What is an exotic fruit? Your answer to that would depend on where you live. In North America and Europe, mangos are considered exotic, but in India, they are as commonplace as apples on those two continents. At Produce Buzz we like to think globally, but since we are in the good ol’ USA, we and the rest of the northern hemisphere consider tropical fruits like mangos, pineapples, papayas and passion fruit as exotics. But just because a fruit hails from the tropics or travels a long way to our table, it is not guaranteed permanent exotic status. The banana and kiwifruit have both lost their exotic fame because they are now so plentiful on western-world grocery store shelves.
Daphne van Doorn, Policy Advisor Communications and Agriculture at the Brussels-based European Fresh Produce Association Freshfel, said global consumption for exotic fruit is on the rise. China and India account for 38% of the global production of exotic fruit, but they consume most of it domestically rather than exporting. According to Ms. van Doorn, mangos are the clear leader of global exotic fruit production. They account for 58% of the 102 million tonnes of exotic fruit produced globally every year, followed by pineapples at 22%. But less than 10% of this volume, just 8.7 million tonnes, made it onto the global market. So 90% of “exotic” fruit is consumed in the countries where it is grown and most likely not considered “exotic!” So is a mango only exotic if it emigrates?
What are your favorite “exotic” fruits? Here is a list. How many have you tried?
Dragon Fruit is the fruit of several different cactus species indigenous to the Americas. It is also known as “pitaya.” It’s flavor and texture is similar to kiwifruit but not quite as sweet. The flower that produces the fruit only blooms at night and wilts once the sun comes up.
The horned melon is also known as “African Cucumber” from where it is native. It is an annual vine in the cucumber and melon family. Its fruit has horn-like spines, hence the name. Ripe fruit has orange skin and lime green, jelly-like flesh with a refreshingly fruity taste, and texture similar to a passionfruit or pomegranate. It is native to Sub-Saharan Africa but is now grown in the United States, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Chile, Australia and New Zealand.
The rambutan is native to Indonesia, and other regions of Southeast Asia. It is closely related to other edible tropical fruits including the lychee. The leathery skin is reddish and covered with fleshy pliable spines, hence the name, which means ‘hairs’. The fruit flesh, is translucent, whitish or very pale pink, with a sweet, mildly acidic flavor very reminiscent of grapes.
It is a tropical tree native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China, where cultivation is documented from 1059 AD. China is the main producer of lychees, followed by India, other countries in Southeast Asia and South Africa. Its texture is very firm and tastes like a tart grape with some floral overtones.
Prickly pears grow on cactuses in the deserts of the American Southwest. It is the fruit of the nopales and is actually quite edible. These neon colored fruits provide delicious juice that tastes like a cross between kiwifruit and watermelon.
Some people regard the durian as having a pleasantly sweet fragrance, whereas others find the aroma overpowering with an unpleasant odor. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust and has been described variously as rotten onions, or raw sewage. The persistence of its odor, which may linger for several days, has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia. But people who love the fruit can get past its pungent smell and say the fruit has a delicious custard-like flavor.
Passion fruit is native to southern Brazil through Paraguay and northern Argentina. It is cultivated commercially in tropical and subtropical areas for its sweet, seedy fruit, commonly called passion fruit.
The Jackfruit is native to parts of South and Southeast Asia and is believed to have originated in the southwestern rain forests of India. It is widely-cultivated and a popular food item in tropical regions of India, Africa, and Asia — and is the national fruit of Bangladesh. It is the largest tree-borne fruit, reaching as much as 80 pounds in weight, 36 inches in length, and 20 inches in diameter.