Who knew? Not me. Definitely not ready for roasting on an open fire. Interesting, though.
Two new ones, at least for us. First up is called erik – sour green plums. These bad boys are super-crunchy and super-sour, so much so that Chris has eaten exactly one of them. I like them alright, though they don’t have that redeeming aftertaste that sour fruit usually has. In Bursa, there was no seed (or it was young enough to be edible), but later on, I had it with an inedible seed. Either way, they make a cheap, healthy snack.
Loquats are a fruit that I had heard of before – they are grown in Taiwan – but had never tasted. They were all over the place in Kaş, growing on trees in every second yard and available for sale at any market or bus station. To me, they tasted what the love child of a lemon and a mango would taste like – slightly tart, really juicy, and very rich. I ate around a kilo of these in the space of a couple of days, they’re just so good and so easy to eat. They’re not related to kumquats, though both get their English names from their Chinese monikers. If you have the chance to eat some local loquats, be sure to take advantage of it!
This is a kind of fruit here that we saw a lot in Luxor and forgot to try. We have tried the juice, though. I wasn’t a big fan of it – it tasted a bit like brown sugar, but not in a way that I enjoyed. It reminded me of a type of brown sugar milk tea back in Taiwan (that I didn’t like). Chris enjoys brown sugar drinks, so she was a fan of this one. We did see kids eating the fruit, and from the way it appeared, it almost looked inedible – they’d gnaw on it rather than taking bites of it, I’m still not sure how that works. Still, dom.
Alright, it’s the last fruit update from Taiwan. *Sigh* I’m going to miss the fruit here, both the familiar and the strange, as well as the easy access to fruit. Fruit stands on the corner are fantastic, I have to say, not to mention convenient. Well, on to the fruit.
First up, the custard apple ‘family’. Custard apples look like a big green pinecone, at least to me. They are full of delicious custard-like flesh and inedible black seeds that you get at by peeling the green sections off one by one. Eventually you can just scoop the delicious innards out. It’s a slow eat, due to the seeds, but the taste of custard is delicious. It has the consistency of a ripe to overripe banana, or maybe a really squishy, beat-up apple – soft, but with underlying firmness.
There’s also the pineapple-custard apple, a crossbreed which we only saw right before we left Taiwan. I think a friend called them Buddha fruit once. They’re a cross-breed and are close to custard apples (obviously), but with fewer seeds, firmer flesh, and a sweeter taste. I quite enjoyed them and was sad that this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime taste. Oh well, once is better than never!
Staying on a green streak, next up are jujubes. I don’t know the Chinese, or even if this is the ‘proper’ name for this fruit, but that’s what I’ve heard it called in English the whole time I’ve been here, so I’ll stick with it. This fruit is like a small, tart apple – very crisp and juicy, with a pit in the middle. They’re great for traveling around with – no worries about bruising, tasty, and cheap.
Changing over to red, but staying with fruit that was new to me in Taiwan, here we have wax apples. While jujubes might have the consistency of an apple, wax apples, surprisingly, do not. I think the name comes more from their shape and colour, but that’s where the similarities end. Wax apples have the consistency of watermelon – rather porous, but not as juicy. They’re crunchy, but more crunchy like that fresh-cut watermelon, rather than crunchy like an apple. They’re terrific, just as long as you get that idea of apples out of your head. There’s a little twist to the taste, but it’s hard for me to describe. I guess you’ll just have to try it yourself, sorry!
We’ve discovered a couple of different types of melon while here – the red cantaloupe, as it’s called in Chinese, and the meinong gua (meinong melon), which as far as I know has no English name other than the one I just gave it (Meinong is a town outside of Kaohsiung, but I have no idea if the two are connected). The red cantaloupe was quite tasty, definitely looking more reddish than a normal cantaloupe, but tasting pretty much the same.
The meinong melon is yellow on the outside and white on the inside and has a taste closer to a honeydew, but with much firmer flesh – it’s almost crunchy. I quite enjoyed both, but the meinong melon wins out in my estimation here (Chris isn’t a big melon fan in the first place).
Chinese New Year has come and gone. Oranges are a huge symbol for the holiday, representing wealth, I believe. This year, we saw giant oranges for sale and just had to pick one up. They were almost as big as your head and looked especially huge sitting next to the regular oranges and the kumquats. When we peeled it, however, we found that it was mostly peel and the fruit wasn’t terribly great. Go figure. Ah well, it was worth the experience.
