Growing up in the South (the Mid-Atlantic area actually) I was surrounded by the typical southern vegetables; corn, tomatoes, okra, yellow squash, butter beans, watermelon, and cantaloupe just to name a few. These fruits and vegetables were the staple of the summer dining table, and boy were they good. It wasn’t until after I became an adult (and getting access to the internet) did I start discovering some fruits and vegetables that were a little bit out of my element – fruits and veggies from different parts of the country and even in different parts of the world. So here are what I think are the 10 strangest and most unusual fruits and vegetables I’ve ever seen:
- Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato – The Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato comes from the small Japanese island of Okinawa. On the outside, it has a tan color and looks very much like an ordinary sweet potato, just a bit lighter in color. Once you slice the sweet potato open, you will see a huge difference – the inside is a dark, rich purple color. These strangely colored sweet potatoes are very rich and sweet, and are sometimes used to make many desserts.
- Romanescu broccoli or cauliflower – Romanescu is of the cauliflower family and sports a very spiny, cone-shaped texture. It comes from Italy where there are many different recipes featuring this veggie. It is normally prepared the same as broccoli in most other countries.
- Kiwano Melon or African Horned Melon – This spiny little fruit has a bright orange and yellow skin with a green and yellow pulp inside. The Kiwano Melon has a sweet yet tart flavor that tastes something like a banana, lime, and cucumber mix. It is native to southern Africa, but many are now grown in New Zealand and parts of California.
- Buddha's Hand – This crazy looking fruit is also called Fingered Citron and is juiceless and seedless. It gets its name because of the long, slender segments that resemble fingers. In Chinese and Japanese homes it is mainly used to perfume homes and clothing. In Western countries, it is mainly used for its zest.
- Durian – Durian is a southeast Asian fruit that has a thorny husk, and carries a distinctive odor when opened up. This fruit can get up to 12 inches long and 6 inches in diameter. The color of the husk ranges from green to brown, with the flesh is red or pale yellow depending on the species. The odor of the opened fruit is so strong that it has led to the banishment of the fruit in some public places and hotels in throughout southeast Asia. Durian in mostly used to flavor sweets and desserts in southeast Asia.
- Pitaya or Dragon Fruit – Pitaya is believed to have come from South America, and features beautiful flowers. The fruit is usually a bright red color, but some species are a light pink. The skin of the dragon fruit is a rind, and is usually covered with scales ( hence the name dragon fruit). The center of the fruit consists of a white or red sweet-tasting pulp. Dragon fruit is used in many desserts, making jam, and as an additive for cocktails.
- Jabotacaba – Jabotacaba grows in tropical areas such as South America, especially Brazil. The fruit looks very similar to black olives and grows on the branches of the tree, not on stems like typical fruit. Jabotacaba is often used in making jellies, jams, and wine.
- Salsify or Goatsbeard – Salsify, or Goatsbeard, is popular in both Europe and the southern United States. The flowers and stems are not eaten; it’s the pungent root that is popular. Because it tastes somewhat like oysters, this fishy-flavored root is often called oyster plant. It is used to add savory flavor to everything from soups to stews.
- Paw Paw – Paw Paw is the largest edible fruit in America. It grows on a deciduous tree that ranges from 12 to 20 feet tall. The fruit can weigh from 5 to 16 ounces and can grow up to 6 inches in diameter. The larger versions can become very plump, similar to a mango. A ripe Paw Paw has a thin skin and becomes soft.
- Monstera Deliciosa – Alright, I’m not making this one up, it is a real plant. The Monstera Deliciosa is a tropical plant that comes from southern Mexico and Panama. It is used more as a house plant than an edible plant, but its culinary uses are highly known. Monstera is a vigorous climbing vine with thick stems and heart-shaped leaves sometimes up to 2 feet wide. It has a rather pungent odor that emits as the kernels ripen and pop off; once they do the sweet pineapple-like flesh can be consumed. The blooms remind me of a giant Peace Lilly bloom.
If you have some weird or unusual fruits or vegetables you’d like to share, feel free to in the comments section below.