Remember the good ol’ days of childhood when you used to engage in a fierce ‘battle of wits’ with your pals in playing the name game? Name the place, name the animal, name the fruit, name the car!! And the battle raged on. However, it was most often that we came to a quick standstill on the matter of naming fruits- few had their spectrum of knowledge covering fruits beyond the reign of apples, mangoes, guavas, bananas, litchis, pears, berries and the like. But once you are done with the list below, I assure you that not only will your knowledge increase but, chances are, you will remain in awe of the surprises mother nature has to offer!
Worry not! This fruit is in no way connected to the beanstalk! Jokes aside, the jackfruit is perhaps one of the heaviest fruits one can come across (and also one with a disagreeable smell when cut open)! Native to the lands of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Philippines and parts of India, this fruit tastes something like a banana mixed with a pineapple. The disagreeable smell remains restricted to just the smell thereby sparing your taste buds to savour the taste of this ‘generous offering’ of mother Nature! Scientifically speaking, it grows on a tree that belongs to the Artocarpus genus of the mulberry family.
11. PASSION FRUIT
Cultivated in tropical areas mostly (South and Central America, Southern Asia, New Zealand, Australia, etc) the passion fruit has a juicy interior filled with an army of seeds! Varying from yellow to dark purple (at maturity) in colour, passion fruit juice is often used as an aroma enhancer and added to other fruit juices. Apart from its usage in a variety of dishes (ranging from desserts to soft drinks to fruit sauce) this fruit also bears sedative properties! Its active ingredient, Maracugina is commercialized by several brands in Brazil.
Passion of the Fruits!
Native to tropical West Africa, this fruit is a member of the Sapindaceae (as is the litchi). Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, having migrated to the country in 1778. Care must be taken by those who intend to have this fruit as it’s not completely edible! It causes the Jamaican vomiting sickness when the unripened fruit is consumed. Only the inner, brain shaped arils are edible. Due to this, it is also known as the ‘vegetable brain’!
The Vegetable Brain! Quite the ‘eww’ factor!
Found mostly in the mountainous regions of Latin America, Cocona fruit grows on a shrub with sturdy branches and big leaves. Belonging to the Solanaceae family the Cocona fruit is specifically native to the Andean region of South America. It is grown, in many places, as an indoor ornamental plant and is also known to withstand cool weather. The Cocona grows from a seed to fruit in just 9 months! Humans have competition now, huh? Taste-wise, it is said to be something of a cross between a lemon and a tomato.
Also known as Spanish lime, limoncillo is a resident of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Haiti. It has a tight but thin outer layer which can be penetrated by biting. The tangy, creamy pulp inside the skin is sucked out as a whole- this is why limoncillo is also known as mamoncillo, from mamar, which means to suck)! Apart from being planted for ornamental purposes, limoncillo had cloth dyeing utilities among the Arawak natives.
Sunshine of the forest?! There’s Limoncillo!
Also known as wood apple, this fruit is native to India although it can be found throughout Southeast Asia. A tough contender to the intimidating jackfruit, the bael has a near-indomitable exterior. A fall from a decent height on someone’s head and that someone can bid adieu to planet Earth! Owing to its hard exterior, it has to be broken with a hammer. However, this fruit is rich in useful properties. The pulp (or the juice) has digestive and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also used to battle worm infestation, ulcers and even amoebic dysentery. Surprisingly (or not) one large fruit can squeeze out of itself 6 litres of juice!
The hard hitter- Bael
Fruit of the purple mangosteen tree native to the Sunda islands and Moluccas of Indonesia, it also grows in parts fof South America, southern India and Puerto Rico. The fruit is sweet and tangy and somewhat fibrous. When ripe, the rind (exocarp) of this fruit is inedible. Modest on the nutrient front, some studies have indicated that this has mild anti-inflammatory properties. An interesting legend behind this fruit speaks of how it got the designation of ‘queen of fruits’; Queen Victoria had apparently agreed to offer a 100 pounds sterling to anyone who could give her the ripe fruit. Although this does not have any substantial historical evidence it does provide an interesting background read.
Queen of fruits- Mangosteen
5. AFRICAN HORNED CUCUMBER
Also known as the horned melon (with all these horns, one wonders whether it’s a fruit at all!!) this fruit has a pleasing contrast of colours. A spiky yellow appearance with a juicy green interior, it belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. Originally native to Africa, it is now grown in parts of USA (where many call it the ‘blowfish fruit’!), Chile, Australia and New Zealand. Along with the Gemsbok cucumber, it is the sole source of water in the Kalahari desert. Taste-wise it is a cross between a cucumber, banana and lemon. Juicy fruit aside, even the peel is eaten by many for its richness in Vitamin C and dietary fiber.
Quite the alien of fruits! African Horned Cucumber
Another member of the Sapindaceae family, rambutan is one fruit whose appearance is enough to creep the living daylights out of you! Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, it looks like a strawberry with tentacles growing on the outside; another version of this fruit, smaller in size, can be found in Costa Rica (known as wild rambutan). The inner flesh is sweet and sour in taste and slightly gummy and resembles the litchi closely. Rambutans ripen only on the tree on which they grow; these are widely used in the making of jams and jellies.
Creepy? Not quite by taste!
Commonly known as the dragon fruit, it is believed to be a native of Mexico. Dragon fruits have typically been found to be of two types (based on taste)- the sweet type, common in Asia and the sour type, common in the Americas. A dragon fruit is usually described as a cross between a strawberry and a pear. The seeds bear a nutty taste and have a significant amount of lipids in them. What is most interesting about this fruit is the fact that preliminary research has shown pitaya peels contain polyphenols which have anti-cancer properties. Apart from this, the flesh of this fruit is widely used as dessert topping, flavour beverages, etc.
2. AGUAJE FRUIT
A product of the Mauritia Flexuosa tree, it is a fruit high in Vitamin C content and is native to the wetter parts of South America. The fruit has a chestnut-coloured scaly exterior which houses the yellow flesh which, in turn, houses a hard nut. Widely used in jams, jellies, juices and even to make fermented wine, this fruit has medical properties as well. An oil, rich in vitamin A, extracted from aguaje (as it is called in Peru) is used to treat burns. Buriti oil, also extracted from aguaje (yes folks! This is a fruit, not an oil factory!), bears the ability to filter and absorb cancer-causing rays from the Sun.
Of many faces- Aguaje
1. MONSTERA DELICIOSA
Just as dangerous as the name sounds, this fruit can be harmful (read, toxic) if consumed before ripening. And that takes almost a year! Native to the rainforests of Central America, it resembles a corn ear in appearance. This is also known as the Fruit Salad plant. Its pineapple-like flesh can be reached by cutting off the exterior scales. It is said to have a taste that is a mixture of pineapples and bananas. As far as the toxicity is concerned, the unripe fruit is known to cause throat irritation and rashes in the skin (owing to potassium oxalate).
Diverse as it is, it is impossible to sum up the abundance of variety that Mother Nature has offered to us. The above mentioned 12 gems from the fruit kingdom is a testimony to the selfsame fact.