Despite what the nutritional experts have to say about getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables, we all know what an uphill battle that can be. Part of the challenge can be simple boredom due to lack of choices. For a little variety, check out these strange and forgotten fruits for fitness and health.
1. Fingered Citron
Otherwise known as the Buddha’s Hand, this odd-looking fruit resembles nothing so much as an arthritic hand. A staple of diets in China and Japan for centuries, this strange fruit is a member of the Citron family, which pre-dates the more well-known citrus fruits. The rind and white flesh are edible and often served candied, while the center-most part of the fruit is sour and usually goes uneaten. The rind is frequently used as an air freshener in homes, or as a natural insect repellent. Curiously enough, it also has a place in many religious ceremonies.
Who wouldn’t at least take a moment to laugh about a fruit that goes by the name of ugli? The only fruit with a name that begins with the letter “u”, its taste is anything but ugly. Native to Jamaica, this tangerine-grapefruit hybrid combines sweet and sour in a combination usually only found in man-made candy.
Called a “sugar apple” here, the Noi-na is indigeneous to Thailand. Looking like a cross between a green raspberry and an artichoke, this yellow-green fruit is eaten like a grapefruit. Once ripe, the fruit break in half easily, to reveal the superbly sweet pulp.
4. Dragon Fruit
My youngest son went nuts when he heard about this unique fruit. Fascinated with dragons, he imagined it to be the food that fuels their ability to create fire. Fortunately, it doesn’t impart that ability, but the pitaya fruit, which can be found across Asia and South America, is another fruit that combines sweet and sour in a way appealing to the taste-buds of children. The fruit of the pitaya is filled with crunchy, edible seeds, while the pulp has a texture similar to that of the kiwi fruit.
5. Pawpaw Fruit
The Paw-Paw is North America’s forgotten equivalent to the more well-known banana. The largest fruit to be found in North America, this green fruit can be found across the southeast U.S. Shorter and thicker than the widely available yellow banana, this fruit is prized across its home range.
6. Star Fruit
Called so for its unique shape, the carombola is native to Sri Lanka. Fortunately, its unique flavor, coupled with the pleasing flavor has prompted its cultivation around the world. Tasting somewhat like a grape, lemon, and mango all rolled together, the tart star fruit is popular with kids, who adore the tart combination of flavors. This unique fruit is high in oxalic acid, which can lead to problems for kidney stone sufferers, so beware if that’s a problem.
Native to the Amazon, the urucu looks like a cross between a Venus flytrap and an oyster. The menacing-looking fruit opens to yield red seeds that are the best naturally occurring source of the pigment annatto. In culinary uses, the seeds are ground up and used as a paste to flavor many Latin American dishes.
The fruit of the Brazilian Grape Tree grows to 1-2 inches in diameter, and is prized for a flavor similar to that of black grapes. Growing directly on the trunk of the tree, the uninitiated are often confused when they see this large black fruit. With a shelf life on the order of 3-5 days, this sweet fruit is difficult to find outside its home range. However, it is often used to prepare jellies and jams, to impart a unique sweet flavor to foods.
9. Monster Fruit
The delicious monster fruit is native to the tropical rainforests of southern Mexico and Panama. The decorative plant grows as a creeping vine, producing a 10-12 inch long fruit that looks somewhat similar to green corn. Unripe fruit has an unpleasant odor, but once the scales have popped off, the tasty pineapple-like fruit below can be cut away and eaten.
10. Ackee Fruit
The national fruit of Jamaica, a cart of ackee fruit looks like cart full of eyes. Preparing the ackee for eating takes special knowledge of this fruit, as only the inner yellow flesh, known as the arils, are edible. Improper preparation can lead to a condition known as Jamaican vomiting sickness. However, when properly handles, ackee fruit is a rich source of vitamin A, essential fats, zinc, and protein.
About the author: Greg Hayes is the author of Live Fit Blog, where he writes about fitting fitness into busy lives. To find out more about how to choose healthy snacks to help lose weight and get fit, check it out!