Weird-looking fruit you see in stores are worth a try
Grocery shopping with my children can be a game of dodgeball as they try to sneak in things I prefer not to buy, but on a recent trip to the grocery store, my second-grader picked up a dragon fruit and asked me what it was. After I answered, she dove for a litchi, then a persimmon, then examined several other fruits uncommon to many Americans that seemed to be huddled at the back of the produce section.
Instead of saying no to her request, as I might have if sugary cereal or chocolate doughnuts were her ask, I bought one of several often-overlooked fruits and brought them home as an experiment.
Fun facts: The national fruit of Japan (though it originated in China), persimmons are in season from September through December, making them regulars in holiday cooking. There are two types of persimmons: the hachiya, which is shaped like an acorn and is bitter before ripening, and the fuyu, which is sweet, round and usually seedless. Buy this latter variety and eat when it’s firm but not hard.
STAR FRUIT (CARAMBOLA)
Fun facts: When cut crosswise, this fruit looks like a star, hence its name. Star fruit, which is native to parts of Southeast Asia, tastes similar to a grape. The larger varieties tend to be sweeter, and the entire fruit is edible, skin and all. Star fruit are ripe when they are vibrant yellow; if brown spots appear, pop it in the refrigerator. The few seeds are edible or can be discarded.
DRAGON FRUIT (PITAYA)
Fun facts: Dragon fruit, believed to be native to Central America, are technically part of the cactus species, yet look like a smaller, softer, pinker pineapple. This fruit is mildly sweet, described by my daughter as a mix of a kiwi and watermelon. It is ripe when firm but not hard. The pink-fleshed fruits tend to be higher in nutrients and a bit sweeter than the white-fleshed ones. Pitaya trees produce fruit multiple times a year, yet the flower blooms just once a year, and only at night.
Fun facts: These fruits, which originated in southern China, have a tough, bumpy skin that is easily peeled to reveal a white fleshy fruit much like a peeled grape. Litchi fruits have one inedible seed. Litchi trees are high-producing, with one Florida tree yielding a record-breaking 1,200 pounds of fruit in one year.
KIWANO (HORNED MELON)
Fun facts: When ripe, this spiked fruit, native to Africa, is bright orange on the outside. On the inside, it is slimy green, much like a kiwi — but with a taste more similar to a banana with a hint of cucumber. To eat, cut it in half and scoop out the middle. The seeds are edible like cucumber seeds, as is the skin. Do not refrigerate.