The next time you’re in the supermarket strolling around the produce section take a good look at all of the fruits and vegetables. There may be more than a few you might not recognize. Or, you recognize the name but you’ve never tried them and had no idea what to do with them.
Cathy Isom looks into why we’re reluctant to buy fruits and vegetables we aren’t familiar with and what’s being done about it. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.
From: Mother Nature Network
By: Bryan Nelson, Mother Nature Network writer
A stroll through the produce aisle in a modern supermarket may give the impression that you’ve got a wide variety of fruit choices, but in reality that’s only a small sampling of Mother Nature’s bounty. The world is full of bizarre and exotic treats you’ve probably never heard of before. So live a little, and try something different. Apples and oranges will look pretty ordinary after you look at these wild and delicious options.
You have to commend the bravery of whoever first tried these strange-looking fruits. The ackee is sometimes called a “vegetable brain” because only the inner, brain-shaped, yellowish arils are edible. Native to tropical West Africa, this fruit has been imported and cultivated in Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba and is incorporated into some Caribbean cuisine.
Time magazine points out that if improperly eaten, this odd-looking fruit can also make you quite sick. It can cause what is known as Jamaican Vomiting Sickness which, in addition to vomiting, can also lead to coma or death.
When it is exported to the U.S., the horned cucumber is often labeled as “blowfish fruit” or a kiwano melon. With its spiky yellow exterior and juicy green interior, this is one fruit with vibrant contrasts. It tastes like a cross between a cucumber and a zucchini, and it is rich in both vitamin C and fiber. Native to Africa, it has been exported and cultivated as far away as New Zealand, Australia and Chile.
Native to the Malay Archipelago, the name of this fruit is derived from the Malay word meaning “hairy,” and you can see why. But once the hairy exterior of the rambutan is peeled away, the tender, fleshy, delicious fruit is revealed. Its taste is described as sweet and sour, much like a grape. Though it has its origin in Southeast Asia, rambutan has been imported around the world, and now is commonly cultivated as close to home as Mexico and Hawaii.
Rambutans are generally eaten raw but are sometimes stewed with sugar and cloves and eaten as a dessert, reports Purdue University.
These fruits encased in an unusual, lantern-like husk are part of the nightshade family and thus share a relation with the much more familiar tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Since it has a mild, refreshing acidity similar to the tomato, it can be used in many of the same ways. Imagine enjoying some pasta with fresh physalis sauce!
Some people grow them in the garden just because they like the way these interesting plants look with their large, brightly colored husks and their small fruits, reports the University of Minnesota Extension.
Native to the Americas, they are typically imported from South America.
The jabuticaba fruit is unusual in that it appears to blossom right out of the bark and trunk of its tree. The tree may even look covered in purple warts or pimples when it is fully in season. It is often used in its native lands in South America much like grapes are used elsewhere.
Jabuticaba fruit looks like thick-skinned deep-purple grapes. Inside the pink or white sweet fleshy fruit. Embedded in the pulpy flesh are several large seeds. The fruit is typically eaten fresh or made into tarts, jams or wines and liqueurs.
About the author: Bryan Nelson has been making up for lost time since finishing his graduate degree in Philosophy by traveling and working to change the world. He has worked with groups like The Sierra Club, Environment America & U.S. PIRG, and Environment Oregon & OSPIRG on local and national political campaigns. His environmental journalism can be found throughout the web, which also includes regular contributions to sites like Ecolocalizer.com and Cleantechnica.com. Between adventure and activism, he currently can be found doing freelance writing from his home in Portland, Oregon.