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All About Exotic Fruits

Exotic fruit

Such a wide variety of exotic fruit has never before been available to consumers.


Tropical fruits are fragile by definition, and most do not travel well but today’s sophisticated refrigeration methods and enhanced transportation modes make it possible to find these fruits in supermarkets throughout the year. The selection is impressive and the quality remarkable. Look for them in your local Metro.

Batata

The batata comes from the Caribbean. It is a root vegetable very similar to the sweet potato. However, the flesh of the batata is white or yellow while its skin is coppery red or orangey red. Even though the batata is starchier than the sweet potato, it can easily replace it in any of your favourite sweet potato recipes. Small batatas are tastier than larger ones and retain their consistency better when cooked. It’s very versatile and can be used in recipes ranging from appetizer… to dessert ! The batata does not need to be refrigerated and will keep for one week at a temperature of 13º C. It’s a source of B6 Vitamins and Vitamin C.


Cactus Pear / Barberry Fig / Fruit of Sharon

Oval-shaped, the cactus pear measures from 8 to 10 centimetres in length. It is a hypoallergenic fruit. The flesh varies from orange to deep red; it is juicy, slightly acidulated, sweet and aromatic. Select firm, stain-free fruit—it’s ripe when the skin gives a little with a light pressure of the finger. It can be used in desserts, is delicious in fruit salads, vegetable, chicken or shrimp salads. You can also simply cut the fruit in half and remove the pulp with a spoon. Ripen the fruit at room temperature. The fruit is a source of Vitamin C, fibre, potassium and magnesium.


Carambola / Star Fruit

Carambola originated in Sri Lanka and the Molucca (Maluku) Islands. Today it is grown in tropical and sub-tropical climates around the world. Its juicy flesh is translucent, crisp and acidic. Select firm, bright, unblemished carambola with a fruity aroma. Cut crosswise, its star-shaped slices become a pleasing garnish for salads and fruit plates. Cooked, the carambola blends well with seafood. It can also be used in marinades, jams and jellies or simply sliced and served with a vinaigrette. If green, leave carambola at room temperature until its skin becomes yellow and fragrant. Carambola is high in vitamins A and C as well as in potassium.


Cherimoya

Native to the South American tropics, the cherimoya also grows in in Chile, Brazil, Southern Spain, Israel and Lebanon. The skin darkens to a deep purple as is ripens; this is the stage when the fruit is at its best. Sweet and creamy, the sometimes granular and very fragrant flesh tastes of strawberries and pineapple. Wash, peel, cut cherimoya into sections and add to strawberries, raspberries and papaya for an exceptional salad! Or eat it fresh with a spoon. The cherimoya does not keep very long and should be eaten as soon as possible after purchase. This exotic fruit is a very good source of Vitamin C, iron and phosphorous. It is also rich in sugar.


Fig

The fig originated in the Mediterranean basin. The most popular varieties are the Black Mission, the Kadota and the Calmyrna, which are cultivated in California from June to November. Select figs that have a closed base and are plump and soft. Avoid any that are shrivelled, scarred, mouldy or have a strong odour. Fresh figs are highly perishable and are most often sold dried or preserved. They pair well with dried fruit, cheeses, meats, ham, poultry, lamb and duck. The fruit is also very popular in jam, compotes, or in desserts. They are best eaten when ripe. If they remain hard, leave at room temperature until they soften. Figs are rich in vitamins A, B, C, potassium, magnesium, iron, copper and are a good source of fibre.


Guava

The guava originated in the Antilles and Central America. It is bigger than a fig but smaller than a pear and its flesh is white, red or pink and similar in fragrance to a strawberry or a peach. Select a smooth guava that is unblemished, and not too hard or soft. It can be used in sweet dishes such as fruit salads, jams, jellies, chutney, and in drinks, or eaten raw. The taste of guava blends well with apples, adding a fragrant aroma to pies and compote. It is also excellent in green salads. To ripen a guava, leave it at room temperature for three to four days. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium and also contains vitamin A, niacin, traces of phosphorus and calcium.


