For me, few things evoke far-away places and exotic locales better than local produce. The bright colors, strange shapes and funky textures are like a physical manifestation of the many miles you've traveled from home. Plus, you can indulge in the native fruits and vegetables of your destination with minimal guilt -- good news for the health conscious traveler.
With help from our Eat Well Global correspondents we've compiled a list of some rockin' fruits from around the world. Happy eating!
(You Don't Know) Jackfruit
Native to South and Southeast Asia, this giant among fruits can reach up to three feet in length and weigh as much as 100 lbs. Crazy, right?! Don't let the pungent odor of the ripe jackfruit deter you (the smell is compared to "decayed onions" by the horticulture department of Purdue University); its prickly yellow-green skin contains soft yellow flesh with a mild banana-like flavor. Fully-ripened jackfruit is consumed on its own, or incorporated into desserts like coconut ice cream in Thailand or halo halo in the Philippines. In India, you'll find young jackfruit fried and sold as chips, one of its many savory applications. But to get the maximum nutritional benefit of the largest tree-ripened fruit in the world, brave the nasty smell and oozing syrup, and try some on its own. Your efforts will be rewarded with solid doses of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and fiber -- and a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Notoriously stinky durian gives the jackfruit a run for its money: How many fruits can say they've been banned from riding the subway in Singapore? The strong, distinctive odor of this fruit elicits powerful reactions from most who encounter it, whether they can't stomach the aroma or agree that it is the "king of fruits" (as it's known in Southeast Asia). The pale-yellow flesh of the durian, when eaten raw, is most notable for its creamy, custard-like texture. It's relatively high in calories, but also delivers nutrients like potassium and beta-carotene. Those not prepared to confront the king can try durian flavored candies and ice creams, but we say, man up! Try some on your next trip to Southeast Asia, and tell us what you think.
Caju (God Bless You!)
Turns out all those cashews in your mixed nuts were once attached to a perfectly edible fruit. Who knew? Brazilians enjoy the apple-like portion of the plant in addition to its seeds (the part we know as nuts). Cajueiro trees are native to northern Brazil, where cashew apples are frequently juiced for a light, refreshing beverage that's low in calories and high in vitamin C.
Kiwano (...Eat You!)
Kiwano's spiky appearance has earned it the nickname "horned melon" (yes, that's horn-ed). The bright orange-yellow outside is studded with spiked protrusions, and contrasts sharply with its vibrant green flesh. The taste and texture of kiwano are slightly vegetal, like a tart cucumber. Kiwano is native to Africa, where it's eaten as a snack, added to salads or juiced for use as a palate cleanser.
Rambutan (First Blood - Part Five)
Hairy red rambutan may look like it belongs in the pet store, but we assure you it's produce. It's a close relative of the lychee and can be found in many warm weather climates (though it originally hails from Malaysia). To eat rambutan like the locals do, just tear open the reddish rind and eat the sweet flesh as is. These little guys look like they'd bully you in a fight, but will easily yield their juicy insides for the intrepid fruit-lover's enjoyment.
Ready to go global with us? Check out the Eat Well Global suite of apps in the iTunes and Android Stores.
Hauling the massive jackfuit to market; it's the largest tree-ripened fruit in the world!
The inside of the jackfruit; you'll frequently see the pods of yellow flesh sold individually at markets.
Durian, "king of fruits." Looks like the jackfruit, but beware...
...its odor is, shall we say, pungent.
So pungent, in fact, it's not allowed to ride the subway in Singapore. Poor, misunderstood durian!
The caju, or cashew apple, in its entirety. The small green nubs hanging from the bottom contain the nut we know and love; but the remaining fruit is enjoyed on its own in Brazil.
Kiwano's bight, luscious interior. So pretty!
A closer look at the "horned melon's" eponymous horny exterior.
Hairy rambutan at a market...
...and the sweet, pearly flesh hidden beneath its unruly exterior. Didn't your mother teach you not to judge a book by its cover?
Follow Julie Meyer, RD on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@eatwellglobal