There are fruits and vegetables everyone around the world knows of, and then there are fruits and vegetables that are so bizarre and exotic that only a few people have come across them. Most of the time, the reason that such fruits and vegetables remain unheard of to the vast majority of the world is their exclusive geographical growing region. Sometimes, what is very common to a country remains unknown to the rest of the world. Here are 10 such fruits and vegetables that you possibly didn’t know exist.
1. Solo garlic: Unlike the garlic mostly in use around the world, solo garlic doesn’t have separate cloves but is just one, solid piece having a diameter of approximately 25 to 50 mm. It has been grown for about 7,000 years in the Himalayan foothills.
Solo garlic, also known as “single clove garlic,” tastes like garlic should but is somewhat milder and slightly perfumed. They are mostly grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and in Peru. As the name suggests, unlike the garlic largely used in cooking, solo garlic comprises of only one clove. It has been grown for about 7,000 years in the Himalayan foothills.
Solo garlic, to some extent, resembles onions with its white skin and purple stripes and a diameter of around 25 to 55 mm. Their growth depends much on the climatic conditions and careful cultivation, or the garlic splits and forms multiple cloves. (source)
2. Ackee: Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica and is poisonous if eaten prematurely. It is only safe to eat after the fruit has opened naturally. Eating it prematurely can lead to coma.
Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, but it wasn’t always a part of the Jamaican culture and is originally native to West Africa. It was imported to Jamaica in 1778 and soon became a major feature of the country’s cuisine. The ackee tree grows about 10 meters tall and is evergreen.
An ackee fruit looks like a pear and is green in color when raw, but once it ripens, it turns bright orange or red and splits open to reveal three black seeds surrounded by spongy white flesh called “aril” which is consumed. The flesh looks like scrambled eggs. The fruit weighs between 100 grams to 200 grams.
The fruit, however, must be eaten when it has ripened and split naturally. If eaten prematurely, the fruit is poisonous and can lead to coma. (source)
3. Squirting cucumber: Also known as “exploding cucumber” and “spitting cucumber,” this member of the gourd family squirts a stream of mucilaginous liquid containing its seeds when it ripens. Squirting cucumbers are poisonous.
Squirting cucumber or exploding cucumber is native to Europe and temperate regions of Asia and North America. It gets its unusual name because of the fact that when the fruit is ripe, it ejects its seeds along with a stream of mucilaginous liquid. The fruit is poisonous and is mostly grown as an ornamental plant. It is only consumed by caterpillars and the tortrix moth.
Squirting cucumber is also considered as a weed in some parts of the world. It has been in use over thousands of years as a pesticide, and in the ancient world, it was considered an abortifacient. It was also used to treat sinusitis, joint pain, etc. However, due to its volatile effects, it could be fatal in some cases, it is no longer used. (1, 2)
4. Durian: Mostly grown in Southeast Asia, the fruit is considered an instant energizer. It also has a very distinct odor resembling natural gas, onions, and gym socks. Because of this, the fruit is banned from many public spaces.
Durian is considered sometimes the “king of fruits,” and ironically is banned in many public places of the world including the Singapore Rapid Mass Transit due to its strong stench that can be smelled from yards away. However, some find the smell pleasantly sweet. Durian is mostly grown in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia and is also native to Borneo and Sumatra.
Durian can grow up to 30 centimeters in length and 15 centimeters in diameter and has a thorny outer cover. It can weigh anywhere between one kilogram to three kilograms each and looks like a jackfruit. The fruit is eaten raw or is cooked and is used in traditional Southeast Asian dishes and candies and also traditional Asian medicine.
5. Synsepalum dulcificum: This is a plant largely known for its berry which is often referred to as “miracle fruit.” The berry, when consumed, makes sour foods that are eaten after it tastes sweet for the next 30 minutes or so.
Synsepalum dulcificum is known for its berry popularly known as the “miracle fruit” or “miracle berry” which, after eaten, makes sour foods taste sweet and thus the name. It had its origin in West Africa. Synsepalum dulcificum is grown on acidic soil and can be categorized as a small tree that doesn’t usually grow more than 18 feet.
Because of its ability to turn unsweet food sweet, in the 1970s, an attempt was made to commercialize it in the USA but failed after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified the berry as a food additive. Although the fruit itself is not sweet, it binds with the taste buds and makes acidic food consumed after eating the fruit taste sweet. This effect can last as long as two hours. (1, 2)
6. Hala fruit: Hala fruit it is immediately recognized because of its exotic, colorful form and is extensively grown near the edges of the ocean. It is natively from Australia, the Pacific Islands, and the Philippines. It tastes like pineapple.
The peculiar but brilliant looking Hala fruit is made up of hundreds of wedges or cones, the innards of which are pulpy and yellow or orange in color while the outer end of each cone is fibrous and green. The people where the fruit is grown often use the fibrous part as dental floss, while the soft end is eaten raw or cooked. The fruit to some extent looks and tastes like pineapple.
It is believed by the locals that eating the fruit can relieve stress and reduce blood pressure. It is also credited with helping females bear menstrual cramps. The leaves of the tree are used to treat premature ejaculation. However, most of these claims have not been scientifically proven.
