There are quite a few species of fruits growing in different parts of the world, especially in the tropics and subtropics that few people know about. This article focuses on five exotic fruits that people might have rarely come across.
Commonly known as Engkala or Pengalaban in parts of South East Asia, Litsea garciae is a rare fruit tree that grows in wild forests in South East Asia. It is distributed throughout the island of Borneo, to which it is native to, Taiwan, Sarawak region of Malaysia, parts of Indonesia, Philippines and Celebes. Often found growing close to riverbanks, Engkala is also cultivated in home gardens. The Engkala tree produces small round shiny fruits with a diameter of about 2.5 to 4.5 cm, which are greenish when young and turns pink when ripe. The Engkala fruit contains a single black seed and tastes like avocado. It is seasonal fruit and a delicacy in some South East Asian countries. The edible, savoury flesh of the fruit is eaten raw or softened in warm water and eaten with a little salt added to it.
2. Cape gooseberry
Physalis peruviana or Cape gooseberry is a herbaceous plant that belongs to the nightshade family (Solonaceae). It is a relative of tomato, potato and eggplant. It is native to South America, and cultivated in South Africa, Northeastern China, Egypt, New Zealand, Australia and some Pacific islands. Cape gooseberry grows wild in the Maldives. Cape gooseberry plants bear a small round, smooth, edible berry that is white or greenish in colour when young and orange when ripe. The fruit, with a diameter of 1 to 2 cm contains large number of tiny seeds. It has somewhat a sweet and sour taste and is enjoyed by many, especially young children. Cape gooseberry is used to garnish desserts or make pies and jam.
Jabuticaba or the Brazilian grape tree, scientifically known as Myrciaria cauliflora is a fruit tree that bears large number of grape-like purple fruits, native to South Eastern parts of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. The young fruits are green in colour and turn purple when ripe. The fruits that taste sweet grow directly from the trunk of the tree and contain about four black seeds. The sight of the numerous fruits blooming on the trunk of the jabuticaba tree is a very unusual scene. Jabuticaba fruits last for a short period before they go bad and therefore it occurs very rarely in places other than where it is grown. Jabuticaba fruits are eaten raw plucked straight from the tree or used to make juice and jellies.
4. Miracle fruit
Synsepalum dulcificum, also known as miracle fruit, sweet berry or miracle berry is a shrub that produces berries, native to West Africa. Miracle berry plants produce small, red, elongated berries that are about 2 cm in length, and contain a single seed. It is called Miracle berry because the berry causes sour foods to taste sweet. The power of Miracle berry is attributed to the miraculin it contains, which is a glycoprotein molecule commercially used as a sugar substitute. The exact mechanism by which miraculin causes sour foods to taste sweet is unknown. The fruit itself is only mildly sweet but after eating it even very sour foods such as limes would taste sweet. West Africans traditionally eat Miracle berry before their meals. Miracle berries are popularly consumed in food-tasting parties.
5. Snake fruit
Snake fruit or Salak, botanically known as Salacca zalacca, is a short-stemmed palm tree that bears fruits with reddish-brown scaly skin (which is why it is called snake fruit). It is native to the Indonesian islands, Java and Sumatra. Snake fruits which are pointed at both ends, grow at the base of the Salak tree, in clusters. The outer scaly skin of the fruit can be easily peeled, inside which, three lobes that look like garlic cloves each carrying a large black seed, can be found. The seeds of the young fruit are edible. Snake fruit taste sweet and acidic and can be very dry or moist in texture. Usually it is not exported to countries outside of which it grows. The fruit is consumed as it is or made into juice.
Published in: Gardening