Old Fruit, New Fruit
The jackfruit was just the beginning…
Apples and oranges are passé. Lemons are for losers. And strawberries are so last century. In 2019, food snobs — and the restaurants that cater to them — expect their fruit bowls to contain considerably more exotic ingredients. You may think you know your kumquat from your lychee already, but are you au fait with yuzu, jackfruit, dragon fruit, rambutan, mangosteen and nashi pears?
These fruits aren’t new, of course. But they are new to most diners outside Asia. Yuzu, which is found across East Asia — it looks like an orangeshaped lemon and tastes like a particularly piquant lime — is a staple on the sushi menus at upscale Japanese restaurants and is available in juice form.
“Last year, we sold the most yuzu ever,” says Drogo Montagu, chef and founder of Fine Food Specialist, based in London’s New Covent Garden Market. “We sell lots of yuzu products but the actual fresh yuzu is very, very niche. It’s hard to get hold of.”
Easier to come by is jackfruit, which predominantly comes from South Asia. You can buy boxes or tins of it in supermarkets and it makes an uncanny alternative to pulled pork – Pizza Hut used it for its “Veganuary” special this year; Starbucks has it in its barbecue vegan wrap.
But many of the even more exotic varieties are gaining popularity, as the healthy eating and wellness industries tighten their grips. “We get tonnes of orders for children’s parties in particular,” says Klara Fine, founder of Platter London, who sells her lavish creations online and from her Kensington store. “As our fruit is arranged so beautifully, this definitely encourages the kids to have some.”
Oh yes, the aesthetics. These fruits tend to be good looking (except for poor old mangosteen, which looks like a mutated acorn full of pale flesh), and Fine finds social media a huge driver of sales: “If clients have seen a platter on Instagram, they tend to say they’d like that exact one.”
The show pony is dragon fruit. “We absolutely love the effect of the vibrant fuschia skin contrasted with the black and white flesh,” says Fine. And like many exotic types, it is hailed as a superfood, rich in antioxidants.
The same is said of South America’s cherimoya, otherwise known as custard apples or guanabana, which is Montagu’s hot tip. “It’s a delicious taste,” he says, “amazing. Soft, fleshy, a little bit like jackfruit. You’ll have had it somewhere. Rubicon sell it in juices. We’ll be stocking them this year.”
If all this sounds a bit far-fetched, then remember: not so long ago we were saying the same about avocados.