I get no kick from a pear, a mere nectarine doesn't thrill me at all....
September 25, 2011 5:45 PM   Subscribe

Inspired by this question, I'd like to ask for recommendations of non-standard, non-Western fruits and guidance on how to prepare / eat same.

I find oranges, apples, grapes and other fruits commonly found in Western supermarkets to be sort of boring. I have access to markets with all sorts of fruit, though, and have tried and appreciated things like horned melon and star fruit. What else should I try and more importantly, how do I consume it? Just today I was flummoxed by a rambutan.
posted by Morrigan to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Asian pears are going to be in season very soon. Slice thin and sprinkle with a little salt, put slices in a salad, or throw some chunks in with stir-fry.

Fuyu persimmons you can just peel and slice. You should try cherimoya (slice in half and scoop with a spoon) and sweet lemons (I like to just suck on some slices) too.
posted by specialagentwebb at 5:59 PM on September 25, 2011

I eat wax apples all the time when I go back to Taiwan. It's one of my sister's favorite fruits and I think it's pretty tasty as well.

I don't see it too often, but I can find it once in a while in an Asian market.

We used to just wash and bite into it, but you can slice it as well (just like a regular apple)!

On preview: I second specialagentwebb! Asian pears are one of the best things in the world. Eat them cold and there's nothing more crisp and refreshing :)
posted by sprezzy at 6:04 PM on September 25, 2011

Durian--but alone, and in the bathtub.
Rambutan--peel and eat.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:11 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

The cherimoya is the most alien fruit I have ever eaten. The fruit has the consistency of a banana but is sweeter, and with a hint of a vomity aftertaste. When it is cut open, the flesh is a little too white and the black seeds randomly disbursed throughout it make it look like an alien egg case.

I know I don't make it sound very appealing, but if it was served to me again, I would eat it.
posted by 517 at 6:13 PM on September 25, 2011

Cherimoya are delicious and very interesting, but be careful - the seeds are poisonous if you cut open.

If you can find them, guava are glorious. You can eat them raw of course but my favorite is to make a big batch of iced tea with guava chunks infusing overnight.

Rambutan and lychee can usually be found in most Asian markets - rambutan are the hedgehoggy ones, but the lychees are way yummier in my opinion. Again, wonderful raw, and also really good if you peel & freeze them, and eat kind of like sorbet balls, except with pits. Great with alcohol, imo.

If you can ever find them, fresh loquats are a childhood favorite of mine - a tree of them grew in my piano teacher's front yard in Texas. Loquats are NOT kumquats, they are sweet and smooth-skinned with a pit, and have this tangy flavor that's very hard to describe.

Kumquats are easy to find these days, and they throw a lot of people for a loop. They are like tiny citrus fruits except the flesh is extremely tart, and the skin is the sweet part. They're not very good separate but in combination they're usually just right. Cook kumquats! They make amazing chutneys and sauces. You can roast them with meats and herbs, almost like you would with lemons.

Bananas - so, bananas are genetically fascinating. Most of the bananas you see in supermarkets are all clones of one particular banana mutant. I could go on about this for a really long time, sorry. But anyway there are tons of banana varieties that are slowly making their way to grocery stores because what we think of as a regular banana is actually very susceptible to disease, so those things that are like tiny baby bananas, or red bananas, or other exciting not-quite-normal bananas, buy them! Because they are super sweet and have slightly different flavors that you wouldn't expect and it's important to banana survival that those varieties gain culinary purchase. Eat like normal, or fry slices and sprinkle with chocolate sauce! Or anything else you would do with a banana that happens to be extra yummy.

Cactus pears are these little red or green things (or sometimes all manner of other colors) that you have to peel to eat. They are sweet and a little vegetal with crunchy seeds you can eat (a bit like a blackberry i guess?) and very, very refreshing.

Well now I have to go to the market, BRB.
posted by Mizu at 6:18 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'll add one more, staghorn sumac. It has a tart acidic flavor like Sourpatch Kids, and the fruit contains large seeds so you have to kind of juice it with your mouth like a pomegranate. Don't let the hairiness of the fruit fool you, if it is ripe, very few will come of in your mouth.

This isn't something you can find in a store. However, if you live in the Northeast or Mid-west of America, it's something you should have tried by now because you've been walking right past it your whole life.

Caveat, don't eat it unless you are sure you can identify it.
posted by 517 at 6:28 PM on September 25, 2011

Pomelos! They look like gigantic grapefruits, have very thick skin, smell divine and taste like everything that is good about grapefruit and oranges together. Papaya! Don't be put off by the kind of garbage-y smell. Papayas have a lovely taste and texture, slice in half, scoop out the seeds and eat the flesh with a squeeze of lime. Mangos! Especially champagne mangos, though I'm not sure they're in season at the moment, taste wonderful with a yummy custardy texture. Oh, and in defense of apples, try the jazz variety, they taste just like an apple should, crispy, juicy and sweet.
posted by Allee Katze at 6:35 PM on September 25, 2011

I like prickly pears. Persimmons, figs, kumquats, mangoes are some of my favorites. The prickly pears need to be peeled and sliced, so does the mango. I eat kumquats and persimmons whole. I make a meal out of figs, hard salami and crusty bread.
posted by francesca too at 6:52 PM on September 25, 2011

North American, but non-standard: this is about the right time of the year for pawpaws, if you can get them.
posted by dilettante at 7:00 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thirding rambutan and mangosteen...so good. Just peel and eat, both of them. If I am in Costa Rica when they are in season, I buy them from roadside vendors and pound them down!
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:12 PM on September 25, 2011

How timely. This morning, a friend of mine gave me a bagful of Feijoa, aka Pineapple Guava. He just got back from California and they grew in his yard there, but they are native to Brazil. They look like green dinosaur eggs and they smell amazing -- delicately floral and kinda pineapple-y. He said to slice them in half lengthwise and scoop the insides out with a spoon. The flesh is delicious, tastes just like it smells, and has that slightly gritty pear-like texture.
posted by fancyoats at 7:43 PM on September 25, 2011

Persimmons are heavenly. Mangos, while no longer rare, are great dusted with chili powder and lime.

