9 Intriguing Fruits and Vegetables I Knew Little About

Oca (Oxalis tuberosa)

ocaThese amazingly colored tuber vegetables are commonly cultivated in New Zealand, regions of the Andes, and parts of Europe. It can be eaten raw (or undercooked) and mimics textures similar to a carrot. When fully cooked, it becomes starchy and potato-like with a tangy and nutty flavor.  As a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and iron, this root vegetable varies greatly in other nutritional content due to the wide spectrum of varieties produced through selective breeding.


Horned Melon (Cucumis metuliferus)

horned melon

Also known as an African cucumber, kiwano, African horned cucumber/melon, jelly melon, hedged gourd, blowfish fruit, and melano. Whatever you call it, this cucumber is simply beautiful. The outer, yellow-orange skin, adorns spines, while the inner fruit is lime green and has cucumber-like seeds which are geometrically patterned. It’s tart and sweet flavor has been described as a combination of a cucumber and a zucchini or a combination of a cucumber, banana, and a lemon. When the whole fruit is eaten, it provides a great source of vitamin C and dietary fiber.


Buddha’s Hand (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylus)

buddha's hand

This fragrant and odd-looking citrus fruit has migrated into Western cooking in more recent years. It’s origin has been traced back to Northeastern India or China. While in China and Japan they are used mostly for their pleasant fragrance or as a religious offering in Buddhist temples, there is more than one way to skin a Buddha’s hand. Because it’s pith is less bitter than other citrus fruits, it is ideal for candying, infusing in booze, and eating whole (either atop a salad, fish, or tofu, or using zest for flavoring in virtually any dish or sauce). This fruit doesn’t offer much nutritionally; except as an excellent source of vitamin C.


Black Radish (Raphanus sativus)


Sometimes referred to as black Spanish radishes, this root vegetable is making a comeback after being a common garden plant during the 1800’s in England and France. It can appear in both round and elongated forms and isn’t much different than a typical radish (besides the the rough, black skin). It’s flesh is crunchy, white, and hot-flavored. Nutritionally, it is an excellent source of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and calcium.


Canistel (Pouteria campechiana)


Native to Southern Mexico and Central America, this evergreen tree is cultivated in other countries such as Brazil and Vietnam for its tasty fruit. A close relative to the Mamey sapote and abiu, its flesh is sweet and, in the best varieties, has a creamy mousse-like texture reminiscent of an egg-custard. Most often eaten raw, it can also be canned, added to baking, or blended with milk to make a tasty shake. It is a good source of niacin, vitamin C, calcium, and phosphorus.


Jabuticaba (Plinia cauliflora)


This stunning evergreen is native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia. The thick, astringent skin of its fruit is purplish-black and its flesh is white and sweet and gelatinous. Although they are almost always eaten fresh, they have been used to make jellies, juices, and even wine. It is a rich source of phenolic compounds, including anthocyanins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins, and polyphenols. Much new research is studying the health benefits of these compounds regarding its impact on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and certain types of cancers. It is also a good source of vitamin C and phosphorus.


Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)


These golden, juicy berries are native to alpine, arctic tundra, and boreal forests. About the size of a raspberry, they are soft and amber-colored. They are tasty and tart raw, but can be made into jams, juices, tarts, liqueurs, added to baking, and made into desserts or ice creams. They are a rich source of vitamin C and it’s leaves can be made into teas for herbal, medicinal purposes.


Monster Fruit (Monstera deliciosa)


Native to rainforests of southern Mexico, this flowering plant has become an invasive species in Hawaii. It somewhat resembles corn except it is the core that is eaten. Most often the fruit is cut from tree and placed in a paper bag until the scales begin to fall off. The rest can be brushed off to reveal a tasty fruit described as tasting similar to a jackfruit, pineapple, or banana. It can be eaten raw (except the outer shells are inedible and can actually cause throat irritation and/or skin rash) or made into drinks, shakes, sauces, and a variety of desserts. Nutritionally, it is a good source of vitamin C and protein.

Imbe (Garcinia livingstonei)


This small evergreen is native to tropical Africa. It is small and a brightly colored orange with a sweet, yet acidic flavor. It can be eaten raw or made into drinks and juices. Very little is known about this fruit since the tree was originally used for ornamental purposes, but it is a great source of antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, folate, and minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium.


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