Beyond the Supermarket: A Global Tour of Exotic Fruits and Vegetables


A super ripe Biriba fruit, an orgasmic Amazonian treat!

Now why do some foods become popular and others just don't ever make it to the shelves of your market. Some of the worlds greatest foods are barely eaten outside of their area of origin. How did a fruit like the kiwi go from being nearly unknown outside the Yangtze Valley in China to be found in almost every fruit salad around the world? Just who makes those decisions?Like I mentioned a few weeks back in The Diaspora of Food one of the most important reasons foods are able to make it to vast markets is the foods' shelf life. Shelf life is defined as the length of time that a given item can remain in a salable condition on a retailer's shelf. The banana variety most commonly found in markets around the world is dwarf cavendish which became popular because of resistance to disease and long shelf life and not particularly for taste. It is nice that some of the best fruits out there can almost not even make it to the kitchen from a nearby orchard. Like the biriba (photo above), will begin to turn from yellow to black just minutes after it is harvested from the tree. It is sliced in half and eaten like custard, the sweetest most delicious custard ever!! Biriba is in the anona family which is in the same family as the cherimoya and ylang ylang.

Now we will travel to the opposite side of the world into the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra to the homeland of the king of all fruits, the Durian. I have capitalized it as i plan to name my firstborn son after this stinky delicacy so I was just practicing. :) Durian is one of my all time favorites and can be found in Chinatowns around the world. It's also becoming quite popular in the raw food community all over the US. It has the flavor of a super sweet onion custard with the consistency of brie cheese. Most westerners can not stand it and it is actually banned in fancy hotels, buses and planes in Singapore and Bangkok.

During the season all of Singapore smells like it and and the markets are out of control. They have bins filled with them and each bin is labeled with a big sign with the variety. The bins are slammed with mostly men (as the fruit is said to be a powerful aphrodisiac) as they box each other out as they seek the Durian of their liking. The pick up one after another smelling them and shaking them before they decide on the fruit they will bring home to their families. I strongly recommend trying one if you can get past the smell.

As we talk about the king of fruits it's important we do not leave out the queen of fruits, the mangosteen. The mangosteen is not only my favorite fruit in the world, it is my favorite food! It is the absolute best. It has the white segments inside its beautiful purple skin and the segments explode the most incredible combo of sweet and sour that I have ever experienced. It is perfect! I can just imagine one popping in my mouth right now as the sweet mangosteen juice drips down my chin. YUM!! I pray that everyone has the opportunity to try one in their lifetime. Unlike the durian, everyone who tries a mangosteen falls in love. It is only in the past several months that is legal to bring in fresh mangosteen to the US due to fear of the fruit fly that the USDA feared could come in under the green petals found at the top of the mangosteen. You can now find them in your local Asian food store. It is far from sustainable so things like this should be saved for very special occasions.

Now we will leave the tropics and head up to Alaska where we find the delicious salmon berry. The salmon berries are native to the coastal forests from Northern California up into Alaska. It is a close relative of the raspberry and has a nice subtle sweet flavor and a real nice consistency. They are like a cluster of little juice balls that pop in your mouth.

While visiting my dear friend Bradley Farmer in Sitka, Alaska last summer, we found salmonberries in many colors from deep red to soft yellow and some were bright orange. We found way more than we can eat. I have never seen them in markets besides a bit in jam while in Alaska. So many incredible things to eat out there in the world. Check back for more exotic foods next week!! Have a nice Wednesday!

Stephen Brooks is a jungle tropical fruit farmer in Costa Rica, the co-founder of Kopali Organics and is the Food Field Reporter on Planet Green's G Word.

Tags: Agriculture | Alaska | Biodiversity | Costa Rica

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