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12 Fruits and Vegetables You’ve Probably Never Heard of

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
Image credit: Pixabay

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.

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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.

Kiwano is a traditional food in Africa and is one of the few sources of water for the people in the Kalahari Desert during the dry seasons. It is also sometimes used as a decorative plant. (1, 2)

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
Image credit: Parisette/Wikimedia

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)

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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.

Pineberries
Image credit: Emmbean/Wikimedia

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.

Cotton Candy grape
Image credit: grapery.biz

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)

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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.

Monstera Deliciosa
Image credit: Annon201/Wikimedia, B.navez/Wikimedia

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
Image credit: kanyakumarimemes.com

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)

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