Fruits are probably one of the few foods that are nutritious and taste good at the same time. The plant kingdom is indeed vast, and it is possible to sometimes overlook some of the many species of fruits. The reasons might be wide-ranging like unavailability, slow growth, zero commercial benefits, etc. However, these reasons do not make these underrated foods any less sweet or less nutritious. Here is the list of 10 neglected and underutilized fruits.
1. Custard Apple
Cherimoya, or the custard apple, is a cone-shaped and green-colored fruit that has leathery skin and creamy, sweet flesh. The plant is local to the Andes Mountains of South America and grows in tropical areas with high altitudes. The fruit is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and also supports immunity and reduces inflammation.
The pulpy, edible fruit which grows in the Old World tropics on average weighs up to half a kilogram. The outer covering of the fruit is green and heart-shaped, but the creamy flesh inside the fruit is white-colored. This custard-like part inside has dark brown seeds that are toxic to eat.
It has a very strong, sweet flavor that experts describe as a combination of pineapple, strawberry, and banana.
Besides its sweet taste, it has a number of health and nutritional benefits. It has antioxidants that prevent cancer. Specific nutrients include carotenoids, flavonoids, and vitamin C.
Custard apple is believed to be originated in the Andes Mountains of South American in altitudes of 700 to 2,000 meters. There is another controversial theory that suggests that it actually originated in Central America because its relatives are found to have originated there.
The tropical tree of jackfruit, or scientifically, Artocarpus heterophyllus, is generally grown in parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. The stringy flesh under its uneven thick flesh can be eaten raw or cooked in several dishes. Jackfruit is the world’s largest tree-borne fruit and can weigh up to 40 pounds or more.
The evergreen fruit of jackfruit is native to tropical Asia and is largely grown in wetland tropical areas. The tree is cultivated for two primary reasons, first obviously the fruit and the second most for its hard, useful wood.
The fleshy part inside the outer, rough covering is eaten fresh for its sweet acidic flavor. Sometimes, it is also used as a substitute for meat. The seeds beneath the flesh are also cooked and eaten by some. In places like Bangladesh and some parts of South and Southeast Asia, jackfruit is the locals’ staple food crop.
A 100-gram portion of jackfruit contains 95 calories, two grams of protein, and three grams of fiber. It is also high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, potassium, etc.
The largest citrus fruit from the family of Rutaceae and the principal ancestor of the grapefruit is known as the Pomelo. Native to Southeast Asia, the fruit tastes like sweet grapefruit and is consumed for festival occasions throughout Southeast Asia. It also has a potential for drug interactions.
Shaped like a teardrop, the fruit has a green or yellow flesh covered with a pale, thick rind and can grow up to the size of a cantaloupe. The other name for this citrus Asian fruit is “shaddock.” The name is derived from the captain who introduced the tree to the West Indies.
This is the original species from which other commercial cultivars were created, like the grapefruit.
Its taste resembles that of a grapefruit but is a bit sweeter. The calorie count of pomelo is 231, and it is an excellent source of vitamin C, copper, and potassium.
Consuming this citrus fruit has multiple benefits. It is full of fiber and can help you lose weight. It is rich in antioxidants which can stop and reverse cellular damage caused by free radicals.
4. Wild Mango
Scientifically known as Irvingia gabonensis, this is the tree that bears wild mango, also called African or bush mango. It is similar to mango but its seeds are edible and used to make medicines. The fruit is native to West Africa and is eaten fresh or processed into sweet jellies and jams.
The tree on which the fruits grow is a hardwood that is used for heavy construction. The seeds are also known as “dika fruit” have multiple uses. They could be used to lower cholesterol because they have high fiber content. Additionally, they might affect the growth of fat cells and increase the breakdown of fats.
Just like coffee beans, the seeds of African mangoes are roasted, then pounded and poured into a mold before they’re added to boiling meat and vegetables. And they are not just for edible purposes, the seeds are also used for soap and candlemaking after fat is extracted from them.
The trees of the wild mangoes are indigenous to the humid forest zone in West Africa. These trees were never considered to be cultivated systematically because they were not commercially feasible. The tree takes up to 15 years to bear its first fruits. (1, 2, 3)
Lychee is the sole member of the genus Litchi. The plant is documented to have been cultivated in the southeastern provinces of China since the 11th century. Its tiny fruit comes in a red-pink color, is rough on the outside, but the fleshy part is sweet and is eaten in various dessert dishes.
The lychee tree was native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China but is now grown in other parts of the world like India, Madagascar, and South African. It reached the European world in Jamaica for the first time in 1775 and in Florida in 1916.
The fruit of the tree is used for medicinal purposes. It is consumed by people for cough, fever, pain, to promote urine, and to invigorate the body. It is important to note that the interior, fleshy part of the fruit after peeling is eaten.
In some cases, consumption of the fruit has been linked to children’s death in India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. They have toxins that are lethal for children to eat, especially eating the unripe ones.