Week 7: Exotic Fruit

I recently had an opportunity to sample some unusual fruit and wanted to share information about them with you.


Dragon fruit exterior

Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya (or pithaya), is the fruit of a cactus and is primarily cultivated in Southeast Asia. It can be found in Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, China, Okinawa and Hawaii. They are also grown in Israel, Cyprus, and Australia. It likes dry, tropical climates with a moderate amount of rain. The cactus is like a rambling vine, sometimes 10 feet long, and only blooms at night with large, fragrant flowers. It generally blooms 3-6 times a year and is pollinated by bats or moths. The fruit can be red with white or red pulp or yellow with white flesh. I found the dragon fruit to be mildly sweet fruit with crunchy black seeds which liken it to a kiwi.

[caption id="attachment_561" align="aligncenter" width="224"]Dragon fruit interior Dragon fruit interior

Dragon fruit exterior[/caption]

Dragon fruits are available in markets like Whole Foods in the U.S. and sell for $4-$6 each.

Health Benefits

Dragon fruits are one of the most nutritious of exotic fruits – low in calories with an abundance of nutrients, including Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, plus fiber and antioxidants. Although the thick peel is not eaten, it contains polyphenols which have cancer inhibiting properties.

Culinary Uses

Dragon fruit can be eaten plain or added to a fruit salad. It is also popular added to beverages. Skyy introduced a dragon fruit flavored vodka a couple of years ago. Celestial Seasonings offers Green Tea with Dragon Fruit. Lite Pom features pomegranate juice paired with dragon fruit and Dragon Kiss is a new pitaya-tinged cream liqueur. Have you had Vitamin Water’s Power C flavor? That’s dragon fruit!




Also known as the “King of Fruits,” Durian has a very particular odor, a unique taste and is covered by a hard husk. Having a disagreeable smell often likened to skunk spray or sewage, and described by travel writer Richard Sterling as smelling like “pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock,” the fruit is forbidden in hotels and public transportations in Southeast Asia. The fruit can grow as large as 12 inches long and 6 inches in diameter, and it typically weighs 2 to 7 pounds. Depending on the species, it ranges in color from green to brown with the flesh pale yellow to red. Durians are seasonal fruits and are available June to August. In the US, they cost between $8 to $15 each.

The first written account of eating a durian was recorded by the British naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, in which he described the flavor as a ” rich custard highly flavoured with almonds.” I thought the interior was very slimy with an overly sweet flavor, although it was a lot like custard.

Health Benefits

Durian fruit contains a high amount of sugar, vitamin C and potassium, and the amino acid trytophan. The Javanese believe the durian to have aphrodisiac properties, and an Indonesian saying durian jatuh sarung naik, means “the durian falls and the sarong comes up”, refers to this belief.

Culinary Uses

Durian fruit is used to flavour a wide variety of sweet edibles such as traditional Malay candy, ice kacang, dodol, and lempuk rose biscuits, ice cream, milkshakes, moon cakes and Yule logs. Red-fleshed durian is traditionally added to sayur, an Indonesian soup made from freshwater fish. In Thailand, durian is often eaten fresh with sweet sticky rice, and blocks of durian paste are sold in the markets. Unripe durians may be cooked as a vegetable. When durian is minced with salt, onions and vinegar, it is called boder. The durian seeds, which are the size of chestnuts, can be eaten whether they are boiled, roasted or fried in coconut oil with a texture similar to a sticky taro or yam. Young leaves and shoots of the durian are occasionally cooked as greens and the husk fo the durian is used to smoke fish.




Rambutan is the fruit of an evergreen tree which grows in warm climates on hillsides that provide good drainage. The tree is native to Malaysia and Southeast Asia, and the name comes from the Malay word rambut which means “hair.”

Rambutans are red, covered with fleshy spikes, and have a white or pink interior. There is usually a single light brown seed, which is high in certain fats and used in cooking and making soap. Rambutan roots, bark, and leaves have various uses in medicine and in the production of dyes.

The fruit only ripens on the tree, is sweet and juicy, reminiscent of a grape, and is commonly used in jams or is available canned. I had the canned variety which did taste a lot like a peeled grape.

To open the rambutan, cut part way through and all the way around with a sharp knife and remove the rind. Squeeze the rind slightly and the fruit will pop out. You should discard the seed, because it is bitter.

Health Benefits

Rambutans are high in vitamin C, plus copper, manganese, and trace elements of many other nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and iron. The fruit is reported to kill intestinal parasites, and it may also aid in lessening symptoms of diarrhea. Malaysian healers also use parts of the rambutan to treat fevers.


New York Times. “A Fruit with a Future.” May 11, 2011

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