Native to the Malay Archipelago, the name of this fruit is derived from the Malay word meaning “hairy,” and you can see why. But once the hairy exterior of the rambutan is peeled away, the tender, fleshy, delicious fruit is revealed. Its taste is described as sweet and sour, much like a grape. Though it has its origin in Southeast Asia, rambutan has been imported around the world, and now is commonly cultivated as close to home as Hawai.
African horned cucumber
When it is exported to the U.S., the horned cucumber is often labeled as “blowfish fruit.” With its spiky yellow exterior and juicy green interior, this is one fruit with vibrant contrasts. It tastes like a cross between a cucumber and a zucchini, and it is rich in both vitamin C and fiber. Native to Africa, it has been exported and cultivated as far away as New Zealand, Australia and Chile.
Native to West Africa, this berry got its name from its incredible ability to make sour fruits (like lemons and limes) taste sweet instead, when the juices are mixed together. It accomplishes this feat by utilizing a molecule called miraculin, which works by distorting the shape of sweetness receptors on the taste buds. Be careful, though, because although the miraclefruit can distort the taste of sour foods, it does not change the chemistry of the food. Thus, it could leave the stomach and mouth vulnerable to high acidity.
Native to the rain forests of Central America, monstera deliciosa looks more like an ear of corn than a fruit. To get to its pineapple-like flesh, the scaly exterior must be flaked off and delicately prepared. Interestingly, this fruit takes as long as a year to ripen and to be safe enough to eat — it can be toxic if unripe.
The fragrant, edible flesh of the mangosteen can be described as sweet, tangy, citrusy and peachy. Naturally grown in tropical Southeast Asia, it has been so prized that Queen Victoria is said to have offered a reward of 100 pounds to anyone who could bring her a fresh one. The sweet meat of this fruit is, perhaps appropriate to the legend, well protected by its hard shell, which typically must be split with a knife and cracked open before it can be enjoyed. They were imported and put on sale recently in New York City for the hefty price of $45 a pound.