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Getting Exotic

with Fruit

By: Margaret MacMillan

Fruit is one of the great joys in life. Our delight at its sweet nature is also one of our first food experiences. Watch any baby beginning solid food take its first taste of mashed banana and you’ll understand what I mean. It’s a pleasure we take on our life’s journey progressing to rosy red apples, juicy oranges, tart grapefruit, succulent grapes, sweet berries, smooth melon, earthy cantaloupe, tangy pineapple, luscious peaches, mouth-watering pears, delicious nectarines, and delightful plums. Fruit can be eaten just as it is or it can be transformed into jam, chutney, sorbet, soup, juice, a shake, or a smoothie. It can also be baked into breads, cakes, muffins, pies, and crumbles and added to salads, pancakes, cereals, and ice cold drinks. And it can go from breakfast to lunch, appetizers, and dinner, as well as after-dinner drinks. Fruit is as versatile as it is delicious.

In this article, we’re going to explore fruits that are new to me and that appear in most lists of exotic fruits. I hope at least some of them are new to you, too. I look forward to discovering something fresh for our breakfast trays, favorite drinks, appetizer selections, sides, main dishes, and desserts.

My first choice of exotic fruit, which, by the way, is defined as any edible fruit regarded as exotic, especially in origin, taste, or appearance, by the Oxford English Dictionary, looks like a heavenly body about which many stories, poems, and songs have been written.

Star Fruit
Also known as carambola, the celestial star fruit is yellow in color and has five or more ridges running along the length of its thin waxy surface. It’s usually between three and five inches in length. When cut horizontally, the ridges of the star fruit give the slices a star shape making them a pretty garnish for various dishes and drinks. Its juicy pulp can be either sweet or sour, depending on the cultivar.

Native to the Malayan Peninsula and cultivated throughout Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and China, star fruit also grows in Florida and Hawaii because it thrives in a warm environment. It should be available in your grocery store from July to February.

Star fruit is ripe when it’s firm, shiny, and even-colored. If it’s not quite ripe when you get it home, let it ripen naturally at room temperature. Turn it often until it is yellow with light brown ridges. During storage, be careful, star fruit bruises easily. Ripe fruit can be stored at room temperature for two to three days or refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to one to two weeks. The brighter yellow the skin, the sweeter the flesh will be. Though star fruit can be peeled before eating, the outer skin is paper thin and the entire fruit is edible.

This pretty fruit can be used in a number of ways to enhance dishes, desserts, and drinks. The sweet variety is perfect as an exotic garnish in salads and cocktails. Just toss a handful into your favorite greens or cut a small slice into one and position it on the rim of a cocktail glass. Looking for a new way to jazz up cake and ice cream or a new take on upside down cake? Star fruit fits the bill. Its flavor and texture are perfect for sorbets, relishes, jams, chutneys, and preserves. Cut sections of the fresh fruit can also brighten up stews, curries, and stir fries featuring chicken, fish, or shrimp. When tossed with other tropical fruits, star fruit is a delightful addition to your fruit salad. For a delicious non-alcoholic beverage, star fruit can be puréed and added to juices, still water, or carbonated water. You’ll find lots of recipes that include star fruit on the Web as it continues to gain popularity throughout the United States.

Because of star fruit’s high oxalic acid content, those with kidney disease should not eat it. As well, like grapefruit, star fruit can interact adversely with many drugs. Consult your doctor before enjoying it if you’re taking medication.

Exotic fruits come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. My next selection is as captivating for its unusual appearance as it is for its taste.