Types of Exotic Fruit
There are many different types of exotic fruit in the world. Every region has its own selection of trees that bear a variety of luscious, colorful edibles. What most people consider "exotic" usually comes from tropical areas, though technically anything unfamiliar to you is exotic - including something from just a few miles away!
Mangosteens are a very interesting fruit. Growing mostly in South East Asia, these small red balls pop open to yield a sweet and tangy white flesh on the inside. But be careful, because the dark red casings will stain anything they touch!
Kiwano melons, also known as "horned melons," originally grew in Africa, though they have been successfully cultivated in California and New Zealand as well. Actually a member of the cucumber family, the kiwano tastes like a combination of cucumber, banana, and lemon.
Passion fruits are native to South America, but also grow in India, Indonesia, Hawaii, and other similar places. This sour fruit is often mixed in with other fruits to add "bite."
Lychee (pronounced lee-chee) is an Asian fruit that can be found in China, Vietnam, Nepal, and neighboring countries. Lychee is a popular flavoring for Chinese and Japanese soft drinks, and the white flesh makes a wonderful sweet snack when eaten raw. The consistency of the flesh is similar to a peeled grape.
The star fruit, or carambola, has a star-like shape when sliced width-wise. Hailing from South East Asian, this sweet-tart fruit makes a great snack, and is also an impressive decoration for your fruit platters!
Acai berries have recently become popular for their high antioxidant content. Growing in Central and South America, this fruit is dark purple and is used to flavor drinks, smoothies, and ice creams.
Another native of South East Asia, the durian is notorious for its smell. When cut open it releases an odor that some find quite unpleasant, and can be compared to dirty socks. While some people find the taste off-putting, many enjoy its creamy flesh.
The papaya, or pawpaw, is originally from Mexico. This sweet, mild fruit has a flesh texture similar to a soft melon, and is a popular addition to fruit salads and smoothies.
Also known as the Queen's fruit, the dragonfruit is a very sweet fruit that has an impressive aesthetic. The outside is a colorful pink and green, while the inside is white with tiny black seeds. The flesh tastes and feels very similar to a kiwi, though the taste is more mild.
You can generally pick up one of these exotic fruits in South East Asian. Eat it plain, or slice it up and make it a simple addition to a gourmet breakfast!
Jackfruit is related to figs and mulberries. Popular in South Asian cuisine, it has an aroma with a slight funk (though nothing nearly like durian) and a meaty texture. Flavor-wise, jackfruit absorbs almost anything you cook it with, which makes it a popular meat substitute in vegetarian cuisines.
Common to Southeast Asia, some Florida farmers are also experiencing modest success in growing this unique fruit.
This Indonesian fruit of an evergreen tree is named for the Malay term meaning "hairy." One look at this fruit explains how it was so named, and the hairy outer shell isn't edible, you'll need to cut it away. The inside fruit is sweet and juicy, and many people describe its flavor as being similar to a grape.
Also known as the custard apple, cherimoya has a sweet, exotic flavor and texture. This South American fruit is native to Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and some growers in the Hawaiian Islands have also cultivated it.
To eat cherimoya, halve it and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh. Discard seeds, which are poisonous.
This West African fruit is now also cultivated in Cuba, Haiti, and Jamaica, and it's the Jamaican national fruit. It's a member of the lychee family. The entire fruit isn't edible - just the flesh that tops the seeds.
Likewise, only ackee that has been properly harvested is safe to eat, so if you find this fruit in the wild, approach it with caution. Make sure you know exactly what to eat and what to discard before consuming this fruit, which tastes vaguely cheesy.
With fruit that grows right out of the trunk instead of dripping from branches like so many other fruits, the jabuticaba comes from a tree of the same name which is also known as the Brazilian grape tree. It's actually really fascinating to look at as the fruits go from green to a deep purple as they ripen.
Both the skin and flesh are edible (discard the seeds). The flesh is sweet while the skin is tart and acidic. You can eat these fruits fresh or you'll often find them in preserves or made into liqueurs or wines.
Also known as langsat, duku grows in clusters on trees that are part of the mahogany family. The tree is native to Malaysia, and it also grows in India.
The fruit has been compared to the flavor of a grapefruit. To eat them, remove the remove the outer skin (which kind of looks like a small, round potato) to reveal a juicy, tender, translucent fruit inside.
Also known as snake fruit, salak has red scaley skin and tender white flesh. Salak grows on a species of palm trees native to Indonesia, and people compare its flavor to pineapple.
To eat salak, pinch the tip of the fruit and peel away the skin. This then allows you to peel the remaining skin easily.
As the name implies, the cactus fig is the edible fruit of cactus. You may also see it called Indian cactus fig, prickly pear, or opuntia. The plant is native to Mexico.
The fruit is prickly, so handle them with care. Use tongs to hold the fruit as you use a sharp knife to peel away the spiny exterior. You'll also need to remove the seeds. The effort is worth it, however, because the fruit is sweet and has a flavor reminiscent of watermelon but tastier.
You may have heard of santol being called sour apple or cotton fruit. The flavor is sweet and tart, and it has tasty edible seeds. Peel away the exterior flesh to expose the sweet-tart white insides.
You'll find the santol growing on the tree of the same name in Southeast Asia.
It's hard not to want to eat a fruit with the word delicious built right into its name, but with monstera deliciosa, you'll have to wait. That's because it takes this fruit about a year to grow and ripen, and if consumed before it is ripe, it is poisonous.
Once you've waited the requisite time, however, then you can enjoy the pineapple-flavored inner flesh of this fruit, which grows on a creeping vine in Central American rainforests. To eat it, be sure to peel through the outer rind and eat only the flesh.
Fruits From Around the World
While not all of these fruits are available everywhere, they offer an interesting and tasty way to expand your palate if you can find them. Not only that, but many of them offer a big nutritional boost, as well, so it makes seeking them out well worth the effort.