Exotic fruits of the world – Happy Gourmand

I know, with the temperatures this week, I may seem a bit silly choosing gardening as a theme. But Mother Nature is preparing for spring and soon things will grow back.

If you’re planting seeds in a garden, you may have already done some shopping. But just in case you have a bit of aimless dirt right now, I want to bring you some lesser-known foods you can try.

I’ve already talked about carrots and purple beans and heirloom tomatoes. These items are even more exotic in flavor and appearance.

Peanut butter fruit (bunchosia armeniaca)—This South American berry has nothing to do with peanuts but has a sweet nutty taste. They are delicious in smoothies. You do need some space for this plant though, it grows upright but will reach three to six feet in height.

Chocolate pudding fruit (diosyros digyna)—I bet I have your attention now, don’t I? It is a true fruit, grown natively in Mexico and Central America. It must be eaten ripe to be appreciated. Unripe fruits are pale and very astringent. But when ripe, it has a smooth texture and is sweet with cocoa undertones.

Rollinia, Biriba (rollinia deliciosa)—This tropical delicacy comes from Brazil and would not like our climate enough. It also grows up to 40 feet. But in my gardening dreams, I would have a tree, just to taste the juicy, slippery flesh with flavors of pineapple, coconut, and banana. I wouldn’t even be deterred by its nickname, “snotfruit”.

Arbutus (arbutus unedo)—This evergreen shrub has fruits that look like fuzzy strawberries but taste unique and delicious. I tasted them in Morocco and I was delighted. They originated in the Mediterranean in ancient times but have spread all over the world. Thomas Jefferson listed it in his gardens in America. I had never heard of them until I saw them in Morocco.

Bitter melon/bitter gourd/balsam apple (momordica)—There are many varieties of this vegetable hanging from hearty vines, some with a more bitter taste than others. The fruit is said to have many health benefits and is used throughout South and Central Asia in curries, stir-fries and pickles.

Pink Lemonade Blueberries, Arkansas Black Apple—These fruits were developed in the United States, so they are a bit easier to grow. At first, pink lemonade blueberries were only used as ornamental shrubs, until someone discovered how delicious the sweet berries were. Black Arkansas apples have complex flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, cherry and cilantro, and are excellent for storing over winter.

I also wanted to include some plants that are easy to grow here in the Okanagan and readily available at local nurseries and seed companies.

I have mature arctic kiwi vines and enjoy harvesting the fruit each summer. I can’t wait to show them to our granddaughter.

Arctic kiwi (actinidia arguta)—This little beauty is a miniature version of the kiwi we all know, minus that silly fuzz. It grows on a vigorous vine (watch your drainpipe for overgrown shoots), making it easy to find a handful of fruit that you can put straight into your mouth.

Cucamelon (also called Mexican sour pickle)—A fun oddity in the vegetable patch that looks like both cucumber and watermelon but not exactly like both. If you have kids, this would be a great mystery to add to their gardening experience.

Even if you stick to growing your usual carrots and peas, I hope this has offered you some respite from our winter blast this week.

If you want to immediately taste something that makes you forget about winter, how about my Tropical Delight Cookies recipe?

My mom always said there wasn’t much a cookie couldn’t cure.

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