Weird-look­ing fruit you see in stores are worth a try

The Sun News (Sunday) - - Tv - BY CASEY SEIDENBERG

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.

PER­SIM­MON

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.

LITCHI (LYCHEE)

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.

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