Mystery Fruits Can Enhance and Entertain
Why eat the same old bananas and grapes when there are lots of other, exotic fruits to choose from?
By Jean Lawrence
Reviewed By Cynthia Haines, MD
You know that shelf of fruits and veggies that usually hangs above the lettuce rack in the supermarket -- and contains gnarly, hairy, or Day-Glo colored pods of all shapes and sizes? Don't pass those by and grab that same old apple. Boring!
"Variety in your diet is a great idea," Paula C. Bickford, PhD, professor at the Center for Aging and Brain Repair at the University of South Florida College of Medicine and the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, tells WebMD. "People get worried, though, because of the high-carb thing. Fruit does have some carbs, but the carbs are of a type that doesn't add weight, unlike the man-made, ultra-sweet high fructose corn syrup that is found in so many prepared foods."
Apparently, many Americans are not being scared away from fruit. In 2002, the average American downed 100 pounds of the stuff. A small percentage of that was of the exotic tropical persuasion.
The more we learn about fruit, Bickford says, the more benefits we find. "Blueberries not only act as antioxidants, but they can lower cholesterol," she says. "That's the nice thing about foods vs. pill-form vitamins. They are beneficial in more than one way."
Blueberries? Even those little nutritional powerhouses are mundane compared with the top fruit rack in the market.
So I skipped the market and dropped $13 in an upscale yuppie food store.
The horned melon, or kiwano melon as it's sometimes called, is about five inches long, screaming yellow-orange, with spiked or horns all over it. "Don't let your kids play with it," Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Melissa's World Variety Produce in Los Angeles, jokes. Melissa's is the largest provider of specialty produce in the country.
I can attest that this thing can hurt you! Horned melons are in the cucumber, not the melon, family. When you get your gloves on and slash it open, it is filled with translucent green pulp packed with cucumber-like seeds. You can put it in a fruit salad, seeds and all, or just dip it out of the rind watermelon style. One dip is all it took for me. The best way to describe it is the taste of green-ness with maybe a touch of cucumber and banana, with pretty firm little seeds in it. The melon looks incredible, cool and weird, and will keep on the counter for up to two months, Schueller says.
Horned melons are low in calories (about 25) and only have 3 grams of carbs.
"This is not like a honeydew or cantaloupe," Schueller warns. Pepino, in fact, means cucumber in Spanish, he says. The fruit -- also called mellow fruit -- comes from South America and is very popular in the Latin community, where cooks squeeze lime juice and hot sauce on it.
My pepino was a pearly oval with purple streaks. I cut it open and it had a pear-like interior, bland and a little grainy. My daughter said it tasted like a lettuce-flavored pear. It's suck-in-over-the-sink juicy, like the ripest of pears or peaches.
It also has fairly low nutritional values, Schueller says, which means to me that it's a perfect addition to something else or a host food for a yummy sauce!
Speaking of pears, the term Asian pear covers at least 25 types of pears available year-round. They come not only from Asia and Chile, but from our own California. They are crammed with fiber and even some protein.
Asian pears are shaped like apples and crunch when you bite, like an apple. Inside, though, they are sweetish and more like pear than any other flavor, although I found the one I ate to be sort of a generic fruit taste.
Melissa's recommends putting a few leaves of lettuce covered in cream cheese (Neufchatel is lower fat) on a plate, then adding two Asian pears, cubed, sprinkled with chopped salted peanuts.
Ugly fruit also goes by Uniq fruit or the trademarked spelling of Ugli. Think baggy grapefruit or a grapefruit crossed with a shar pei. Technically speaking, this is a tangelo from Jamaica. It comes into season in late October and is available nine months of the year.
The store I went to didn't have an "ugly" section, so I can only report what others say. The rumpled skin makes it easy to peel and section. It is citrusy -- somewhere between a tangerine and a grapefruit. You can put it in sweet or savory dishes. In fact, it also makes a fabulous hot toddy when the juice is mixed with rum and brown sugar (making it a "beautiful" fruit, in my book). It makes a mean marmalade, too.
Ugly fruit is high in fiber and loaded with vitamin C.