Kiwifruit

The New Zealanders gave this fruit the name kiwi as its fuzzy appearance resembles the kiwi bird. The yellow kiwi is a new variety being grown. Its fragrant flavour is milder and less acidic than the Hayward, the green kiwi. Its sweet and slightly acidic flesh contains tiny black edible seeds. While most people prefer to eat the kiwi peeled, its skin is also edible. Select a kiwi with uniform texture and colour. To tenderize meat, place a few slices of kiwi on it and leave at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. If kiwi is to be used in a fruit salad, it should be added last so that it won't soften the other fruits. Ripen the fruit at room temperature and then refrigerate. Kiwi is an excellent source of vitamin A and contains 25% more vitamin C than an orange or a lemon of similar weight.


Longan

A close relative of the lychee and the rambutan, the longan grows in grape-like clusters of about thirty fruits. Its small, yellowish red to brown fruit is roughly the size of a large olive. The longan is easy to peel and reveals a translucent, juicy, very sweet flesh surrounding a small, shiny, black seed with a white dot. Select deeply-coloured fruit that shows no cracks or bruises. Remove the outer skin by making an incision close to the stem and then peel away. Delicious on its own, the longan can also be served in fruit salads. For a more exotic touch, add the fruit to rice, sautéed vegetables, salads or sauces. Longans will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks stored in a perforated plastic bag containing a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture The fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin C and potassium; it also contains magnesium and copper.


Loquat

The loquat is a small, yellowish, fleshy, pear-shape fruit. To enjoy its sweet flesh to the fullest, the fruit must be picked when very ripe. If overly ripe, it will be too sour. The loquat is delicious in fruit salads. Its slightly sweet and sour flavour makes it a good choice to use in pastries and jams. Its pips contain hydrocyanic acid, which is very toxic. This is why only the very freshest pips are used during planting. Stored at a temperature of 10º C and humidity of 90 to 95%, the loquat will keep for two weeks. The loquat is very rich in calcium (16 mg) and Vitamin A. The skin is rich in tannin.


Lychee

The lychee originated in China and Vietnam where it has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. The lychee produces clusters of about a dozen plum-sized fruit. Its juicy, translucent flesh is crunchy, quite sweet and very fragrant, tasting somewhat like a strawberry. Select a lychee that is still attached to a stem with a pink to dark red shell. The redness of the shell indicates its freshness. It pairs well with rice, vegetables, stuffing and sauces. Or try it with cold meats such as pork or duck. It is best to refrigerate the lychee in a plastic bag containing a paper towel to absorb any moisture. The fruit is rich in vitamin C and potassium, and also contains copper and magnesium.


Mango

The soft, orange flesh of a mango is juicy, sweet and fragrant, similar to a peach, which explains why it is often called a tropical peach. Its mild, slightly acidic taste is distinctive. Select a mango that has a pleasant scent and is not too hard or shrivelled. Mango can be eaten alone, in fruit salad, with cereal in pies, jams, sherbets, cakes and other desserts. It goes well with poultry, duck, pork, shrimp and other seafood, too. To ripen a mango, leave it at room temperature for a couple of days. Mango is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and a good source of potassium and copper.


Papaya

The Spanish and Portuguese are responsible for introducing the papaya in the rest of the world. Select a papaya with yellowish-orange skin that yields slightly to the touch. The fruit goes well with smoked meats, seafood dishes and chicken curry. It can be used in fruit salads, puddings and yogurt and can be made into jam, ketchup or chutney. Papaya should be kept at room temperature until it becomes completely yellow. To speed up the ripening process, place the papaya in a brown bag with an apple. A green papaya can be peeled like a carrot. It is similar to winter squash and can be baked or barbecued in the same fashion. Papaya is an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A.


