Exotic Fruits of Italy

Speaking of markets, and as I am currently writing a book about fruit, here are some “exotic” fruits now grown locally in Italy. Italy has some famous citrus types (read about popular fruit types here or here), including one which was introduced to this area 23 centuries ago (long before the formation of Italy as a country).

Annona (custard apple): A quick google search brought me to the annona, a cherimoya or custard apple, that is now being grown in Calabria, a southern region in Italy.

Bergamotto (bergamot): I mention this because people may not know that this is the citrus that is used in Earl Grey Tea. Ninety percent of the world’s bergamot oil is produced in Italy. As far back as 1709, the bergamot has been pressed to extract the essential oils, for use in perfume, most famously Chanel No. 5.

Diamante citron in Italian or esrog from Calabria (etrog). This citrus is essential in the Jewish sukkot ceremony and has been grown in Italy since the the third century BCE (before current era).

Cacchi or lotta (persimmon or sharon fruits): Introduced to Italy in the early 20th century, these are grown in Campania.

Orange persimmons behind red pomengranates.

Ficodindia dell’Etna (prickly pear): the fruit of the cactus. The black pits inside are very hard and peeling this fruit can hurt your hands.

Kiwi: This brings to mind that the kiwi is now grown in Italy. Italy is the second or third largest exporter of kiwis. I see kiwis at the market all the time in Rome. They grow them right outside Rome so they are even at my zero kilometer market that I mentioned last week.

Melograno (pomegranate): Supposedly Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds when she was in the underworld. Her mother, Demeter, the earth, made a deal with the god of the underworld to let her go. But because she had eaten six seeds, she could only be above ground for six months of the year, and that is why we have the six months of spring and summer. Pomegranate seeds are like jewels and work well in salads and on meats, but the juice is what most people like. To remove the seeds, one can whack the cut pomegranate with a wooden spoon and the seeds come rat tat tatting out like shots.

Cotogna (quince): The cutest name for a fruit that is so sour. It is better as a jelly or jam to be eaten with cheese. In Latin America, this is often paired with fresh cheese and the fresh milky mildness of the cheese goes well with the brown gummy bear texture of the cooked quince.

Finally, a native exotic.

Nespola (medlar): This is exotic but native to Italy. These strange dried looking fruits are winter fruits that are only ready to be eaten when they are soft and wrinkly. Then you peel them and eat the mushy brown interior. The taste is sort of like a fruit paste or dried figs. Just not as tasty.

The medlars are above the chestnuts. These are not ready to be eaten as they are not wrinkly.

And finally, if you want to read about the “equatorial” fruit growing now happening in Italy, read this article from Euronews.

Poo-pooing the Paw-Paw

“Have you heard of the paw paw?”

“Yes, it’s what Australians call the papaya.”

But, it’s not just that! The paw paw is also a native American fruit. Native to the eastern United States and related to the custard apple, soursop, and cherimoya, the American papaw (or paw paw, pawpaw, or paw-paw) is a fruit that looks like a mango but is slightly custardy. It supposedly tastes like a banana-mango-pineapple. The paw paw was also called the prairie banana.

Apparently, the paw paw is the largest native American fruit (0ther than gourds which are classed as vegetables). There are efforts to harvest the paw paw has no known pests. But, the fruit ripens quickly to fermentation so it is best used for jam and in other prepared foods.

Ohio botanist William B. Werthner noted that:

“The fruit … has a tangy wild-wood flavor peculiarly its own. It is sweet, yet rather cloying to the taste and a wee bit puckery.”

I am not a very adventurous eater, but, for the sake of my fruit-ologist friend, I was willing to try it. It didn’t taste like much.

Once I get to Italy, I wonder what fruits will be new to me? I certainly didn’t expect to find a new fruit in the United States, so I hope I will be equally surprised.

100 Fruits in Colombia

12045302_10153648238159618_515981556999707268_oAs I mentioned, I planned to try 100 new (to me) fruits while in Colombia. Here they are.

Uchuva (cape gooseberry/yellow berry): These cherry-sized yellow fruit inside a paper cover (they look like small yellow tomatillos) have an aroma that I can’t describe (a subtle tomato-ish aroma), are slightly sour, and have a tomato-like texture. img_3630

Lulo: This fruit is unique to this part of the world (grows in Ecuador and Peru as well). The Colombians have really made it part of their daily juice selection (fresh juice is a part of daily life here). The lulo looks like a tomato but is super sour so only used for juice. The juice is greenish in color even though the fruit is orange. img_6600

Pitaya (yellow dragon fruit): This fruit could change the world. I call it the “110-minute fruit”… as in, you know where you will be 110 minutes after you’ve eaten it. I like to scoop out the insides sort of like eating a kiwi. It is part of the cactus family. img_6597

Maracuya (passion fruit): When I went on the fruit tour, I learned that the passion fruit sold in the U.S. is the brown version created by mixing a “mom” and a “dad” fruit. In the photo, the big round greenish one on the right is the “mom” and the long narrow one on the left is the “dad” (called a “caruba”) and the one in the center is the one I think of as a passion fruit.img_7999

Tree tomato: I tried three different kinds of tree tomato in Colombia. They don’t have much flavor and look like long narrow tomatoes. img_6599

Chirimoya (custard apple): This green pear shaped fruit that looks a bit like an artichoke is a surprise. 10421300_10153347353934618_6551906275350936819_n1

Kumquat: Looks like a grape-sized orange. Supposedly you can eat it, rind and all. I find it very bitter.

