Top Ten: The Ugly and Delicious Truth
At first glance you may be dissuaded, but unknown and unattractive fruits are offering delightful new flavors to menus. Whether it’s the odd name or outer appearance, these up and comers prove that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case, the chef. While most are native to other countries, many are imported and available in the U.S. throughout the year. First up, a fruit that doesn’t lie about its appearance.
1. Ugli® Fruit
This fruit has an unfortunate name, but it’s really what inside that matters. The Ugli® fruit was discovered over 80 years ago in Jamaica, and marketed exclusively by Cabel Hall Limited. It is best described as a “tangelo” combining orange, tangerine and grapefruit. Once you get past its unattractive appearance, the fruit is easy to peel, surprisingly juicy and has a sweet, tangy center. While it’s high in Vitamin C and fiber, keep in mind that the cost can sometimes triple that of a regular grapefruit. Nonetheless, Ugli® fruit offers a citrusy taste that is enjoyed by many. You can find it in the U.S. between November and April in many natural food stores.
2. Black Sapote
Also known as chocolate pudding fruit because of its color and texture, the black sapote is one-of-a-kind. The fruit is native to Mexico and Central America. It has a unique jelly or pudding-like center, and is often used to make liqueur, pudding or pastry filling. The fruit is a much healthier alternative to chocolate, with less fat and more vitamin C than an orange. Although it’s widely consumed in Mexico, finding the black sapote in the U.S. is difficult. It is, however, grown in Florida, and you can most likely find it between December and February.
3. Buddha’s Hand
Also known as citron, this bright yellow frightening fruit is nothing to be scared of. It’s common in India, China and Japan, and is typically used as an alternative for lemon zest. The fruit’s flesh is not very juicy. Instead, its “fingers” are cut-off, sliced and peeled to use in cooking. Aside from being used as a fragrance, many chefs use it as a flavoring in seafood dishes or to create candy and marmalade. It is also added to drinks and infused into ice cream. You can find it in the U.S. from October through January.
The Feijoa may look like lime’s uglier cousin, but beneath the surface is a slightly citrus and sweet center. It is native to Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and sometimes referred to as pineapple guava. Feijoas are usually enjoyed by cutting them in half and scooping out the pulp. They are very aromatic, and often used as flavoring for ice cream or cooked into pudding, cakes, pies and other pastries. It has only half of the sugar found in an orange, and is rich in fiber and vitamin C. In order to acquire this fruit, you’ll have to order online or reach out to a rare fruit grower in
This hairy fruit looks more like a scary science experiment, but it is a very common fruit in Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. It is about three inches long, oval-shaped, and bright red. Underneath its “hair” of soft thorns, you will find a sweet juicy fruit. Just slice it in half and break apart to expose it. Lightly squeeze until it pops out. Rambutans are similar to lychee, both are sweet and sour. This fruit is imported to the U.S. and can be used in fruit desserts and cheesecake.
The Cherymoya is very similar to the Guanabana but is much smaller and sweeter. People have described it as a fusion between a pineapple and banana. It is indigenous fruit from Central America, and grown in Southern Asia, South America and parts of California. The Cherymoya thrives in tropical weather of high altitudes, but is very sensitive to frost. Those who taste this fruit fall in love with its creamy, sweet and fruity flavor. In fact, it is considered one of the best tasting fruits in the world. As Mark Twain put it, Cherimoya is “the most delicious fruit known to man.”
Aside from weighing about 80 pounds and being the largest fruit in the world, the Jackfruit is highly nutritional. It is extremely high in Vitamin C, protein, potassium, calcium and antioxidants. Cultivated throughout Southeast Asia and in countries such as India, Malaysia and the Philippines, Jackfruit can also be found in Africa, the Caribbean and parts of Brazil. It has a strong musky smell, and tastes like sweet gum. Jackfruit is mostly used in Asian cuisine for custards, cakes, gelatin and ice cream. Find them in your local Asian or Caribbean stores.
A cactus fruit from Mexico and Central America, the pitaya or dragon fruit, can be easily found throughout the world. In the U.S., you can most likely find them in California or Hawaii. Its shape and outer layers resemble that of an artichoke, but the center tastes like a combination of a kiwi and pear with a mild, sweet flavor. The fruit comes in red, yellow or magenta. The texture is somewhat crunchy. Pitayas are also highly nutritional with a large concentration of vitamins, calcium and iron. They’re also low in calories. Look for them in your local organic market to flavor yogurt, smoothies and frozen desserts such as sorbets.
Also known as soursop, the guanabana tastes like a combination of pineapple and strawberry. It is native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Northern South America. You have to get through the course outer skin and large inedible seeds to enjoy, but the fruit is extremely popular and has been promoted as an alternative treatment
for cancer (although this has not been scientifically proven on a large scale). Guanabana
is widely used in all types of drinks, pastry items and ice cream. Goya, the largest Hispanic food company in the United States, markets all types of guanabana products such
as juices and fruit pulp. If you want to try the fruit, check out your local Hispanic
Salmonberries are actually native to the U.S. and Alaska, and can be found throughout the West Coast. They closely resemble a raspberry, but are orange in color. They grow in dense forest areas and are more nutritious than other berries. However, Salmonberries are more tart and dry, and often used to counteract the sweetness in a dessert. You can also incorporate them into pancake recipes, salads or jams. Local markets sell them throughout mid-to-late summer.