to incorporate a variety of fruits in your diet because each fruit has an abundance of fiber and different vitamins, minerals and health promoting substances called phytonutrients or phytochemicals,” said Karen Hemmes, a registered dietitian at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. “Each color can offer different health benefits, so why not eat the rainbow?”
Phytonutrients are compounds that give plants their beautiful colors, unique flavors and aromas and have health-promoting effects too. They can help:
- reduce the risk of several chronic diseases
- reduce inflammation and improve immune function
- protect against exposure to environmental pollutants
- enhance psychological well-being
Try these 10 unusual fruits
The world is full of so many wonderful fruits in addition to the ones we’ve grown accustomed to—you just have to know where to look. With growing globalization, you might be surprised what you can find right at your local supermarket or farmer’s market.
The next time you go, here are 10 exotic fruits to keep your eyes peeled for:
While it can be quite a stinker—literally, it smells like onions—this large, spikey fruit is hailed as the “king of fruits” by those in Southeast Asia, where it hails from.
About the size of a volleyball, durian isn’t cheap, but worth cracking open. Once you get through that thick, stinky layer of skin, you get to the fleshy middle that has a sweet, bitter taste and a custardy texture.
To eat, you’ll need a screwdriver or hammer to dig into the durian along its seams. Once deep enough, you can pry the hull apart and take out the pods of fruit to enjoy.
Pitaya or dragon fruit
Pitaya, or dragon fruit, is a pomegranate-sized fruit that’s become a super popular addition to juices and smoothies.
Dragon fruit gets its name from its vibrant skin and scales that look like, well, a dragon. To eat, you have to slice it open and scoop out the pulp and seeds. “Slightly sweet and crunchy, dragon fruit tastes like a cross between a kiwi and pear,” Hemmes said.
Dragon fruit is packed with healthy ingredients. It’s high in magnesium, fiber, iron and vitamin C, prebiotics and betacyanin, which is a natural colorant found in the fruit that has antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory properties. “Dragon fruit also has antioxidant properties and anti-cancer effects that may help prevent breast cancer,” Hemmes said.
The national fruit of Bangladesh, jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world. It has a mild sweet taste and a meat-like texture. You may have even noticed it used as a meat-replacement in some barbecue dishes.
To open it, you just slice the fruit in half and remove the flesh from inside.
“Jackfruit is rich in vitamin C and B—and fruits aren’t typically high in vitamin B,” Hemmes said. “It also contains potassium, calcium, flavonoids, which reduce inflammation, and carotenoids, which can be beneficial in protecting against cancers, cardiovascular disease and age-related macular degeneration."
Lychee or rambutan
Lychee or rambutan, which means hair in Malayan, gets its name for the hair-like spikes on its red skin. This ping-pong-sized fruit has a sweet, floral flavor, but a very short shelf life—so eat it soon after purchasing.
To open rambutan, use a knife to slice halfway around the fruit so you can pop out the flesh in the middle. You can enjoy it raw, in salads and cocktails.
“Rambutans are high in vitamin C, flavanols, which can reduce inflammation, and antioxidants,” Hemmes said. “They also help regulate blood sugars, have a protective effect on the liver and reduce triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol).”
Kiwano or horned melon
Horned melon goes by many different names, including jelly melon, hedged gourd, African cucumber, English tomato and melano. The orange fruit with spiky skin and alien-like seeds can be quite intimidating, but the sweet, fresh flavor can’t be ignored. It tastes like a mix of bananas or kiwi and cucumbers.
To eat, slice the fruit in half and scoop out the green seedlings. You can enjoy raw, in a salad, smoothie or dessert.
“Horned melons are high in vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, iron and has a low glycemic index,” Hemmes said. “It’s also low in calories and higher in protein than most other fruits.”
While it might slightly resemble green kiwis in shape, gold kiwifruit has a smooth, hairless skin. As well, its flesh is a vibrant yellow color with a smaller core and fewer seeds. The added bonus is that it’s not only sweeter than green kiwis, but it’s still low in sugar and high in fiber.
“Gold kiwis have the highest vitamin C content of almost any fruit—three times more than an orange, which is surprising because it's not a citrus fruit” Hemmes said.
To eat, you can simply cut and scoop out the flesh or slice into pieces (Hint: the skin is totally good to eat; just wash it well beforehand).
Persimmons are a bright orange fruit that look a lot like tomatoes but have a sweet, mild and rich taste. It has an apricot-like texture and is best eaten while firm and crisp. To enjoy, simply slice like you would an apple.
“This fleshy fibrous tropical fruit is high in vitamins A and C, magnesium and antioxidants, which may help lower cholesterol, control blood sugar and improve skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis and acne,” Hemmes said.
Cherimoya or custard apple
Native to South America, this oval-shaped fruit has a strange appearance but has a sweet reward inside—just watch out for the seeds (they’re toxic!). The fruit has a custard-like texture and tastes similar to a blend of tropical fruits. In fact, Mark Twain loved them so much, he called them “the most delicious fruit known to man.”
To eat, cut in half, scoop out the seeds and eat it raw, use in a salad, puree or in ice cream or a dessert.
“Cherimoyas are rich in vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, magnesium and have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, neuroprotective, anti-cancer and anti-obesity properties,” Hemmes said.
Golden berries or Peruvian groundcherry
Golden berries, also known as Peruvian groundcherry, Inca berry, poha berry, husk cherry or cape gooseberry, are a bright, orange-colored fruit that’s similar to tomatillos as they are wrapped in a husk.
Slightly smaller than a cherry tomato, golden berries have a sweet, tropical flavor, resembling a pineapple or mango. They are great alone, in salads or a smoothie bowl. But you must only eat them when they are ripe as they may be poisonous if you eat them unripe. To be safe, only eat ripe golden berries that have no green parts.
“Golden berries are high in vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K, iron and antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory benefits,” Hemmes said. “They may also boost immunity and bone health and help combat the growth of cancer cells.”
Feijoa or pineapple guava
Last, but certainly not least, feijoa, or pineapple guava, is a sweet, tangy fruit worth getting your hands on. Many people compare the taste to guavas and pineapples—hence where it gets its name—but there is also a slight strawberry flavor. The green fruit is about the size of a small avocado and can be enjoyed in smoothies, cocktails, desserts and fruit dishes.
To eat, you can enjoy the whole thing (skin and all!), but most people prefer to cut feijoa in half like an avocado, remove the seeds and then scoop out the soft, sweet flesh with a spoon. Its most ideal ripeness is when the seed pulp is completely clear.
“Feijoa is high in fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants and may aid in digestion, stimulate cognitive function,” Hemmes said.
Eating a variety of fresh fruits (and vegetables!) is a great way to keep you on a healthy path, so why not try one of these 10 exotic fruits this year?