Papayuela. The only fruit that must be boiled with sugar before consumption.905967_10153648165584618_2113259764934613346_o1

Orange: The oranges used for Colombia are often green on the outside and orange on the inside. And sweet.10295299_10153154808029618_6497864187278336944_o10649655_10152941158444618_304262838288101202_n

Mandarin: I mention these because the juice is great. Most of the mandarins I tried in Colombia were in juice form. When I would go to my favorite market, Paloquemao, the vendors would often give me a free mandarin. I appreciate the freebie but really I don’t like the mandarins because they are too papery and fibrous. But, great as juice! And so incredibly orange colored (the green juice in the back is feijoa – mentioned later)!10295925_10153141348034618_1238038620572353122_o

Zapote: Baseball size and dirt-colored. Inside is the texture of a pumpkin and it is bright orange. This is just one of the fruits you can try on the fruit tour in Bogota. img_7981

Obos: It looks like an olive and one chews around the hard seed inside. It seems like a lot of work for what you get.

Mamoncillo: Little round hard fruit a bit like lychee but without the same aroma.img_0606

Curuba zanahoria: The fruit from a palm tree. It’s a bit like a pumpkin. It needs salt, sugar, and lime juice… is it worth it?img_14371

Feijoa (pineapple guava/guavasteen): It tastes like kiwi with a soapy aroma. Not so good for those who don’t like cilantro. Used mostly for juice. Named for a Brazilian explorer.img_7994

Guayaba araca (wild acidic guava): These are yellowish and the size of an apple. The aroma of these led me to them in the produce section. Inside the flesh is pale custard color with flesh like a peach. But, they are super sour. Once I read about it, I found out that it needs to have sugar added and it needs to be diluted to 1 part juice to 10 parts water.

Granadilla: This was the go-to fruit for Colombian school kids because this is a sturdy fruit (and apparently the kids would smash it against their forehead to crack it open). 12109738_10153648238154618_4031459241144594892_o

Guamas: looks like a mega green bean pod but you just eat the inside white fluff that surrounds the beans.fullsizerender62

Carambola (starfruit): You have seen them on many a cocktail. I assume.

Papaya: This is a meat tenderizer and the Colombians eat this for breakfast — like they are trying to tenderize the night.

Pepino melon: a long attractive melon. photo53

Agraz (blackberries, but like a small bitter acai): This small berries are so bitter that they must be good for your health. 11223961_10153648176094618_8871581844640326146_o

Higos: The fruit of the cactus fruit. img_1512

Cashew fruit: The fruit of the cashew tree is great if you can get it. The nut hangs off the end of the fruit. It’s much better as a juice. img_1477

Mango: There are many sorts of mangoes. Colombia has the larger reddish kind.

Mangosteeno (mangosteen): Not from Colombia but they are very proud to grow them here. This is my favorite fruit.img_9791

Piñuela: This was a small shallot-shaped fruit. To eat it, one peels the leaves it like a banana. Inside is a white floss around a large black seed. Eat the floss. 11703215_10153432786054618_6224118621775175662_n

Yacon: I first heard of this in the U.S. as it was being used in dried form as a diet tea. It’s sold on the streets of Bogota. On the outside, this fruit looks like a dirty potato. On the inside, it looks like a pear. Sort of. 11428034_10153347356384618_6703100946318414907_n

Plantain: It is a fruit. It’s eaten like a starch. It is. But, it looks like a banana. A word about bananas in Colombia. Most of them are spotty. There are many different kinds. If you want unblemished Dole bananas, you need to buy “export” bananas. And good luck finding them. 10629567_10152764664629618_2203745753734451276_n

Breva: This fruit looked like a styrofoam. I had lots of discussions with my Colombian colleagues about what it’s actually called. I believe it has to be boiled with sugar for ten hours.11893871_10153648327319618_3449185676384618469_o

Noni: And then there were these “noni”… so ugly. Apparently, they also have to be boiled for 24 hours with sugar. I couldn’t find anyone who had ever had these.

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Actually, the rarest fruit to find in Colombia are lemons.

While researching the names of the fruits, I found this photo contest. It’s amazing to see what fruits are out there for us to try: Some links to other fruit adventurers: A blog about all kinds of things.

I did not find 100 new fruits to try, but these are a sample of the ones that I tried. Many of the new fruits were variations of other fruits. And frankly, a lot of the fruits were not very tasty and had to be boiled with sugar for 24 hours to be edible… stick with the pitaya, lulo juice, and mangosteeno.