By now they have become an increasingly constant presence in the supermarket counter, while once they were consumed only on special occasions, such as Christmas or other holidays. These are exotic fruits: fruits from tropical areas of the world, where delicacies with bizarre and peculiar shapes and colors are produced.
Often not knowing its fundamental characteristics leads us to buy fruits that are not yet mature, or excessively mature, and therefore deprive us of the pleasure of tasting these particular delicacies.
Indeed some exotic fruits are now also at home, like pineapple and banana, which are now among the most known and consumed fruits in the world; others are known and purchased by many people in Europe too, such as avocado, papaya, mango, litchis; others are gastronomic curiosities, which unfortunately are often only part of beautiful centerpieces, because the owners of the house do not know the taste, they do not know how to peel them, they do not know whether it is appropriate to eat them raw or cooked.
We list here some of the exotic fruits now present in all Italian supermarkets, and often also from the greengrocer or the local market, avoiding to mention those that by now everyone knows and habitually consumes.
The avocado is the berry produced by Persea americana, a small tree originating in Central America, cultivated to produce the fruit also in Asia, Africa and Europe. Evergreen trees produce numerous pear-shaped fruits, depending on the variety of the plant these fruits may have green, brown or even purple skin, smooth or covered with wrinkles and lumps. The maturity of the fruit is felt when the pulp is slightly yielding; an excessively hard fruit is still unripe, while if our avocado is soggy to the touch we can also throw it.
It is eaten raw, chopped or smoothed; in general it is a fruit that is consumed with the addition of salt, as a base for sauces such as guacamole, or in salads. The pulp, greenish or yellowish in color, is creamy and contains a lot of oil.
To eat an avocado it is necessary to engrave it on the side and, taking it with both hands, divide it in two, revealing the large central seed; at this point if the fruit is very ripe we can dig it with a spoon and use the whisked pola; if instead it is less mature we can peel it with a small knife and cut it into slices for a salad.
The avocado pulp tends to oxidize quickly if left in the air, so it is generally used with citrus juice, which prevents oxidation.
Mango is the fruit of the mangifera indica, an evergreen tree native to Asia, now also cultivated in Africa and South America.
The fruit resembles a huge olive; there are dozens of varieties of mango, so there are fruits of various colors and sizes; generally those sold in Europe are the size of an apple, and of various colors, from green to yellow, from orange to red, even to purple. The mango fruits are ripe when they are slightly yielding to the touch; also in this case a fruit that is too soft, or with bruises, is too mature.
The peel of the mango is thick and fibrous and often difficult to remove, then it is divided by dividing the fruit in half, raising the seed, and cutting the pulp into squares: at this point it pushes from the side of the peel to obtain a species of porcupine from which is easier to pick up the pieces of pola. If desired we can also remove the peel and cut the mango into small pieces. This fruit is consumed raw, or even in jams or compotes. In Indian cuisine it is also used in the salty version, mixed with spicy meat dishes.
Papaya is the fruit of a plant called Carica papaya; these plants grow naturally in central and southern America, where they produce large fruits, up to 6-7 kg in weight. Papayas are grown in America, Asia and Africa, although dwarf species are often grown, which produce fruits weighing less than a kilogram.
It has firm and fragrant pulp, which contains a particular enzyme, papain; this enzyme has the ability to soften the meat, and in fact often the sap of the plant, the juice of the fruit or even pieces of the fruit were traditionally used by the central American populations for this purpose.
The papayas are consumed when they are of a beautiful golden yellow color, and are eaten raw, or in jam, after having removed the peel and the innumerable seeds contained in the center of the fruit.
Green papayas are used cooked, often in savory dishes.
Papaya seeds are edible and have an intense and spicy flavor; dried and toasted can be used as pepper.