Lastly, I have to give a shout-out to candied fruit. You see it all over, anyplace there is a gathering of people. Usually you find candied strawberries and cherry tomatoes, but there’s also a dark fruit (not pictured here) that I haven’t figured out yet. Figs? Sometimes they stuff it in the tomatoes as well. It’s all covered with a delicious red candied topping – no candied apples here, but candied strawberries more than make up for that fact for me!
And that’s it for fruit in Taiwan. Goodbye, my tropical sweets!
Time for more fruit! Some of these I’ve tried before and not blogged, some are new to me. Here we go!
Snake fruit is a big of a strange one. We saw this last time in Indonesia, while we were exploring Sumatra. They really do look like a snake’s skin on the outside, and the fruit inside is a pale golden colour. I’m not a big fan of this fruit, as it always tastes like it’s started fermenting. It’s quite firm, almost crunchy, a little bit like an Asian pear, but not quite so apple-like. I probably won’t try this again.
The tiny oranges here taste more or less like real oranges (though quite sweet), but they’re just so small and cute that I had to post them. Really easy to peel, we went through a bag of these for breakfast one morning. The pieces were half the size of your pinky. Wonderful.
Mangosteens are possibly my favourite fruit. I’ve been entranced by them since I first saw them on a fruit poster in my classroom when I first came to Taiwan. Purple fruit does that to me: that shade in fruit always means tasty to me (saskatoonberries and blueberries spring to mind). I can’t remember if we tried this before when we were traveling in SE Asia, but if so, I fell in love again. The purple skin is a bit of a lie – the fruit inside is a very pure white. The texture is really soft and….stringy, I guess, but not in a bad way. Fibrous, maybe, but not too much to make it unpleasant to eat, more just that it’s a very cohesive fruit. The taste is sweet, rather like nectar, but not sickly-sweet, just in a natural, fruity kind of way. Yes, I do believe it’s my new favourite.
Lastly, the tiny bananas. They’re local – all the supermarkets have larger bananas grown in China, of all places – and quite sweet again (yay Malaysia and its sweet fruit!). I ate of bunch of these at breakfast one bad (don’t worry, no stomach problems for me!) and even Chris had a few.
I wish I could stay here longer – Malaysia’s spread of tropical fruit is even better than Taiwan’s! Long live delicious fruit, that’s my new battle cry.
I haven’t talked about fruit for a while, so here’s an update on that front. First, we’ll talk about the more pleasant of the fruits today, longyen. These grow on trees and come into season in the late summer and fall. There are orchards of longyen out in the country with trees as far as you can see – a friend told me about going out to a student’s grandparents’ farm and being given a bag and told to pick as much as they wanted to take home. When they’re in season, they’re not only found in stores, but people have truckfuls of them – they just park on the side of the road somewhere, open up their truck, put up a sign, and start selling longyen.
The ‘shell’ is peeled off in little bits, as it’s usually a little hard, but the flesh inside is sweet and delicate and light. It doesn’t have a strong flavour, but it’s very refreshing in the late summer heat. There’s a pit in the middle which is tossed afterwards, making for a fair amount of effort for a little fruit. It’s worth it, though.
Durian is one of the most polemic fruits ever. Most people end up on the ‘hate it’ side of this debate. The durian, unlike the longyen, has a very strong taste and smell. Many people compare the smell to that of rotting flesh. It certainly is strong and has that same tang, but I wouldn’t say it smells like something dead. In fact, once I got used to it, it smelled to me like the spices used in turkey stuffing – rosemary, sage, marjoram, those kinds of smells. Like a spicy-sweet smell. It does expand to fill the space, however – when I bought some to try it out, we had to keep it in a bag in a plastic container so the smell didn’t fill the fridge and smack us in the face when we opened it. Even so, when I opened the container in the kitchen, Christine complained about it from the living room.
Biting into a durian is usually the limit for those who overcome the smell. It’s what turned me off the first time I tried it years ago in Thailand – I said then that if it had just been the smell or the texture, I could take it, but both at the same time was too much. The first bite was close, but after that it was almost a perverse kind of pleasure. It has a custard-like feeling to it, like pudding that has been sitting out and developed a skin on the top. It’s a bit like a mushy banana, but not quite the same. The taste is also kind of custard-like, though it’s hard to pull a taste out independently, with that smell wafting up the entire time. I felt both an enjoyable feeling and a repulsed feeling eating this – pleasure and putrid. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of both at the same time, having something in your mouth that is both sublime and that makes you feel like you might be sick. I ate most of one piece and that was about my limit.
