A-Z of exotic fruits and nuts

Reader's Digest Editors

Many large supermarkets offer a variety of exciting exotic fruit and nuts which aren't seasonal, so they tend to be available throughout the year. The following is a selection of the widely available fruit and nuts.

Brazil nuts

brazil nuts

Hard, dark brown, three-edged shells enclose firm, slightly oily nuts with a flavour similar to coconut and hazelnut.

Brazil nuts are sold unshelled and shelled. Avoid any which feel light or rattle in the shells.

 

Coconuts

These large nuts have a hard, dark brown outer shell closely covered with tough fibres. At the top of each nut are three small indentations which must be punctured so that the colourless liquid (coconut water, not to be confused with coconut milk) can be shaken out. This is served chilled as a drink.

Crack the tough shell by hitting it with a cleaver about one-third of the way down from the top. Prise the shells open, and cut out the tough flesh with a small sharp knife. To test a whole coconut for freshness, shake it to make sure it contains liquid. 

Read more: How to open a coconut

 

Figs

figs exotic fruit

Fresh purple or green figs are squat, pearshaped fruits. They are soft to the touch when ripe, and the skin, which is either white, red or purple, has a bloom to it.

The juicy pulp is sweet, deep red and heavily seeded. Dried figs are very sweet and the seeds give the fruit a pleasant, slightly crunchy texture.

 

Grenadillos

These are smooth, orange-yellow skinned fruits with fragrant, pulpy flesh surrounding tiny black edible seeds.

Grenadillos come from the same family as passion fruit.

 

Guavas

guava fruits

Oval or pear-shaped fruit with creamy white, lightly scented flesh. The skin is green or yellow and when ripe, the fruit should feel tender rather than hard.

The guava has a core of edible seeds similar to a pear and these are usually removed when the fruit is prepared.

 

Kiwi fruit

Also known as Chinese gooseberries, these brown, furry-skinned fruit have juicy, sweet, green flesh, pitted with black edible seeds.

 

Loquats

Loquats exotic fruit

These stone fruits, also known as Japanese medlars, are imported from Israel. They are similar in shape and size to plums, and they have smooth, golden yellow, orange or red brown skins. The juicy cream-coloured flesh is slightly tart. Choose firm fruit.

 

Lungans or longans

Very similar to lychees, but slightly smaller and with smooth, light brown skin. The fruit has a central stone as lychees do.

 

Lychees

lychees

These stone fruits are the size of large cherries, with hard, scaly skins, turning from pink through to brown. The white flesh is firm, juicy and slippery with an aromatic or scented flavour. Slit the skin and peel it off, then slit the flesh lengthways and carefully slip the stone out.

 

Mangoes

These large stone fruits come in different shapes and sizes; some are round, others long and narrow, kidney or pearshaped. The largest fruits may weigh up to 1.4 kg/3 lb, and the smallest are the size of an average peach.

The skins range in colour from green to yellow, orange and red, flushed with pink. The orange-yellow, juicy flesh is fragrant and fully flavoured, with a pleasing tang when just ripe.

Fruit that is very ripe has very soft flesh that becomes slightly fibrous and too sweet.

 

Mangosteens

mangosteen exotic fruit

Dark purple, crisp skin surrounds opaque, creamy white segments of fruit which are sweet and scented. Occasional large, dark and shiny pips should be removed.

 

Melons

A ripe melon will yield to pressure applied gently at the stalk end. Melons are generally available throughout the year, with the exception of watermelons which are available only from May to September.

The Cantaloup melon has a slightly flattened shape, with green to yellow rough skin. The flesh is heavily scented, succulent and orange-yellow.

Charentais melon is perfectly round and small. The yellow-green skin, which is rather rough, is marked with downward indentations, and the deep orange flesh is faintly scented.

Honeydew melon is the most widely available variety of melon. it is shaped like a rugby ball and has green, yellow or white wrinkled skin. The sweet flesh is pale green to pink.

Ogen melon is round and has yellow to orange skin which is marked with faint green stripes. The pale yellow flesh is very sweet and juicy. watermelon is the largest of all the melons. The glossy, dark skin surrounds the scarlet and juicy, almost watery, flesh and prominent black seeds.

 

Passion fruit

passion fruit a-z

These are small, aromatic fruit about the same size as large plums. There's a purple variety and a yellow type, the latter having the smoother skin. Both contain a sweet, juicy pulp laced with small black, crunchy seeds.

The pulp may be sieved to make a dessert sauce and some of the seeds may be returned to it for a crunchy texture if liked.

 

Pawpaws

These fruits are also known as papayas. Pawpaws are about the size of cooking apples, but they are pearshaped. They have smooth skins which ripen and change colour from green through to yellow or orange.

The sweet, orange-pink flesh has a delicate flavour which can sometimes be disappointing. Brown-black, inedible seeds lie in the centre and these may be scooped out with a teaspoon when the fruit is halved. Avoid fruits with dry or blemished skins.

 

Persimmons

persimmons

These tropical fruits look like large tomatoes with their leathery skins which turn from yellow to bright red. The orange-yellow juicy and soft flesh has a sharp flavour. Fruits with pitted or cracked skins should not be bought.

 

Physalis

These fruits are also known as Cape gooseberries. The yellow berries, which are about the size of cherries, are covered by papery husks in the shape of Chinese lanterns.

The plump golden berries are served as a dessert fruit, stewed or made into preserves. They keep well for two or three weeks if bought unripe.

 

Pomegranates

pomegranates exotic fruit

These fruits are the size of oranges with thin, but tough rinds. Prime pomegranates have bright, smooth skin which is golden to yellow or deep red in colour.

The fruit consists of dark seeds surrounded by red, juicy and tangy flesh. The seeds and flesh have to be scooped out of the surrounding, cream-coloured membranelike skin which has a bitter taste.

 

Prickly pears

The fruit of a cactus, prickly pears are oval and yellow, blushed slightly pink in colour, with sharp spines. Once cut in half lengthways, the skin reveals flesh which is pale orange to red when ripe, with lots of edible seeds. The flavour is weak and slightly watery.

Protect your hands with absorbent kitchen paper and an oven glove, then scrape or rub off the spines before cutting the fruit.

 

Rambutans

rambutans

These taste the same as lychees, but they have a bright rust-coloured covering of long hairs and are slightly larger than lychees. Prepare as for lychees.

 

Star fruits

Also known as carambola, these yellow-skinned fruits are oval and ridged, giving star-shaped slices when cut.

The skin is edible as are the occasional small seeds. Star fruit has a delicate, refreshing flavour. Slices dry out fairly quickly and discolour slightly when allowed to stand for long, so the fruit is best added to a salad or used as a decoration shortly before the dish is served. However, the time the fruit takes to discolour is not as fast as that for cooking apples and avocados.

 

Tamarillos

Tamarillos

These oval-shaped, red skinned fruits are about the size of plum tomatoes. There is also a yellow or orange variety.

The fruit also slightly resembles tomato, with thin, edible skin, dark seeds and tangy flesh.