Kumquat is a small citrus fruit, with an oval shape, originating in Japan, cultivated also in Italy. It has the particularity of having a sour pulp and a thin and aromatic peel, so it is eaten whole. The kumquats are fairly common citrus fruits in Italy, and are eaten raw, but they are also used very often in syrup or candied fruit: this treatment enhances the aroma at the same time sweet and sour.
The litchi chinensis plant produces countless small red fruits, the size of a ping pong ball, gathered in large clusters. It is a plant of Chinese origin, also cultivated in southern Asia, Israel and Italy. The fruits are particular: they have a thin rigid peel, which breaks easily with the nails, and contains a whitish, translucent, very aromatic pulp. Inside the fruit there is a large seed.
The litchis are bought when they are well turgid, bright red, free of depressions and delicately scented, avoid buying fruits with traces of mold which, even if superficial, ruin the taste of the whole fruit.
The litchis have a delicate flesh, sweet and juicy, which is eaten raw, but is also used to prepare creams, ice cream and sorbets. In China they are generally used in syrup, but it does not seem that this product has attracted much Italian consumers.
Closely related to the lychee is the Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), the fruits, in shape and flesh very similar to the lychee, have numerous soft hooks on the peel, which make them vaguely similar to the urchin of a horse-chestnut; also rambutans are eaten fresh, after having removed the thin red or orange peel. While litchis are easy to find on the market, rambutans are less common in Italy.
Maracuja is the fruit of some varieties of passion flower, it is also called passion fruit; there are two varieties, one yellow, the size of a small orange, and one violet, the size of a mandarin. They are plants of South American origin, now widespread in cultivation also in Asia, New Zealand and in most of the tropical areas of the world, where they have sometimes become weeds.
The passion fruit is consumed when the skin begins to lose turgidity and the pulp becomes soft, as it happens for the medlar or the khaki. At this point the thin skin is cut with a knife and seeds and pulp are extracted with a spoon, which are consumed together. The flavor is decidedly very aromatic.
The passion fruit is used raw, but can also be used to produce jams, fruit juices, jellies, ice creams, creams.
Large fruit of the Acca sellowiana, similar to large green plums. Plant native to central-southern America, this plant is also cultivated in Europe, Asia and Africa.
The fruits have a hard and resistant rind, which is engraved with the knife to divide the fruit in half; inside the flesh is yellow, fragrant, slightly sweet, aromatic, it is consumed raw.
Fruit of the Psidium guajava, native to South America, very cultivated also in Asia. The guava fruits are similar to quince, and are ripe when they reach the yellow color and a consistency which is quite yielding to the touch, but not excessively. They are generally eaten raw, but are also used to produce jams, creams and jellies.
Garcinia mangostana is an evergreen tree widespread in Southeast Asia; produces fruits similar to small apples, of green color, hard and compact, which are harvested keeping the flower's chalice and the peduncle that connected the fruit to the branch attached to the fruit. When the green skin becomes purple and slightly yielding, the fruit is ripe, ready to be consumed. If the calyx and the peduncle appear dry or damaged and the pulp has depressions, our mangosteen is to be thrown away.
The outer skin is engraved with the knife, to divide the fruit in half: inside a thick non-edible and fibrous pulp we find an aril divided into segments of white color, it is the edible part of the fruit.
The flavor of the mangosteen is intense and aromatic, and the segments have a creamy consistency; they are eaten raw.
Exotic fruits: Pitaya
The pitaya is the fruit of a cactus, called hilocereus undatus, native to South America, cultivated to produce fruits also in Asia; the fruit is similar to a soft pear, of yellow or pink color, just picked it is covered by numerous thorns, which generally are not present on the fruits diffused on the market, as it happens for the prickly pears.
The fruit is consumed by cutting it in half and consuming the soft pulp with a spoon; pitaya fruits are full of small dark seeds, immersed in a white gelatinous pulp, with a delicate and fragrant taste. This fruit is generally consumed raw, fresh, but can also be used for juices, creams and jellies.
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The tropical fruits, as their name implies, are produced from plants originating in the tropical and subtropical area
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