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Five cool and exotic tropical fruits you probably don't eat 

Tropical climates and islands are known for many things. Beautiful weather, fine scenery, incredible wildlife… the list goes on and on. As winter grows colder, the temptation to escape to such sunny and welcoming places grows stronger. And why shouldn't it? 

Courtesy Wikipedia where to go? There's a lot of choice out there. Many travellers flock to explore wild and wonderful Thailand, or they opt for a magical and more laid-back journey to the Maldives.

Yet one thing that holidaymakers overlook about tropical travels is the amazing kinds of food to be found waiting. Here we're talking specifically about fruit. And yes, though we've probably all had a banana or a mango at some point (both tropical fruits, of course), there are so many more slightly crazy, certainly exotic, and usually sweet things worth a try. 

Got a case of wanderlust with your tantalised taste buds? Read on for five fruits your average Westerner probably hasn't had yet…

Possible region of origin: India
Taste: When ripe, the jackfruit tastes something similar to a combination of banana and pineapple. When unripe, it has been compared to chicken.

Coming in many different looking varieties, the prickly and tough-skinned jackfruit is the largest fruit you'll ever find growing on a tree (there have been reports of fully-grown jackfruit weighing up to 40kg!). When cut, the jackfruit releases latex, which doesn't dissolve in water. Very popular around the Indian subcontinent, the seeds are often boiled or baked. In the Philippines, the flesh, which is sweeter than the seeds, is cooked in coconut milk in a dish called ginataanglangka.

Courtesy Wikipedia apple
Possible region of origin: The West Indies
Taste: Very sweet. The juice can be spooned out. 

The star apple, about the size of a regular apple, gets its name from it's beautiful cross section. When cut in half, the flesh resembles a many pointed star, with the seeds in the middle of the pattern. There are a number of different varieties and colours, ranging from dark green to paler emerald shades all the way to vibrant purple. When unripe they are pretty much inedible, tasting astringent and bitter, but when ripe, they're delicious. 

Possible region of origin: The Amazon Rainforest
Taste: Sweet-caramel’, sometimes slightly cream, with a jelly-like texture.

The Abiu tree, which can grow up to a lowering height of 35 metres, is beloved in America for its relatively small fruits that resemble a pear in colour, but without the tapered top and stalk. Though the Abiu originated in the wilds of the Amazon Rainforest, it's a hardy thing, and many Brazilians have found them growing in their back gardens. 

Courtesy Wikipedia (or starfruit)
Possible region of origin: Indonesia
Taste: Similar consistency to grapes, crunchy and slightly sweet. Hints of citrus. The skin is slightly waxy and is also edible.

If you cut a Carambola crosswise it looks like a star, which is where it gets the name from. Being relatively low in sugar compared to some other fruit, sweetened starfruit juices and jams are pretty popular in places like India. More yellow starfruit tend to be sweeter in taste, and the green ones more tart. Unripe carambolas are sometimes used in the preparation of relishes or dipped in rock salt. 

Possible region of origin: China
Taste: Like a Lychee, but usually less sweet, more firm and less juicy/more tart.

The ‘Dragon's Eye’ sounds more like an alchemical ingredient, or something you'd use in witchcraft. The Longan is an important ingredient in Chinese medicine as it is thought to make people more ‘vigorous’. As a food, the Chinese sometimes serve them fried in dessert soups. Longan is also popular as a preserve, canned in syrup. 


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Latest update:  December 20, 2012