Exotic Beauties

Fruit of the world

Exotic Beauties

How does one eat a durian? A pomelo or a carambola? You may have noticed some of these exotic fruits on your last visit to the local grocery store.

How wonderful that new smells and tastes are being offered to Canadians who are used to filling their carts with apples, oranges, and bananas. The only challenge is figuring out how to prepare these exotic beauties! 

Although their appearances may be unfamiliar, taking the time to learn how to choose and eat exotic fruits is well worth the nutritional value they provide. Here’s what they’re all about.

Mangosteen

Appearance
Skin is smooth and dark purple with a green calyx on top, surrounding the stem. To get the most out of your mangosteen, look at the underside of the fruit; the number of stigma lobes will correspond to how many tasty white fruit segments are inside. The more segments in the mangosteen, the less likely you are to find seeds. Skin should give slightly when pressed and the stem should be bright green, indicating freshness.

Health benefits
Mangosteens are low in calories and fat but contain a good amount of fibre, protein, and iron. A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences stated that xanthones, found in great quantities in mangosteen, demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anticancer effects.

Taste
The flesh is described as being both sweet and tangy. Not to be confused with a mango, the mangosteen’s flavour is hailed as unique and equally luscious and delicious!

Storage
Mangosteens will keep on the kitchen counter for a few days until you’re ready to enjoy them. Refrigeration can adversely affect the fruit, but if you must, wrap in newspaper and store on the upper shelf.

Preparation
Hold the mangosteen with the stem-end downward. With a sharp knife, cut around the middle through the skin, being careful not to cut too deep or you’ll damage the fruit. Lift off the top, separate the segments with a fork, and enjoy.

Durian

Appearance
This spiky, football-shaped delicacy definitely stands out among the more familiar smooth-skinned fruit in the produce section. Look for a durian that still has the stem or stalk attached; it’s the only way to really determine ripeness. A shrunken or dried stem tells you the fruit is past its prime. Shake the durian and listen for loose seeds, indicating the pulp has dried somewhat and is ready for eating.

Health benefits
Durians are rich in dietary fibre, thiamine, vitamin B6, and manganese. They also happen to be a very good source of vitamin C. Raw food advocates recommend them as a good source of raw fats.

Taste
While foodies find the custardlike inner flesh nutty and sweet, others can find it strong and unappetizing and liken the flavour to onion or garlic. Strong dislike of durians is often associated with their pungent odour—variously compared to gym socks, turpentine, and manure. The only way to really find out if it’s for you is to crack one open and dig in!

Storage
Keep durians at room temperature, away from other foods (to avoid affecting other food with its odour). Cracks or seams appearing on the outer shell indicate ripeness. The pulp can be stored in a well-sealed container in the refrigerator.

Preparation
Follow the natural seams with a sharp knife, slicing through the outer skin. If the durian is ripe enough, you can pull the hull apart into two halves. If not, use a knife to cut through the membrane. Scoop the flesh out and enjoy.

Pomelo (also Pommelo, Pummelo)

Appearance
Pomelos hold the title of largest citrus fruit in the western world. You might want to share one with a friend as one pomelo can contain as many as 18 segments. The peel varies from greenish to pale yellow, and it looks similar in shape and texture to a grapefruit. Chose a firm, thin-skinned pomelo that is heavy for its size.

Health benefits
One hundred grams of pomelo contains 150 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Pomelos are low in fat and calories and high in fibre and potassium. The fruit and juice have been shown to increase absorption of certain drugs, so if you are currently taking medications and your health care practitioner has instructed you not to consume grapefruit or grapefruit juice, heed this advice also for pomelos—a relative of the grapefruit.

Taste
Pomelos are similar to grapefruits not only in appearance but also in taste. Flavour varies from sweet to slightly acidic with a touch of bitterness.

Storage
A ripe pomelo will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Preparation
Other than taking twice as long to peel as an orange, pomelos are a simply prepared fruit. The segments can be used in salads and desserts or made into preserves. Throw pomelo sections into the juicer for a nutritious change from your usual morning beverage.

Dragon fruit (or Pitaya, Pitahaya)

Appearance
Once you set eyes on this flashy fruit, you won’t be able to pass it by without giving it a second look. The dragon fruit is aptly named with its fiery red skin and green scales. This exotic fruit hails from South America and is a member of the cactus family. Squeeze lightly to test for freshness; fruit should give slightly.

Health benefits
The juice of the dragon fruit is similar to beet in terms of high antiradical activity. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium are three rich minerals prevalent in the pulp.

Taste
Dragon fruit has a mildly sweet taste and is often compared to the kiwi fruit because of the similar black, sesame seed-sized, crunchy seeds embedded within the flesh.

Storage
Keep ripe dragon fruit in the refrigerator and use within a week.

Preparation
Dragon fruit is best enjoyed chilled, cut in half, and eaten right out of the skin with a spoon. The flesh is versatile and can be chopped for use in fruit salads, made into ice cream, or used to flavour soft drinks and marmalades.

Carambola (or Starfruit)

Appearance
Carambolas may look like plain, yellow, waxy fruits when displayed at the grocery store, but bring one home, slice it up, and you get a plateful of five- or six-pointed star snacks! The flesh is translucent, crisp, yet juicy and makes for an attractive garnish on any dish.

Health benefits
Carambolas are good sources of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), potassium, dietary fibre, vitamin C, and copper. Those who suffer from kidney trouble should avoid eating carambola due to its oxalic acid content. As with pomelos, the fruit and juice have been shown to increase absorption of certain drugs, so if you are currently taking medications and your health care practitioner has instructed you not to consume grapefruit or grapefruit juice, heed this advice also for carambolas.

Taste
Carambolas are as unique in taste as they are in shape. They are often compared to apples, pears, or even grapes with a slightly tart or acidic but sweet taste.

Storage
Keep fruit at room temperature until ribs develop lightly browned edges, indicating ripeness. Look for firm, shiny-skinned, even-coloured fruit when choosing carambolas at the market. Brown, shrivelled ribs indicate fruit is overripe.

Preparation
Simply wash and slice. No need to peel off the waxy skin—it’s edible!

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