I am a world traveller & a mom of two, (8 & 6). I love to meet people, and am fascinated that there are 7 billion stories out there to be explored. I think Melbourne is the most happening city to live in with all the fun activities around town.
Published May 29th 2013
From this world or another?
I did not realize that a visit to the local produce market in Westfield Fountaingate Plaze (Narre Warren) would inspire a WeekendNotes article, but I was surprised to see so many exotic looking fruits and vegetables that I thought an article was almost required. Some of these fruits and vegetables almost look like they come from another planet.
Here is a list of the top ten fruits and vegetables I would give "the most strange-looking or exotic award" to:
1. Buddha hands: This one tops my list because of its look and name. This is a citron fruit, the name of which is inspired by the finger-like portrusions which seem to be closed or opened in the act of worship. This fruit is native to North Eastern India or China, and is mainly used for fragrance and zest in cooking.
Budda Hands - the yellow citron with fingers
2. Tamarillo: A beautiful pulpy fruit with a red skin caught my eye. Also known as the Tree Tomato, this fruit comes in shades of yellow, orange, red or purple. The tamarillo is native to the rainforests of South America, but is also grown in Australia. When cut in half, tamarillo contains a larger quantity of bigger seeds compared to a tomato. The tamarillo is used to make chutneys, pickles, preserve or combined with other fruits to make jams and juices. Only the flesh is edible, but usually not raw due to its tangy taste.
Tamarillo is a tangy red fruit
3. Rambutan: A hairy and alien-looking fruit, you almost want to but not want to extend your hand and touch it. Native to South-East Asia, the skin of this fruit is peeled off to reveal a very smooth white translucent coloured fleshy sweet fruit with a central pit. This fruit, which has a rather unique taste, can be eaten raw, used in desserts, or cooked in traditional dishes.
Rambutan - a hairy, alien-looking fruit
4. Quince: Probably ordinary in its look, the quince is as exotic as the other fruits listed here. Looking almost like a hybrid between a pear and apple, the quince is hard and tastes sour. It can however be eaten in forms of jams and jellies. It is a fruit native to Iran and Turkey, but is now grown in many other countries.
Quince - a cross between a pear and an apple?
5. Sour Sop (and Guava): This strange prickly fruit looks like it could belong in the animal kingdom. Native to Latin and South America, it is grown in certain areas in Africa as well. The fruit is commonly used as flavourings in ice-creams and juices, although the white pulp can be eaten on its own.
The picture I took also shows another fruit called guava, which is native to South-East Asia, and deserves to be on this list of exotic fruits. The flesh of the guava is sprinkled with hard seeds, however, a guava can either be bitter or sweet in taste and its flesh can be pink or whitish. It can be used in jams, juices or eaten raw. It's a favourite in the country I come from.
Guavas in the back, Soursop in the front
6. Fennel: I added fennel to this list because, although I have used fennel as an herb in cooking before, this was the first time I had seen fennel in bulb form. The bulb is actually a crisp vegetable, which can be used like other vegetables: eaten raw, sauteed, grilled, or stewed. Truly an international vegetable, fennel is part of cuisine from many parts of the world.
Fennel (the bulb) with many uses in cooking and herbal medicine
7. Mangosteen: Not related to mangoes, which are larger and yellow to orange in colour, a mangosteen is a fruit native to SouthEast Asia. It has a dark purple skin which is firm to touch, however, the edible part is a translucent white fruit, present in a form similar to a mandarin, and if eaten raw should taste very sweet. It is used in culinary delights as well.
Mangosteen is a delicacy in the fruit world
8. Prickly Pears: My first impression when I saw this fruit was that it looks just like a cactus. Well, guess what? It is a cactus! The fruit grows on cacti and it actually pricks, so it must be handled with care. The consumption of the fruit also comes with a word of caution: if the skin is not properly removed and swallowed, it can cause discomfort everywhere it goes. Ouch. Prickly pears can be used in drinks and candies.
Prickly Pears or Cactus Fruit - Pick one up with a word of caution: they actually prick!
9. October Sun Plums: There are so many varieties and colours of plums available in the market, but they all taste great. The October Sun plums are larger and are harvested late in the season. This variety is also very juicy and sweet. Not very exotic looking, but the name struck a chord.
October Sun plums - exotic by name
10. Pomegranate: The classic exotic fruit of all times is the pomegranate, native to the high altitudes of South-West Asia (Iran, Afghanistan) and due to its popularity, it is now grown in appropriate climates all over the world. A friend of mine once asked me what does a pomegranate look like from the inside, and there was no way for me to explain it, except to show it. Rows of brightly red coloured, fleshy seeds are tightly packed and it is therefore a bit tricky to get them out. This fruit can be eaten raw (i.e. the fleshy seeds), used in salads, made into juices, and added to different traditional dishes. The seeds can also be dried to use as a spice and has medicinal properties as well.
Pomegranates: Classy, exotic, a favourite through the ages
My next trip to the marketplace may inspire another article - till then, I would love to hear about your favourite exotic fruit or vegetable. Happy reading.