7. Kiwano: Kiwano or horned melon belongs to the melon and cucumber family and has horn-like spines all over its body. The ripe fruit has orange skin and jelly-like green flesh inside and tastes like banana.
Kiwano looks like a cucumber with horns, and like a cucumber, almost 90% of it is water. Because of its strange look, it was also featured in one episode of Star Trek. The fruit can be eaten at any stage.
Native to sub-Saharan Africa, a ripen kiwano has orange hind covered in spikes and tastes like banana. The inside of the fruit contains slimy green flesh. Today, kiwano is grown in Portugal, Italy, Germany, Chile, the US, New Zealand, and Australia.
8. Buddha’s hand: A type of citrus, this fruit had its origin possibly in northeast India or China. Because of the fruit’s unusual form that resembles fingers seen on representations of Buddha, it is seen as a symbol of happiness, longevity, and good fortune.
Buddha’s hand is a type of citrus fruit which probably originated in northeast India or China. The fruit is segmented into sections that give it the appearance of fingers, and according to traditions, Buddha formed the fingers of the fruit in such a way that it resembles Buddha’s act of prayer. Due to this, the fruit is used as a religious offering in Buddhist temples and is seen as a symbol of good fortune and happiness in China.
The fruit has a number of variations. One variety has the fingers splayed outward and is called “open-hand,” while another variety has the fingers closed and is called “close-hand.” The fruit doesn’t have juice, seeds, or pulp but has a distinct fragrance which is used for perfuming rooms and clothes. Buddha’s hand can be used in place of lemon as a zest or flavoring in candies, beverages, etc. (1, 2)
9. Pineberry: Pineberry is a cross between two varieties of strawberries and is pale in color and tastes like pineapple. It was introduced commercially in the year 2010 in the UK for the first time. Despite its only recent introduction to the market, it actually originated in the 18th century.
Pineberry is a white strawberry that tastes like pineapple and is a hybrid of two varieties of strawberry stocks from Chile and Virginia. It was first made available commercially in the year 2010 in the United Kingdom. Though it was introduced only recently in the markets, pineberry actually originated in the 18th century.
Due to its pale color, appearance, and smell like strawberry and taste like pineapple, during the initial days of its commercial launch, many people had the misconception that it was a mixed breed between pineapple and strawberry. Some even thought of it as an Internet hoax.
Pineberry starts being green in color, but as it grows, it turns pale with red seeds, and it is only available for a few weeks in a year in spring and summer. It is usually smaller than strawberry and is expensive besides being disease resistant. (1, 2)
10. Cotton Candy Grape: This hybrid grape that tastes like cotton candy was made available in 2011 by grape-growing company Grapery. Horticulturalist David Cain and his team created around 100,000 test-tube plants before they could perfect the flavor.
California-based table-grape-growing company Grapery is known for its hybridized grapes, and one of its most popular grapes is Cotton Candy grape. As the name suggests, Cotton Candy grape is a grape that tastes like cotton candy and has 12% more sugar content comparing to regular table grapes.
The grape has a very short growing season of about 40 days between August and September, and since its introduction, due to huge popularity, Grapery doubled its cultivation area and yet keeping stock is difficult due to the demands.
Developed by horticulturalist David Cain and his team, there is no genetic modification involved in growing this exclusive and rare Cotton Candy grape, but the painstaking cross-breeding took the team about 100,000 test-tube plants before perfecting the flavor. (source)
11. Monstera Deliciosa: The fruit monstera deliciosa, which means “delicious monster,” can cause severe throat and skin irritation unless it is completely ripe. It is only safe to eat when the green scales that cover its body fall off. It tastes like a mix of pineapple, banana, and coconut.
The name monstera deliciosa literally translates to “delicious monster,” and it is a fruit that should be eaten after much consideration and patience, as eating it before it ripens can cause skin irritation and severe throat inflammation. When unripe, it contains an extensive amount of oxalic acid, something that is used to clean rust and bleach wood.
The indication that the fruit has ripened is that the hexagonal green scales that cover the corn-shaped fruit start to fall off on its own. Though ripe monstera deliciosa contains less oxalic acid, it still is present, and therefore it is wise to not eat too much of it or eat at all in case someone is sensitive to the acid.
The fruit is native to Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, and Costa Rica and tastes like banana, coconut, and pineapple. (source)
12. Ice apple: Native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, ice apple grows up to 18 cm in diameter. It is eaten after removing the top part of the fruit to reveal translucent jelly-like seeds that taste like coconut. Ice apple is the official tree of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Ice apple is primarily found in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam and grows between April and July when it is summer in these regions. In India particularly, the fruit is highly regarded culturally. It is the official tree of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu where it is known by the name “Karpaha Veruksham” (celestial tree), and the fruit is called “Panaiveriyamman,” named after a tree deity.
The ice apple tree can grow to a height of almost 100 feet, and the fruit can be anywhere in between 10 cm and 18 cm in diameter. Covered in a black husk, when it is still not ripe, the top part of it is cut off to find up to four, translucent, jelly seeds inside. The edible seeds look like ice. If left to ripen completely, the husk turns purple-black and becomes edible too. It tastes similar to coconut.
The sap obtained from the ice apple tree is also used to make a kind of wine called “tadi.” Before the advent of sugarcane, the sap was the main source of sugar in places like Thailand. (source)