If you dream of going to a tropical paradise for a relaxing vacation, but you can’t get away anytime soon, we’d like to bring a little paradise to you with some delicious ideas for tropical fruit treats. Just a whiff of these succulent fruits will take you away to the beach and thoughts of relaxing under a palm tree.
You’re probably familiar with mangoes, papayas and pineapple. But there are so many fruits we don’t see often in the U.S. And most of these exotic fruits are full of FoodTrients® including vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and more. Full disclosure: You won’t find most of these fruits in your local Kroeger (unless you live in Miami or Hawaii). Most likely, you’ll need to order them online. One site that a friend of mine recommended is Tropical Fruit Box. You can also find sources on Amazon and Melissa’s. Don’t overlook the frozen fruit section of the grocery store. You may find some of these items there.
Here are some of the fruits you probably won’t find strolling down the aisles at your suburban supermarket, though if you live in an area with a Latin, Southeast Asian, or Caribbean population, you might find a number of them.
This big, scary fruit studded with spikes looks like a giant dinosaur egg. They can weigh up to 100 pounds! It’s the largest fruit in the world and botanically related to breadfruit and figs. People use jackfruit as a vegan meat replacement because of its meaty texture and neutral flavor, which takes on the flavor of the sauce or spices you use. You can sometimes buy jackfruit pieces fresh or frozen, but it’s widely available canned. Jackfruit has a low glycemic index, provides some fiber, protein, and antioxidants, all of which may help stabilize blood sugar. It contains 18 percent of the RDI for vitamin C, 16 percent for manganese, 15 percent for magnesium, and 15 percent for copper. The taste is described as a combination of apples, pineapples, mangoes, and bananas.
Another fruit that may take you aback if you happen upon it in the produce section, is dragon fruit (also called Pitaya or Pitahaya), the fruit of a cactus originally from Mexico and Central America. People describe the flavor as a mix between a pear and a kiwi. It comes in three colors, all of whose flesh is studded with tiny black edible seeds: yellow skin (the sweetest) with white flesh, dark reddish-pink skin with white flesh, and dark reddish pink with matching dark pink flesh. Dragon fruit is a one-fruit health kit: It’s high in calcium and phosphorus for bone health; high in B vitamins for nerve health; vitamin A for eye support; has anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants to protect cells from the effects of aging; has cardiovascular protective benefits and helps boost immunity. Dragon fruit flesh is delicious eaten out of hand or in desserts and smoothies.
Cherimoya‘s also known as Custard Apple, Chirimoya, or Annona. This delicious and creamy fruit is native to tropical climates and hard to find in the U.S., making it a real treat. It tastes like a combination of pineapple, mango, and banana with just enough acid to keep it from being overly sweet. Just cut it in half and spoon it out. It’s high in antioxidants, which fight free radicals that can damage cells. It’s high in vitamin B-6, which can help elevate mood. It’s rich in the carotenoid antioxidant lutein, which helps maintain eye health. It contains potassium and magnesium to regulate blood pressure. Cherimoya also may help prevent cancer because it contains flavonoids including catechin, epicatechin, and epigallocatechin, which have been shown to stop the growth of cancer cells in test-tube studies.
Mangosteens are round and have a reddish-purple rind with a white creamy flower-shaped flesh. The flavor is difficult to describe, but people describe it as tasting like a combination of a lychee with strawberry and peach notes. The rind of the mangosteen has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries. The fruit is grown exclusively in Southeast Asia, because the plant can’t tolerate temperatures below 40 degrees. One of mangosteen’s most significant attributes is its antioxidant profile. Antioxidants are compounds that can neutralize the damaging effects of potentially harmful molecules called free radicals, which are linked to various chronic diseases.
Mangosteen contains several nutrients with antioxidant capacity, such as vitamin C and folate. Plus, it provides xanthones — a unique type of plant compound known to have strong antioxidant properties. Mangosteens have also been used to help relieve gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and dysentery. Enjoy mangosteens in fruit salads or make into ice creams and sorbets. Try mangosteen when making clafouti, a custardy dessert.
Popular in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and Florida, mamey features a brown, woody rind with flesh that is salmon colored to almost red with a flavor compared to pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and apricots with a whiff of almonds. It’s most available from July through October. Mamey fruit is highly nutritious, packing significant amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals into each serving. One cup provides 74 percent of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin B-6, 45 percent of the DV of vitamin C for skin health and to strengthen immunity, 41 percent of the DV for copper, 25 percent of the DV for vitamin E, and 9.5 gm fiber for digestive health.
One of my Hawaiian friends studies the history of Hawaiian cooking and recipes dating back to the 1950s. She also updates those recipes and makes them healthier. This is her version of vegetarian chili using unripe jackfruit in place of ground beef. She serves it with chives. You can use fresh or canned unripe jackfruit. Canned jackfruit is sold at Trader Joe’s and online at Amazon. Be sure to soak the beans overnight before cooking the chili.
Jackfruit is full of carotenoids, which may help inhibit cancer and tumor growth; vitamin B-6, which the body needs to create energy on a cellular level; vitamin C for a strong immune system; and potassium, which supports nerve and muscle function.
1 Tbs. coconut oil
1 can (20 oz.) unripe jackfruit or 1 lb. fresh unripe jackfruit, cut into ¼-inch pieces
2 sweet potatoes, diced
1 medium-sized sweet onion (Vidalia or Maui), diced
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbs. soy or tamari sauce
3 cups vegetable broth
¼ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. salt
1 cup diced pineapple
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 can (14–15 oz.) crushed or diced tomatoes with green chile peppers (or 6 Roma tomatoes and 1 green chile pepper, finely diced)
1 cup kidney beans, soaked overnight and drained
1 cup pinto beans, soaked overnight and drained
1 bay leaf
5 fresh chives, minced, as garnish
Mangosteens are a royal fruit, said to have been favored by Queen Victoria. They come from Southeast Asia, where I grew up. The hard, dark purple shell must be removed before you can get to the pure white, delicate, juicy segments inside. The largest segment of each mangosteen contains a pit that should be cut out and discarded. You can also substitute pears or peaches, or (to keep the dish exotic) rambutans. This chutney can be served with cheese and crackers, spread on burgers, or served alongside spicy Indian dishes.
Mangosteen juice has anti-inflammatory properties, and the rind contains xanthones, which are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. The rind isn’t very tasty, however, so some people take it as a supplement. Quercetin in the onions supports the immune system and may reduce allergic sensitivity. Ginger is used to alleviate nausea and inflammatory conditions.
½ cup diced onion
2 Tbs. minced ginger
1 Tbs. sunflower oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
¼ cup raw or natural brown sugar
¼ cup apple-cider vinegar
1½ cups mangosteen pulp (about 6–8 mangosteens)
1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder (optional)
¼ tsp. white pepper
1 bay leaf
Yields 3–4 cups
This is a sweet and sour stir fry that could almost pass as a dessert. This recipe uses underripe mamey fruit, which will retain its shape even after an hour of stewing. You can substitute sweet potatoes if you can’t find mamey fruit.
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 large apple, peeled and chopped
2 cups unripe mamey fruit cut into 1 ½” chunks
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 clove garlic, grated
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 Tbs. ketchup or chili sauce
1 ½ Tbs. granulated sugar
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
This is a vibrant, antioxidant-rich smoothie that tastes just as good as it looks. It’s the perfect fruity smoothie to make year-round for breakfast or as a snack. Sweet and tart berry flavor with a punch of zippy lime and stunning color from pink dragon fruit. You can find pureed pink dragon fruit packs in the frozen section of your grocery store.