There are fruits and vegetables everyone around the world knows of, and then there are fruits and vegetables that are so bizarre and exotic that only a few people have come across them. Most of the time, the reason that such fruits and vegetables remain unheard of to the vast majority of the world is their exclusive geographical growing region. Sometimes, what is very common to a country remains unknown to the rest of the world. Here are 10 such fruits and vegetables that you possibly didn’t know exist.
1. Solo garlic: Unlike the garlic mostly in use around the world, solo garlic doesn’t have separate cloves but is just one, solid piece having a diameter of approximately 25 to 50 mm. It has been grown for about 7,000 years in the Himalayan foothills.
Solo garlic, also known as “single clove garlic,” tastes like garlic should but is somewhat milder and slightly perfumed. They are mostly grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and in Peru. As the name suggests, unlike the garlic largely used in cooking, solo garlic comprises of only one clove. It has been grown for about 7,000 years in the Himalayan foothills.
Solo garlic, to some extent, resembles onions with its white skin and purple stripes and a diameter of around 25 to 55 mm. Their growth depends much on the climatic conditions and careful cultivation, or the garlic splits and forms multiple cloves. (source)
2. Ackee: Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica and is poisonous if eaten prematurely. It is only safe to eat after the fruit has opened naturally. Eating it prematurely can lead to coma.
Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, but it wasn’t always a part of the Jamaican culture and is originally native to West Africa. It was imported to Jamaica in 1778 and soon became a major feature of the country’s cuisine. The ackee tree grows about 10 meters tall and is evergreen.
An ackee fruit looks like a pear and is green in color when raw, but once it ripens, it turns bright orange or red and splits open to reveal three black seeds surrounded by spongy white flesh called “aril” which is consumed. The flesh looks like scrambled eggs. The fruit weighs between 100 grams to 200 grams.
The fruit, however, must be eaten when it has ripened and split naturally. If eaten prematurely, the fruit is poisonous and can lead to coma. (source)
3. Squirting cucumber: Also known as “exploding cucumber” and “spitting cucumber,” this member of the gourd family squirts a stream of mucilaginous liquid containing its seeds when it ripens. Squirting cucumbers are poisonous.
Squirting cucumber or exploding cucumber is native to Europe and temperate regions of Asia and North America. It gets its unusual name because of the fact that when the fruit is ripe, it ejects its seeds along with a stream of mucilaginous liquid. The fruit is poisonous and is mostly grown as an ornamental plant. It is only consumed by caterpillars and the tortrix moth.
Squirting cucumber is also considered as a weed in some parts of the world. It has been in use over thousands of years as a pesticide, and in the ancient world, it was considered an abortifacient. It was also used to treat sinusitis, joint pain, etc. However, due to its volatile effects, it could be fatal in some cases, it is no longer used. (1, 2)
4. Durian: Mostly grown in Southeast Asia, the fruit is considered an instant energizer. It also has a very distinct odor resembling natural gas, onions, and gym socks. Because of this, the fruit is banned from many public spaces.
Durian is considered sometimes the “king of fruits,” and ironically is banned in many public places of the world including the Singapore Rapid Mass Transit due to its strong stench that can be smelled from yards away. However, some find the smell pleasantly sweet. Durian is mostly grown in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia and is also native to Borneo and Sumatra.
Durian can grow up to 30 centimeters in length and 15 centimeters in diameter and has a thorny outer cover. It can weigh anywhere between one kilogram to three kilograms each and looks like a jackfruit. The fruit is eaten raw or is cooked and is used in traditional Southeast Asian dishes and candies and also traditional Asian medicine.
5. Synsepalum dulcificum: This is a plant largely known for its berry which is often referred to as “miracle fruit.” The berry, when consumed, makes sour foods that are eaten after it tastes sweet for the next 30 minutes or so.
Synsepalum dulcificum is known for its berry popularly known as the “miracle fruit” or “miracle berry” which, after eaten, makes sour foods taste sweet and thus the name. It had its origin in West Africa. Synsepalum dulcificum is grown on acidic soil and can be categorized as a small tree that doesn’t usually grow more than 18 feet.
Because of its ability to turn unsweet food sweet, in the 1970s, an attempt was made to commercialize it in the USA but failed after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified the berry as a food additive. Although the fruit itself is not sweet, it binds with the taste buds and makes acidic food consumed after eating the fruit taste sweet. This effect can last as long as two hours. (1, 2)
6. Hala fruit: Hala fruit it is immediately recognized because of its exotic, colorful form and is extensively grown near the edges of the ocean. It is natively from Australia, the Pacific Islands, and the Philippines. It tastes like pineapple.
The peculiar but brilliant looking Hala fruit is made up of hundreds of wedges or cones, the innards of which are pulpy and yellow or orange in color while the outer end of each cone is fibrous and green. The people where the fruit is grown often use the fibrous part as dental floss, while the soft end is eaten raw or cooked. The fruit to some extent looks and tastes like pineapple.
It is believed by the locals that eating the fruit can relieve stress and reduce blood pressure. It is also credited with helping females bear menstrual cramps. The leaves of the tree are used to treat premature ejaculation. However, most of these claims have not been scientifically proven.