Spice Up Your Backyard Orchard With Exotic and Tasty Fruits
Apples, pears, peaches and strawberries are great. Who doesn’t love these classic fruits? If you have room in your backyard orchard and you have and adventurous palate, consider complementing your blueberries and plums with some fruits that are a little more exotic. These fruits come from different places around the world and can be grown in your backyard or in a container indoors, depending on your climate:
The lychee is native to southern China and is an unusual fruit both in appearance and flavor. They grow on a tree in clusters. Each fruit is about the size of a golf ball with a scaly, bright, pinkish-red skin. To eat a lychee you peel back this skin to get to the fruit, which is translucent and white with a seed in the middle. The flavor of lychee is truly unique, but some describe it as floral. It is mildly sweet and slightly tart. You can eat it raw and fresh off the tree or use it in desserts and cocktails. In Hawaii, a popular way to eat lychee is to stuff the raw fruit with cream cheese.
Also known as carambola, this delightful fruit is named for its shape. Whole it is an oval with sharp ridges, but when sliced for eating, each slice resembles a perfect five-pointed star. The outer skin is edible, so to enjoy it fresh simply slice into stars and pick out the few seeds. The texture is slightly crunchy and juicy and the flavor is only lightly sweet with hints of tartness. There are also notes of pear, apple, and citrus. Starfruit is wonderful to eat fresh and raw, but you can also cook them. They are often stewed with sugar and spices in Southeast Asian cuisines and they also make great jams.
The sapodilla fruit grows on an evergreen tree native to Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. The fruits are round and brown with a fuzzy, scruffy skin, a little bit like a kiwi. The traditional way to eat a sapodilla is to simply cut it in half and scoop the flesh out with a spoon to eat raw. The flavor is sweet with hints of pear and brown sugar. With its sweet flavor, sapodilla is a great component in desserts. Try it with yogurt or ice cream, or poach the fruit for a warm dessert.
Dragon fruit is also called pitaya, and it is one of the most beautiful exotic fruits. There are different varieties, but generally dragon fruit is a bright pink oval-shaped fruit with green, spiky protrusions. The flesh is either bright pink or white with small black seeds specked throughout. You can simply cut into a dragon fruit and scoop out the mildly sweet and crunchy flesh to eat raw. Use it in smoothies, sauces and salsas. Dragon fruit is often juiced and used in drinks. You can also eat the flowers of the dragon fruit or steep them to make a tea.
The Nagami kumquat is a truly unique citrus fruit. The fruits are about the size and shape of grapes, but otherwise resemble oranges. Unlike oranges, you can eat the skin of the kumquat. In fact, it is the skin that gives this fruit its sweetness. The flesh is slightly sour. Enjoying kumquats fresh, raw and whole is great, but these little fruits also make delicious sweet and tart jams and marmalades. They are also great for cooking. The plant is easy to grow and naturally small, which makes it perfect for container growing.
This fruit grows on a small evergreen tree, which is native to China. It is often used for ornamental purposes, but it is also grown for the little yellow fruits, which have a unique ripening schedule. The plant blooms in late fall and produces ripe fruit in spring or early summer. The loquat fruit grows in clusters and each one is oval to pear-shaped with yellow or orange skin. The flesh ranges from white to orange in color and has a tangy flavor with notes of citrus, peach and mango. You can enjoy loquats fresh, but avoid the seeds. They are also great in jams, pies and poached desserts.
The name may not make this fruit sound very appealing, but soursop is sweet and tasty. It grows on an evergreen tree native to Central America and the Caribbean and is a large, green, spiny fruit. Other names for the fruit include custard apple and guanabana. The seeds and skin are inedible, but you can easily scoop or cut out the white flesh to eat raw or to use in smoothies, juices and desserts. Unripe soursop fruit can be cooked and used like a vegetable.
This fruit has perhaps the most unusual shape of any fruit. It is a citron fruit that branches into several finger-like appendages, hence the name Buddha’s hand. The fruit is famous for its delightful aroma (lemony, sweet, with a hint of lavender) and has long been used to perfume rooms and clothing, but you can also use it in cooking. You can eat very thin slices of the fruit raw in salads, zest it and use in any way you would use lemon or lime zest, make candied citrus peel, or use Buddha’s hand in cocktails or to make infused liquors.
This pretty purple fruit comes from Brazil and grows on a tree that can be as tall as 45 feet in its natural habitat. Grown in a garden with good pruning, though, it can be kept much smaller. The tree not only provides delicious jaboticaba fruits, but also makes a beautiful addition to the garden. The fruit grows right on the trunk in dark purple clusters. It is a truly unique-looking tree. You can eat the skin, but it is the white flesh of the fruits that tastes best. It has a sweet, grape-like flavor with hints of tartness.
The goji berry grows on a bush and is a plant that is native to Asia. There the fruit has been used for thousands of years both as a food and in traditional medicine. You will mostly find goji berries dried in stores, but by growing a goji berry bush in your backyard, you can enjoy them in other ways. The thin, oval berries are bright pink and can be eaten fresh and raw, used in cooking, juiced, dried, frozen and made into preserves. The flavor is slightly sweet and has hints of watermelon.
With so many options for exotic and unusual fruits, why settle for ordinary? Add one or more of these plants to your backyard or patio orchard and you can enjoy a taste of the exotic any time.