In much of the Western world, our notion of eating fruit does not extend far beyond the limited basket of apples, oranges, bananas and pears. There is nothing wrong with those wonderful tasting and nutritious foods. However, there is a whole world of exotic goodness out there and that many of our palettes have hardly scratched the surface of.
Our innate desire for sweet and succulent fruit could be much better satisfied if we were to sample from the vast variety of tangy and colorful fruits the tropical parts of the world have to offer. From durians, rambutans and lychees originating in Southeast Asia, to feijoas, cherimoyas and patayas hailing from South America, the opportunity to experience truly exotic flavors that are both good and good for you are endless.
A big part of the fun of trying new fruits is learning about all of the ones that are available to you.
There are so many fruits that come to mind when thinking about what’s available in Southeast Asia, but none have a combination of flavor and smell like the durian.
Available in nine different varieties, the durian is grown on a tree and has a greenish brown, thorn-covered husk. Its inner flesh, the edible part, emits a very potent smell. Many consider the smell to be aromatic and pleasurable, while others find it to be highly intolerable and offensive. In much of Southeast Asia, the fruit has been banned from public transportation and hotels. One account by a recent Canadian traveler to Malaysia had the hotel staff knocking on her door to not only confiscate her durian fruit, but also to thoroughly sanitize the room and provide her with a stern warning never to bring the fruit in the room again. For obvious reasons including potency, the durian has attained the title of “the King of Fruit” throughout much of Southeast Asia. For those who can stomach the smell and get it into their mouth, it has a sweet and sublime flavor that some say is similar to vanilla pudding.
If you like bananas, strawberries, pineapples and guava, you’ll very likely love feijoas. An exotic fruit native to Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, it is said to taste like a combination of the four. They are produced on feijoa trees, a small evergreen that can grow up to 12 feet tall. Oval in shape with a greenish skin, its inside has a thick and juicy flesh that is quite soft and pleasant smelling. Feijoas are often used in pie recipes and also to make preserves. The skin of the fruit can be eaten when cooked. It is important to keep this fruit refrigerated since it is known for spoiling very quickly.
One of the great things about durians, feijoas and countless other exotic fruits are their high nutritional value.
Everyone knows that according to the FDA and other sources of health information, multiple daily servings of fruit are good for the body. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we always follow the guidelines, but we should consider it.
From improving overall diet and losing weight to becoming more energetic, fruits have the ability to change the way we look and feel on a profound level. We all know that fruits contain vitamins and minerals vital to healthy bodily functions, but their benefits go way beyond that. A daily serving of a variety of fruits can stimulate memory and lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 80%. Fruits can aid in digestion and relieve a wide range of problems including constipation and abdominal cramping. They contain a high level of natural fibers that can regulate bowel movements. They can prevent fatal diseases and conditions like strokes and heart disease. And consider that many fruits contain over 75% water, allowing us to get a portion of our recommended 8 glasses a day in a flavorful way.
There are some people known as “fruitarians” who believe so strongly that fruits are the only foods truly meant to be consumed by humans, that it’s all they eat. The definition of a fruitarian can vary – some will also eat grains and seeds while others believe it is improper to do so. There are those fruitarians who will only eat fruit after it has fallen from the tree. It is the belief of some that fruitarianism is the original diet of Adam & Eve, and therefore the original diet of humankind.
Fruitarians do not cook food or drink alcohol, but for those of us who do, there are plenty of great ways to make use of fruits other than eating it plain and raw.
Cooking & Cocktails
Thanks to the creative culinary vision of Southeast Asia and many other parts of the world, exotic fruits are used in diverse and delicious recipes.
In Malaysia, durians are used to flavor everything from cakes and candies to chips and rice dishes. In Sumatra, they make a dish called sambal tempoyak consisting of fermented durian, coconut milk and spices. In Java, the seeds of the fruit are roasted like pumpkin seeds and eaten as a snack. Exotic fruit cocktails are also popular, both in the East and West. One particularly delicious drink is the rambutan and lime elixir. It consists of freshly crushed rambutan, lime, vodka and ice. Shaken together and served immediately, it offers a unique and refreshing taste.
And the great thing about using exotic fruits, whether they are raw, cooked or in drinks, is that they are generally readily available throughout many parts of the world.
Traveling provides many opportunities for pleasure, especially the pleasure of eating. The chance to try new and exotic fruits not only gives you a better idea of how locals eat on a daily basis, but it also provides you with a boost of nutrition which is never a bad thing when you’re on the move. If you wish to try a new fruit, say from Malaysia, and you have no plans of going there anytime soon, remember that in major cities throughout much of the Western world, there is access to ethnic grocery stores that are stocked with produce from all over the world.
Though you might not get the absolute freshest produce like you would if you picked it straight from the tree, a visit to the local ethnic market will likely provide you with what you are looking for to satisfy your sweet desires.