I’m taking a different twist on the gardening column with this edition. It is still gardening on a global scale that directly comes to our door steps in southeast New Mexico and our west Texas neighbors. I love to shop, ask my wife, she will clue you in. Green houses are my passion. But I also love a good mall, and I enjoy being in the large grocery stores with the worldly stuff that comes to our doorsteps when we enter those huge stores.
I make a bee-line right to the enormous vegetable and fruit sections, especially looking for the foreign veggies and tropical fruits from the world’s gardens in far off distant places. I do not think I am alone in this quest for adventure. I watch the shoppers intently, picking up vegetables, handling the weird and unusual fruits, their faces are priceless with all sort of questions about what they are seeing, feeling and smelling. Then if I am close enough, I can hear the conversations and the expletives about the unusual and strange vegetables interrupting our American culture food scene. This is where Dr. Dirt likes to step into the stage … I am seeing, touching, smelling and usually buying this weird stuff and that sparks a whole another conversation with these curious shoppers.
Now, ya’ll come clean on this too, you have done the same thing with the weird veggies and unusual Jackfruit you are seeing on a regular basis in hometown Albertson’s. And I have had a lot words with folks in the fruit aisle too in Lubbock, Midland and Odessa, United Markets and HEB grocery mega stores.
I bet many of you reading this article today will learn something about tropical fruits and you might decide to invest to ingest in them too. For the tropical fruits abound with not just aromas, flavors and textures in your mouth. These fruits have very beneficial health benefits for your body through the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants they are chalked full of. Enjoy a partial listing of tropical fruits and the benefits they hold within for you to experience.
• Buddha’s Hand – Fingered Citron – This is a weird one and interesting to the eye as shoppers pass by it. This citron is segmented into finger-like sections. To me, this is a lemon on steroids, and gone wild. As a food source there is no pulp or juice inside the fingers. It is a fruit esteemed for its “exquisite form and aroma,” the Buddha Hand fruit can be eaten as zest or flavoring in desserts, savory dishes and alcoholic beverages. In China, Buddha Hand fruit symbolizes happiness, longevity and good fortune.
Benefits are, it reduces pain in the body, soothes gastrointestinal distress, boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation and lowers blood pressure. Very high in vitamin C.
• Cherimoya — These unusual armored pattern fruits have a texture like custard, grainy like a pear and a taste between a pineapple and banana. Cherimoyas are regarded as one of the best tropical fruits from the Andes in South America. Eat it raw like you would a watermelon, spit out the seeds. It contains significant amounts of calcium.
• Chayote – This fruit is a member of the squash family. The fruit has a mild flavor with a texture somewhere between a potato and a cucumber. It can be eaten raw or cooked. It basically soaks up the flavor of whatever you prepare it with. Chayote’s are high in vitamin A.
• Jackfruit – Is one of the largest fruits in the world, up to 60-80 pounds and a very popular Asian food. It is in the Hobbs Albertson’s Market, United Markets in Lubbock and the HEB stores in the Midland/Odessa area. It always causes store customers to gaze upon its beauty or ugliness. It does beckon what I am to those who stare at the fruit and then the questions begin. Jackfruit has a golden flesh and has a very distinctive taste, somewhere between strawberries, cantaloupe, and banana all in one. The large seeds are also edible after being roasted. Unripe fruit is used as a vegetable in many local dishes. The ripe Jackfruit ends up in soups, ice cream and fruit salads.
• Rambutan – A popular fruit of Malaysia that has a hairy outer skin. It reminds me of a red sea urchin. Rambutan is the candy form of sweet and sour, with translucent soft flesh, juicy. A very refreshing treat in hot, humid weather. Benefits of eating Rambutan will keep your skin soft and hydrated. Protects your body from oxidative damages. Very high in vitamin C.
• Mangoes – A sweet tasting, grapefruit-sized oblong fruits that are green when under-ripe and reddish yellow when ripe. Eat mangoes raw, pickled, cooked in savory dishes, added to salsas. They are used in desserts such as ice cream and fruit compote. Benefits mangoes provide are vitamin A, C, and E. They are rich with antioxidants and noted to fight off cancer conditions.
• Passion Fruit – Maypop – Native to many parts of the world, and the fruit may come into markets in different colors. The taste is somewhat bland in ripe fruit, but it is known to enhance the flavors of almost any other fruit. Eat raw from the fruit or scoop out pulp and place over vanilla ice cream for a pop of texture and tang or try it in a yogurt Bundt cake. Benefits are the high vitamins of A, C, and E. They contain fiber and iron.
• Carambola – Star Fruit – This fruit is star-shaped and often dark yellow. It is both sweet and tart, very juicy. Benefits of the Star fruit are its vitamins A, B, C. It has zinc and potassium for good strong bones. Magnesium for fighting heart problems, diabetes and depression. If you have acne-prone skin, then eating Star fruit, or wearing it as a face-mask can help on breakouts. Psst….Star fruit eaten is also good to reduce hair loss too! Guys, how about eating these on a regular basis. A lot cheaper than the Rogaine and it’s better for you.
• Guavas – Small plum-like fruits. They have a pleasant, crunchy texture and a sweet-sour taste. Eat them fresh or blended and served as a refreshing drink. Several varieties make it into our local markets. Benefits from eating Guavas can help regulate blood pressure. They have several vitamin B complexes, along with vitamin A, E, and C. They also have minerals of iron, potassium and calcium.
• Papaya – You can find these tropical fruits within our local markets. They have either a yellow or pinkish-orange flesh with the center of the fruit containing hundreds of small black seeds that need to be removed. They are sweet and low in sugar. Papaya is a favorite breakfast fruit in many regions. It can be a tantalizing dessert, especially served up chilled with a dash of lime added to it. Benefits of eating a Papaya is its high vitamin A and C content. They are a great source of calcium. Papaya strengthens the immune system, lowers cholesterol, improves digestion and reduces stress.
• Red Dragon Fruit – This fruit comes from the Hylocerus cactus that is trained on support systems much like wine-grape vineyards. Dragon fruit can be red, yellow and purple and all reflect a degree of sweetness intensity along with a tartness. Fruit pods have overlapping scales. Dragon fruit pulp is much like a Kiwi fruit and has may fine black seeds, which are edible. Benefits of eating Dragon fruit are they’re richness in vitamin C and fiber. Mineral sources of potassium and Phosphorus are in the flesh. They are high in B-complex vitamins. They contain high amounts of bioflavonoids. Dragon fruit improves the health of the eyes and skin and protects skin from ultraviolet damage. Note — eating too much Dragon fruit can cause a laxative affect.
Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up some of these tropical fruits and incorporate them into meals and snack times and who knows, Dr. Dirt might be there to have a conversation with you about the next new and unusual food source. You can meet some interesting folks in the grocery store aisles.