Just when you thought it was safe to sit back, peel a banana, and put the whole exotic fruit rigmarole behind you, we’re back with a new list of six more little bundles of sweet, exotic fruity goodness. Maybe you’ve heard of them, maybe you haven’t. Either way, they’re delicious and nutritious, and your friends will think you’re, like, totally fancy if you bust them out at your next shindig.
- Pomegranates. Although the name is Latin for “seeded apple,” pomegranates have about as much in common with apples as they do with liverwurst—except maybe that they both grow on trees and they’re both fruit.Pomegranates have a hard, inedible red and yellow skin. Inside, you’ll find clusters of seeds protected by sweet, pulpy little deep-red pouches called arils. (Does this sound anything like an apple to you? I have no idea what the Romans were thinking.)
Arils are the part you eat, seed and all. Despite their alien appearance, the chance that they’ll sprout in your stomach and take over your consciousness is slim.
Half an average-sized pomegranate (about 4 inches in diameter) has 117 calories, 1-1/2 grams of fat, 2-1/2 grams of protein, 26 grams of carbs, and a respectable 5 grams of fiber. It has 24 percent of the recommended daily value (RDA)* for vitamin C and 13 percent of the RDA for folate. You’ll also find vitamin E, K, B6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. For minerals, you get 9 percent of the RDA for potassium and 11 percent of the RDA for copper, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and selenium.
There are a host of studies showing that pomegranate consumption can potentially help with everything from heart disease to dental plaque to cancer to the common cold. I’d take these studies with a grain of salt, but at the same time, there sure are a lot of them, and until someone figures out their accuracy, it’s not going to hurt you to eat pomegranates.
- Kumquats. Despite the questionable name, kumquats are fun for the whole family. These citrus fruits come from south Asia and resemble tiny oranges. Unlike other citrus, you eat them skin and all.If you choose to eat a kumquat, prepare yourself for an experience. The outer skin is tasteless, but once you bite into it, the bitter juice explodes in your mouth and your face distorts into a pucker the likes of which no lemon could ever match. At this point, if you spit it out, you’ll have that taste in your mouth for a while, so commit to your kumquat. After a couple of seconds, the pulp gives way to the taste of the sweet pulp and skin and you’re fine.
Ready for another?
Most people settle for getting their kumquats in the form of jams and jellies, but in my opinion, that’s the gutless option. Real men and women eat their kumquats whole.
Surviving an eight-kumquat odyssey will earn you 104 calories, 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of protein, 24 grams of carbs, and 9 grams of fiber. You’ll get 112 percent of the RDA for vitamin C, as well as a little riboflavin, vitamin A, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese.
- Asian pears. You may know this fruit by many other names, including sand pear, nashi pear, or—if you’re feeling all scientific—pyrus pyrifolia. They come from (obviously) Asia, and they basically look like big, firm apples with pear-like skin. Their flesh is crispy, grainy, and juicy. They’re pear-like in taste, but not texture. They’re very nonconfrontational, a great new fruit to introduce to fussy eaters.One medium-sized fruit (about 2-1/2 inches in diameter) has 51 calories, 1 gram of protein, 13 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of fiber. Asian pears aren’t exactly micronutrient powerhouses, but they’re better than a stick in the eye. That one piece of fruit contains 8 percent of the RDA for vitamin C and 7 percent of vitamin K. You also get some vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and pantothenic acid. For minerals, there’s 4 percent of the RDA for potassium and manganese, as well as some magnesium, phosphorus, and copper.
- Kiwifruit. Kiwifruit only became kiwifruit in 1962. Before that, these brown, fuzzy little fruits went by a variety of monikers, two of my favorites being the Chinese gooseberry and the hairy bush fruit. (I have no further comment on those names.)
A ripe kiwi will be firm with just the slightest give. While the skin doesn’t seem all that welcoming, it’s actually completely edible and loaded with fiber. That said, it’s hairy and chewy, and it’s understandable if you decide to skip it. Just cut your fruit across its equator and spoon out the yummy green flesh within, seeds and all.
One medium skinless kiwifruit (about 76 grams in weight) has 46 calories, 1 gram of protein, 11 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of fiber. It packs a real vitamin C wallop, with 117 percent of the RDA. It also has 38 percent of the RDA for vitamin K, as well as lesser amounts of vitamin A, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, and pantothenic acid. For minerals, you’ll get 7 percent of the RDA for potassium, and lesser amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese.
I don’t have the nutrition facts for a kiwifruit consumed with the skin on, but suffice it to say you’ll get everything listed above plus a bunch more fiber.
- Figs. While just about everyone has had Fig Newtons® at some point in their life, few people have tried the fresh version of the fruit they come from. Surprising, considering that every year, more than a million tons of this fruit are produced internationally. While dried figs (and Fig Newtons) are available year-round, fresh figs are in season in summer, sometimes into autumn. There are more than 150 varieties of these weird, dangly-looking things, and they’re highly perishable, so eat them within a day or two of buying them. Keep them refrigerated. A good fig is plump with a little give, but not mushy. If they smell sweet, that’s also a good indication that they’re ready to eat.One large raw fig has 47 calories,12 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of fiber. You’ll also get small amounts of pretty much every vitamin and mineral around, except vitamins E and B12, selenium, and sodium.
Figs also have a laxative effect, so if you decide they’re the fruit for you and you go on a little binge, try to do so close to a restroom.
- Persimmons. Another colorful contribution to the fruit rainbow from Asia, persimmons are commercially available in two varieties. The most readily available is the hachiya, which is shaped a little like an acorn. You need to wait until they’re super-ripe and soft before they become edible.Conversely, fuyu persimmons resemble tomatoes in shape and are slightly orange in color. They’re edible (and delicious, I might add) while still firm.
Both varieties are typically autumn fruit.
And here’s a little fun fact for you: Persimmons, like tomatoes, are technically considered berries. Who knew? They also contain small amounts of lycopene, an essential phytochemical thought to decrease the risk of cancer.
One hachiya persimmon has about 118 calories, 1 gram of protein, 31 grams of carbohydrates, and 6 grams of fiber. It’ll give you a hearty 55 percent of the RDA for vitamin A and 21 percent of the RDA for vitamin C. There’s also 8 percent of the RDA for vitamin B6, 6 percent for vitamin E, and smaller amounts of vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. On the mineral front, there’s 30 percent of the RDA for manganese, 9 percent for copper, 8 percent for potassium, and lesser amounts of everything else but sodium.
It may take a little searching, but most of these six exotic fruits are available at your local grocery store. If you’re lucky, you might even find a few of them at your local farmers’ market. So put down that apple, get your exotic on, and enjoy!