I think I’d try durian again, but I don’t think I could make it a regular thing. First, I’d be kicked out of the house (there’s a reason that there’s a fine in Singapore for even bringing one on the bus), and second, it seems too much of everything for me to comfortably enjoy – too much smell, too much texture, too much taste. Still, I’m glad I gave it a second chance.
It’s almost the end of the strawberry season and I’m only getting around to posting this now. Ha! Well, at least we’ve been enjoying the strawberries while they’ve been around. It’s too hot for strawberries to grow for more than half of the year here and atrociously expensive to import them (which is why they virtually disappear in the off months). However, from late November until mid-March, strawberries are everywhere.
Strawberry juice, strawberry milk, strawberry milk tea, strawberry pop, strawberry desserts, strawberries on a stick covered in syrup – virtually any way you can have strawberries, they do it here. Mom fell in love with strawberry milk while she was here. I still love it and order that and pretty much only that from juice stands for four months. Someone at a seed shop even convinced our manager that because we were in the middle of strawberry season, it was fine to buy seeds and plant them. Little did she realize how much time and work strawberries require. Oh well, the kids forgot about them a couple of weeks later.
That’s all. Just wanted to update you on the wonderfulness of strawberries. I’m preparing myself for the two months of neither strawberries nor mangoes. I’m sure I’ll find a way to get through it…
Well, this will be the last South American fruit entry, unfortunately. We’ve seen (and tasted!) a lot and it’s been a wonderful time. Colombia still held new fruits for us, surprisingly, and some were really different!
First up was the feijoa. Apparently very healthy with tonnes of Vitamin C, this crunchy fruit was a little tart and kind of tasted like a tart, hard cucumber. I enjoyed it more than Christine (that tart/sour thing again), though I don’t know if I’d eat it regularly.
Next up was the mamey, which was quite sweet. A little mealy, it was like a very sweet sweet potato. We only tried it once, as neither of us was terribly into it.
Mamoncillos, on the other hand, were one of my favourites. These little marble-sized fruits were a thin, sweet membrane of fruit (rather like lychees) covering a large seed and boy were they tasty. Christine likens the taste to stringy, sweet clouds – very soft. Great for sucking on while laying out at the beach reading a book. I ate bags and bags of these.
Asaí berries could be bought at markets, so we bought them. They are not, however, meant to be eaten straight – we encountered a few fruits like this. Typically, these fruits are used in juices (like the noñi) or are boiled and frozen (this is how the asaí berries are typically eaten. The berries themselves have a leathery covering and are REALLY sour. You know how cartoon characters pucker when they eat lemons? You do that for real when you eat these. The frozen juice treats made from them are delicious, however, having just a touch of sugar and a lot of water added.
Lastly, the insidious plum label reared its head again, this time in Cartagena. I have no idea what they are in reality, but the guy we bought them from would only call them plums. They are very juicy, quite sweet, and really quite tasty. I didn’t see anything made from them, so I assume that they are eaten only as fruit (at least, that’s the most conventional way of eating them). We enjoyed the bag that we bought, ripe as the plums were.
And that brings our fruit discoveries here to an end. 29 brand new fruits by the end, I believe, and many more that we had only tried once or twice before. I’ll be sad to leave many of them behind, but you can’t have everything! Thanks, South America, for your delicious fruit!
New country means new fruit. Right on the ecuator, this meant some strange new fruits were ours to discover.
These little mandarins were the smallest oranges I’ve ever seen in my life. That’s an American dime next to it for scale (they use American money here). They were super-sweet, like all the sweetness of a regular mandarin had been squeezed into this tiny little package. There were pips inside. The slices were smaller than my thumb.
Next up, the uvilla (or uchuva, as it’s called in Colombia). Some research on the Internet brought up the name cape gooseberries. They kind of tasted like a mix between a tomato and a cherry. Like a savoury cherry, I guess. I loved these a lot – we bought a bag and I ended up eating most of them.
Speaking of gooseberries, we found these other ones on the street – bought them on the street, that is. I found out a name for them after some intense research by a friend, though I forget it now. I’ll try and find it soon. They turned out to be the tartest fruits ever in a land of tart fruits. I ended up eating most of these as well – Chris is not a tart fruit person.
As soon as we entered the country, we picked up a couple we had been waiting for – the zapote and the narajilla. The zapote was a mealy fruit that is almost tuber-like in its consistency – really, it’s like an extra-sweet sweet potato. No juice. Not bad.
The other, smaller fruit was one I had been anticipating for some time since reading about it. The narajilla looks kind of strange – a bright orange skin (inedible) surrounding a tart (again!) green flesh. Not the best eating fruit, but it makes great juices. Christine also believes that this tasted like vomit and avoided it like…well, vomit. I had it almost every day with breakfast or lunch.