You might also want to try getting local fruit from your local farmers market. Supermarket fruit is bred for durable transport rather than taste. A local peach can transform your experience of what a peach should taste like.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:02 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, if you're starting from apples and oranges, you don't want durian. Work your way up to the durian. There's a reason it's hard to find,

The supermarkets in my area often carry papaya but I wouldn't call them Western, exactly. I'd recommend them. Easy and obvious to prepare - slice in half, remove seeds that look like caviar, don't eat the skin. They're large, but keep long enough to eat in the fridge. If you come across the "champagne" mangoes (also called Mexican? I think "champange" is a branding tactic. They are smaller and yellow green), I adore those, way better than the "classic" mango. Lychees are also great - just peel them, eat the somewhat off putting clearish fruit, don't eat the giant seed.

Figs are Western, but most people I know have not had them fresh - they're pretty awesome, but go bad super fast. They're seasonal, but Whole Foods has some right now.

And we're coming in to apple season - if you see honeycrisps, give them a try. I know you are looking for non-standard, but since they are seasonal, I thought I'd throw in a heads up.
posted by maryr at 9:43 PM on September 25, 2011

I was pleasantly surprised when I tried Jamaican-style roast plantains for the first time. Fresh apricots are excellent when you can get them, though I think their season is early to mid summer.
posted by fearnothing at 10:35 PM on September 25, 2011

I highly recommend eating persimmons sliced raw with lime juice sprinkled on top. By themselves they are sweet but slightly one-dimensional, with lime as a contrast they are outstanding.
posted by cali at 11:33 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feel I must reiterate that you should not try durian unless you know what you're getting into. The Asian side of my family (and my adventurous white guy dad) all think it's the bee's knees, but I think it smells and tastes like rotten onion. I do not subscribe to the "smells like hell, tastes like heaven" theory.

When I was kid, we ate a fruit called longan whenever my mother could find them in (Vancouver's) Chinatown. My mother also called them "tiger eyes." They're similar to a lychee, with the thin skin you have to peel off, sweet grape-like flesh, and giant seed in the middle. I actually like them better than lychee, but I think they're harder to find.

You might like the book The Fruit Hunters by Adam Leith Gollman. He goes around the world in search of delicious fruit and records his experiences, interspersed with the history and cultural context of each fruit.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:37 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just bought a whole pile of interesting fruit at the market yesterday. The verdict:
- cactus pears: not worth it. I'm still digging spines out of my fingers and the fruit wasn't so delicious that it is worth the pain.
- fresh dates: crunchy and sweet. Not a very strong datey flavour, but I'd buy again.
- dragonfruit: refreshing. Not very interesting flavour, but very pretty, and nice refrigerated.
- custard apples (aka sugar apples) my favourite of the above list. Creamy and sweet.
posted by lollusc at 1:52 AM on September 26, 2011

Feijoa is yummy, my husband first had it in New Zealand. Just open and eat.
posted by ifjuly at 8:09 AM on September 26, 2011

And I've only had it in restaurants, but jackfruit is interesting.
posted by ifjuly at 8:12 AM on September 26, 2011

Oh, and gooseberries (best cooked or baked) and loganberries (my favorite berry for jam). Blackcurrants are good cooked into jam or turned into spirits.
posted by ifjuly at 8:16 AM on September 26, 2011

Man, I meant LINGONberries there.
posted by ifjuly at 8:17 AM on September 26, 2011

Oops! I spelled the author's name wrong. The Fruit Hunters is by Adam Leith Gollner, not Gollman.

Just thought of another interesting fruit--blood oranges. They look like regular oranges on the outside with reddish mottling on the skin--when you cut them open, they are a deep blood-red inside. They are sweet and delicious, and very pretty when cut in slices.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:26 AM on September 26, 2011

I just wanted to add a warning about persimmons -- make sure they're ripe! If you eat an underripe persimmon, you will get a very weird feeling in your mouth, as though you've never, ever brushed your teeth in your life. It's disgusting. (This may only be true of certain kinds of persimmons, but better safe than sorry.)
posted by cider at 10:29 AM on September 26, 2011

Have you tried starfruit, or carambola? They are pretty easy to find in supermarkets, and they have a really nice freshsour taste.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:04 PM on September 26, 2011

If you eat an underripe persimmon, you will get a very weird feeling in your mouth

This is true of Hachiya persimmons, which definitely need to be very ripe — when ripe, their flesh has kind of a translucent gelatinous look (and is really delicious). On the other hand, Fuyu persimmons (mentioned by specialagentwebb above) can be eaten when they're crunchy. You might want to just think of them as two different fruits, both worth trying.
posted by klausness at 3:05 AM on October 3, 2011

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