Having grown up in the UK, I am used to such fruits as apples, pears, bananas, raspberries, and the occasional pineapple. But in tropical countries around the world, from Thailand to Brazil, there are different types of fruit that look pretty, but ultimately struggle to make a positive impression on my taste buds.
Native to the Malay Archipelago, the name of the Rambutan fruit is derived from the Malay word meaning “hairy” – and you can see why! Yet once the hairy exterior of the rambutan is peeled away, the tender, fleshy, delicious fruit is revealed. Its taste is described as sweet and sour, much like a grape. Rambutans are generally eaten raw but are sometimes stewed with sugar and cloves and eaten as a dessert.
The fragrant and edible flesh of the Mangosteen can be described as sweet, tangy, citrusy and peachy. Naturally grown in tropical Southeast Asia, it has been so prized that Queen Victoria is said to have offered a reward of £100 to anyone who could bring her a fresh one. The sweet meat of this fruit is, perhaps appropriate to the legend, well protected by its hard shell, which typically must be split with a knife and cracked open before it can be enjoyed.
The Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, growing to the hefty weight of 80 pounds. It is also the national fruit of Bangladesh and may have been cultivated in India as early as 6,000 years ago. Related to the breadfruit and marang, its buttery flesh is thick with fibre and often described as starchy in flavour. Many say it tastes like a cross between an apple, pineapple, mango and banana. One popular way to prepare this fruit is to deep fry it into crunchy jackfruit chips.
A prominent food in southern Mexico, a ripe Avocado is not sweet, but distinctly and subtly flavoured, with smooth texture. It is used in both savoury and sweet dishes, as well as being eaten as a fruit in itself. The avocado is popular in vegetarian cuisine as a substitute for meats in sandwiches and salads because of its high fat content. Generally, avocado is served raw, though it can be cooked for a short time without becoming bitter.
The Bambangan is a fruit that grows on the trees in the forests of Borneo and is a type of wild mango. It usually has brown skin and has a somewhat pungent smell. This is not literally eaten fresh as a fruit but made into a pickle or cooked with fish for a distinctive flavour.
Deep in the Amazon rainforest can be found the famous and nutritious Acai Berry. Unlike traditional berries, acai berries do not grow on a bush but instead on a palm tree, more specifically the acai palm, and they are harvested when they become ripe and dark, and the approximate size as a grape at harvest time. Most people describe the flavour of the acai berry as being a cross between a rich blackberry or raspberry or a piece of dark chocolate. Most say the chocolate flavour is more of an aftertaste that hits after chewing the berry for a few seconds.
Revered in Southeast Asia as the “king of fruits”, the Durian is best described as a rich custard highly flavoured with almonds. This large fruit can be recognised by its thorn-covered husk and pungent odour, which has been likened to the smell of gym socks or rotten onions. That may not sound very appetising, but for those who enjoy it, the smell is worth the taste!
Personally, although I dislike all of the tropical fruits listed above, I do love a good fresh mango! My favourite dessert is Khao Niao Mamuang (mango sticky rice from Thailand) and I did love the mango flavoured popsicles from Mexico! Why can’t everything be as nice as the mango?!