Don't Be Afraid of This Fruit's Prickly Skin—It's Actually Super Tasty

Don't Be Afraid of This Fruit's Prickly Skin—It's Actually Super Tasty

Here are six unusual fruits you should get to know. 

By Maggie Shi
Digital Series
Isaac Takes On...Breadfruit

Bored with lemons, peaches, and strawberries? Keep an eye out for these six unusual fruits the next time you're in a specialty or ethnic market. You just might never bake a basic apple pie again.

1. Rambutan

Native to Southeast Asia, this prickly-looking fruit is related to something that's probably a little more familiar to you—the lychee. (We're sure you've downed a lychee martini or two in your day.) It's similar in taste and texture: sweet, creamy, and juicy. Just peel off the hairy skin (don't worry, those pricklers aren't sharp) and pop the fruit in your mouth, avoiding the pit in the middle, or add it to fruit salads, smoothies, desserts, or drinks, the same way you would a lychee.

2. Longan

Another relative of the lychee, the longan—also called "dragon eye"—is a little more tart and less juicy than the rambutan. Its thin, brown skin is also slightly harder to peel. Use it the same way you would a rambutan, or just eat it out of hand for a refreshing treat. Whether you choose a longan, rambutan, or lychee depends on your personal taste preference—and what's available in the market, of course.

3. Breadfruit

Breadfruit season. #Tonga #RelaxingAdventure #Breadfruit #Tongatapu

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This round, starchy fruit is a staple ingredient in the South Pacific, the Caribbean, and Central America, among other places. It grows easily and is incredibly versatile, as it can be eaten ripe or unripe. It's often treated like a vegetable and boiled, steamed, or baked, then served in place of a starch like potatoes or rice. When ripe, it becomes sweet and can be incorporated into pies, cakes, and other desserts.

4. Jackfruit

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Commonly found in tropical regions like Southeast Asia, the starchy jackfruit is enormous in size—some fruit can even weigh up to 100 pounds. The flesh is made up of numerous pods, which can be eaten raw; they have a soft, custard-like, slightly stringy texture and a musky smell, but when ripe, the flavor is sweet. Like breadfruit, jackfruit can be used both ripe and unripe in sweet and savory dishes, like smoothies, ice cream, curries, and stir-fries. And oddly, it's having a moment here in the U.S.—cooked unripe jackfruit is being used as a vegan substitute for meat in some creative restaurants. (Apparently, its stringy texture closely resembles pulled pork?!)

5. Calamansi

Popular in the Philippines, this unique citrus is like a cross between a mandarin orange and a kumquat. Don't be fooled by its orange skin; it's tart, not sweet. You'll find it used in many traditional Filipino dishes, as a marinade, dipping sauce, garnish, or even in tea or as a juice. Use the rind, juice, and pulp the way you would any other tart citrus to add a refreshing, acidic zing.

6. Noni

You'll find this fruit in the South Pacific, where it's called a variety of names—noni, morinda, and Indian mulberry, to name a few. It's long been prized for its medicinal qualities; it supposedly helps lower cholesterol, reduces pain, and has antibacterial properties, too. In fact, you'll find noni supplements, teas, and juices in health food stores, and it's even been used as a natural treatment for illnesses like cancer. This bumpy green-yellow fruit has white flesh with seeds inside, and the odor and flavor aren't great. It also doesn't keep well, so you'll usually find fresh noni pressed into juice.

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