Everyone needs something new in their diet, something fresh and exciting that they've never tried. We've compiled a short list of some of the most exciting, unique fruits that you may have never had the chance to try. Give it a read and head to your local Asian Market or International Grocer and give this delicious fruits a try!
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Native to Indonesia, rambutan is commonly grown in various countries throughout the region. It has spread from there to parts of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Central America. The widest variety of cultivars, wild and cultivated, are found in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Around the 13th to 15th centuries, Arab traders, who played a major role in Indian Ocean trade, introduced rambutan into Zanzibar and Pemba of East Africa. There are limited rambutan plantings in some parts of India. In the 19th century, the Dutch introduced rambutan from their colony in Southeast Asia to Suriname in South America. Subsequently, the plant spread to tropical Americas, planted in the coastal lowlands of Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Trinidad, and Cuba. In 1912, rambutan was introduced to the Philippines from Indonesia. Further introductions were made in 1920 (from Indonesia) and 1930 (from Malaya), but until the 1950s its distribution was limited.
There was an attempt to introduce rambutan to the southeastern United States, with seeds imported from Java in 1906, but the species proved to be unsuccessful, except in Puerto Rico.
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Asian or Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is the commercially most important persimmon, and is native to Japan, China, Korea, Myanmar and Nepal. Sweet and slightly tangy with a soft to occasionally fibrous texture; it is deciduous, with broad, stiff leaves, and is known as the shizi in China or kaki (柿) in Japanese. Cultivation of the fruit extended first to other parts of east Asia, India and Nepal, and it was later introduced to California and southern Europe in the 1800s and to Brazil in the 1890s.
Some varieties are edible in the crisp, firm state but it has its best flavor when allowed to rest and soften slightly after harvest. The Japanese cultivar 'Hachiya' is widely grown. The fruit has a high tannin content, which makes the unripe fruit astringent and bitter. The tannin levels are reduced as the fruit matures. Persimmons like 'Hachiya' must be completely ripened before consumption. When ripe, this fruit comprises thick, pulpy jelly encased in a waxy thin-skinned shell.
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The Yuzu originated and grows wild in central China and Tibet. It was introduced to Japan and Korea during the Tang Dynasty and it is in these nations that it is cultivated most widely. It is unusual among citrus plants in being relatively frost-hardy, due to its cold-hardy C. ichangensis ancestry, and can be grown in regions with winters at least as low as -9 °C (15 °F) where more sensitive citrus would not thrive.
It is also known that growth is slow, sometimes called in a Japanese phrase, "Peach and Chestnut, 3 years. Persimmon, 8 years. Big dummy Yuzu, 18 years." For this reason, in cultivation, grown from seed takes more than ten years to fruit, so in order to shorten the period to fruit, it is often made to be able to harvest in a few years with grafting to Karatachi.
The Yuzu has a tart, bright citrus flavor not unlike a lemon. If you've got a curiosity to try Yuzu, you can seek out our Orange Yuzu Chicken Bowl & Roll later this year!
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The loquat originally comes from China. Later introduced into Japan, it has been cultivated there for over 1,000 years. It has also become naturalized in Georgia, Armenia, Afghanistan, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bermuda, Chile, Kenya, India, Iran, Iraq, South Africa, the whole Mediterranean Basin, Pakistan, New Zealand, Réunion, Tonga, Central America, Mexico, South America and in warmer parts of the United States (Hawaii, California, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina). Chinese immigrants are said to have carried the loquat to Hawaii and California.
Each fruit contains from one to ten ovules, with three to five being most common. A variable number of the ovules mature into large brown seeds (with different numbers of seeds appearing in each fruit on the same tree, usually between one and four).
The fruits are the sweetest when soft and orange. The flavor is a mixture of peach, citrus and mild mango.
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Mangosteen is a native plant to Southeast Asia. Highly valued for its juicy, delicate texture and slightly sweet and sour flavor, the mangosteen has been cultivated in Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, Mainland Southeast Asia, and the Philippines since ancient times. The 15th-century Chinese record Yingya Shenglan described mangosteen as mang-chi-shih (derived from Malay Language manggis), a native plant of Southeast Asia of white flesh with delectable sweet and sour taste.
Upon arrival in the US in 2007, fresh mangosteens sold at up to $60 per pound in specialty produce stores in New York City, but wider availability and somewhat lower prices have become common in the United States and Canada. Despite efforts described above to grow mangosteen in the Western Hemisphere, nearly the entire supply is imported from Thailand.