Passion Fruit

The passion fruit originated in South America and is now cultivated in most tropical countries. It has a thick yellow or brownish-red skin that is inedible which houses a sticky acidic pulp containing small edible seeds and is sweet, juicy, and very fragrant. Passion fruit can be eaten raw, in fruit salad, with yogurt or ice cream. It adds an aromatic touch to fruit salads, cocktails or punch and the juice makes a good marinade for wild game or fowl. Passion fruit can be left at room temperature until the skin begins to pucker. It is an excellent source of vitamin A and C, potassium and sodium, as well as a good source of iron, magnesium, niacin and phosphorus.


Persimmon

The fruit of the persimmon tree has a sweet and soft pulp. Select fruit that is smooth and bright, without scars and with intact stem. It is ripe when soft to the touch. Naturally delicious, the persimmon can be eaten with a spoon, with or without its skin. As a special treat, try adding a touch of rum. Persimmon is delicious puréed, in sauces, jams and as a preserve to be added to pies and cakes. In the Far East, it is used to make liqueur and wine. Persimmon can be refrigerated for only a couple of days. A good source of energy, persimmon provides vitamins A and C, potassium and copper.


Pineapple

The pineapple is a slightly acidic and aromatic fruit with brownish yellow bark. Choose a solid, unblemished pineapple that has a subtle aroma and no sign of mould. Its bark should yield slightly to touch. The fruit is extremely versatile and can be used in fruit salads, cakes, pies, punch, sherberts, etc. Sliced and buttered, it accompanies ham (traditionally served at Easter in Quebec) and white meats. It also goes well with ice cream and yogurt. Pineapple is a fragile fruit that is best consumed as soon as possible after purchase. It’s a source of energy, providing vitamin C, fibre, potassium, folic acid, and magnesium.


Pitahaya (Pitaya)

The pitahaya, also called the "dragon fruit" or the "strawberry pear", originated in Central America. Much like melon, the flavour of its flesh is sweet, delicate and fresh, leaving a refreshingly light milky taste on the palate. The pitahaya can be eaten raw with spoon or can be used to make juice or wine. It’s also a colourful addition to fruit salad. Once ripe, a pitahaya should be stored in the refrigerator where it will keep for a few days. Pitahaya is rich in vitamin C, fibre, minerals, antioxidants and betacyanin (particularly the red-flesh variety).


Plantain banana

The plantain banana is cultivated in South America, the Antilles, and Africa. The plantain has green skin that is thicker than other types. Its firm, pink flesh is slightly sweet and very starchy. Select whole plantains that are firm and intact. Even though the skin or peel may be brown or black the quality of the flesh will not be affected. Plantain will keep at room temperature for seven to ten days. Unless it is very ripe, it should not be refrigerated. To freeze, simply peel and wrap individually. Plantain is rich in potassium and a good source of vitamin C, B6 and magnesium. It also is a good source of vitamin A and folic acid.


Rambutan

The rambutan comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. Oval in shape, its green skin turns to red or brown when ripe and is covered with numerous hooked soft spines. Its white flesh is juicy and translucent. Select a rambutan with clear red skin and green hairs. To open, make a cut and peel back the shell. It can be served with ice cream and is especially good with coffee-flavoured ice cream. Belonging to the same family as lychee and longan, rambutan can be mixed with them in a crab and avocado salad. Rambutan is a delicate fruit and should be eaten shortly after purchase. A good source of energy, the rambutan is rich in vitamin C, and contains iron as well as potassium.


Red banana

The red banana is easily identified by its pretty red, pink or purple skin. Its flesh is smooth and sweet, often tinted of pink or orange. It is sweeter than the yellow banana. Always let bananas ripen at room temperature. To accelerate ripening, place in a paper bag. Red banana goes well with dairy products. It can be added to yogurt, ice cream, sherbets or milk shakes. Try it in cakes, pies and fritters, too. The red banana is an excellent source of B6 Vitamins and potassium. It is also a source of Vitamin C, riboflavin and magnesium.


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