Plums raised their ugly head again. While we were in Mindo, the wee cloud forest town, a woman in a doorway sold us a bag of a crunchy green tart fruit that she called plums. While ‘crunchy’ and ‘plum’ do not go together in my vocabulary, she didn’t have another name and we couldn’t find one, so Ecuador plum it is. They had salt to go with them if you desired. I didn’t.
Last up is another type of passionfruit – apparently there are quite a few types of these things – locally called taxo. The tartest passionfruit we tried (maybe the equator makes things extra tart, I don’t know), the seeds were also the biggest and crunchiest. Again, this fruit is not commonly eaten; instead, it is used in ice cream and juices. I like the bright orange colour.
Oh, and who can forget bananas? Not here you can’t!
We discovered a lot of new fruit in Peru. Visiting markets, seeing people eat it on the street, even keeping our eyes peeled in the mountains, there were many new treats to be had, some unique to this country, some not.
We start with the soursop, a relative of the custard apple. It’s the same general idea – soft white flesh with a black stone in the middle, though a little less custardy in the middle than the custard apple. The taste was sharper and tarter. I found a farm growing these on my hike to Choquequirao. They were ripening while we were there, so there was a couple of occasions where one would just fall from the tree and splatter on the ground below.
In a market in Cuzco, we found the pepino, the grenadilla, and the lúcuma. The pepino, which can now be found in the United States in some grocery stores, is yellow with purple streaks. It has the consistency of a cantaloupe and tastes like a mix between a cantaloupe and a cucumber. It’s cooling and rather nice. Incidentally, pepino means cucumber in most other countries. Here, pepinillo means cucumber. You know, to avoid confusion.
The grenadilla is a type of passionfruit and is one of Chris’s favourites. It tastes similar to other kinds of passionfruit, though – and this was key for her – much less tart. The crunchy seeds are still there. The flesh that you eat is grey, which is a little off-putting, but they are quite tasty. Many people tear a corner off and use them as a cup, eating the innards with a little spoon.
We were alerted to the lúcuma by Dan when I read of his experiences here a couple of years ago. It’s a fruit that we didn’t see anywhere else on the continent – I believe it’s only eaten in Peru, mostly in juices and ice cream. It’s kind of mealy with an orange flesh and it tastes just like maple syrup. With a slight touch of fruitiness. Strange and interesting.
The noni (or ñoni, I can’t remember) is a weird, ugly fruit that we started encountering here in Peru. You don’t eat it – it’s way too hard. Rather, it is usually made into a juice or into a powder (which can later be used for teas or other drinks). It’s supposedly one of the healthy, solve-any-health problem fruits one hears about. There are some benefits to it – when used to make a juice, it has 10x your daily recommended Vitamin C dosage – though I think more research is needed. These are originally from Asia and Hawai’i, and now that I know that, I remember seeing them in Thailand. Strange where you meet fruit these days!
Heading out of the mountains and up towards Ecuador, we encountered the yacón, the tomate de arbol, the camu camu and the persimmon. The persimmon (yellowish-orange fruit at the top left), known as kaki here, is definitely not unique to here, but neither of us had had one before, so it was new to us. Nice and sweet and simple. The camu camu (small reddish fruit at the bottom) was called a plum by the local woman who sold it to us, though we later found that plum seems to be a common word for otherwise unidentifiable fruit (we saw many different ‘plums’ later on). They had a yellow flesh and were quite sweet and juicy with a stone in the middle.
The tomate de arbol (on the ride side, a dusky red) started here and continued right up into Colombia. It’s not usually eaten as a fruit, as the skin is inedible. It’s like leather, I tried it. The inside has the consistency of a tomato and tastes like a mix between tomato and a kiwi. Kind of. I grew to love the juice, though Chris thought it tasted like vomit and avoided it like the plague.
The yacón was another surprise. We found this in a market in Trujillo in the north. I can’t remember if we saw it much more beyond that, however. A sweet, crisp tuber, it’s mostly water an indigestible sugars, but it’s tasty and refreshing. It looks like a potato with a finger when you buy it (the finger has been cut off in this picture), then you peel it and it looks like an Asian pear (or apple pear, as I used to call them as a kid). They’re cool and crunchy and tasty and one of my favourites.
Of course, there was lots of regular fruit in Peru. We had fruit juice as much as possible, as everything was fresh and delicious. Stay tuned for more fruit!