Of man's first disobedience.
March 15, 2009 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Butt nuts. Muffin fruits. Cashew apples. Jaboitcabas. Kinbaran. Miracle fruit (whose extract, miraculin, has been banned as a food additive by the FDA.) Bignays, gourkas, sapotes, mombins, langsats, and jaboticabas. The semi-ferocious rat-tailed papaya (parody.)

"There are thousands upon thousands of fruits that we never imagined – and that few of us will ever taste, unless we embark on fruit-hunting expeditions."

Adam Gollner shares photos of the experiences that led to his well-received first book, The Fruit Hunters.

Via Cardhouse. Previously: 1, 2, 3.
posted by peggynature (35 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
This is some strange fruit I can approve of.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:03 PM on March 15, 2009

While the idea of traipsing around the tropics in search of exotic fruit is perhaps seductive (and in keeping with the spirit of gourmet-adventurism that has recently become so chic), the juxtaposition between this FPP and the one just below it (on Daewoo's attempts to purchase half of Madagascar's land to grow corn for export back to Korea) is suggestive (vis-à-vis the global politics of food).

On a related note, the NYT recently had an article on the Açaí phenomena.
posted by ornate insect at 12:15 PM on March 15, 2009

Wonderful! I am still on the hunt for a fruit I had in Costa Rica that had the flavor of fruit punch Starburst candy, and flesh that was so sappy and sticky you had to use sand to clean your hands.

There are some wonderful things out there.
posted by strixus at 12:16 PM on March 15, 2009

Miracle fruit previously.
posted by benzenedream at 12:18 PM on March 15, 2009

i thought clicking 'order now in the us' would end with me holding a big box of fruit salad, not a book. :(
posted by sexyrobot at 12:28 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I need a fruit that increases vision instead (d'oh).

This book looks great - trying to find relatively common fruits such as jackfruit or breadfruit fresh is tough enough. Finding like-minded fruit fiends for fruity parties would be more fun than wine tasting parties - is anyone doing this in the bay area?
posted by benzenedream at 12:28 PM on March 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

They have wonderful fruit in Thailand. I ate something there that looked kinda like a grapefruit but was much sweeter-also just the pineapple and watermelon there is much more flavorful than in the States. Yum!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:29 PM on March 15, 2009

St. Alia of the Bunnies, was it a pomelo? I've always wanted to try one.
posted by peggynature at 12:31 PM on March 15, 2009

My favorite fruit, one whose smell I am a bit addicted to is the cherimoya. I can't do much better than quote from the wikipedia article:

The fruit is fleshy and soft, sweet, white in color, with a sherbet-like texture, which gives it its secondary name, custard apple. Some characterize the flavor as a blend of banana, pineapple, and strawberry. Others describe it as tasting like commercial bubblegum. Similar in size to a grapefruit, it has large, glossy, dark seeds that are easily removed. The seeds are poisonous if crushed open and can be used as an insecticide... When ripe the skin is green and gives slightly to pressure, similar to the avocado.

So delicious. Not hard to find - they're on most mexican fruitstands.
posted by vacapinta at 12:34 PM on March 15, 2009

St. Alia of the Bunnies, I have news for you, most fruit and vegetables bought direct from grower or from non processed providers tastes very different and infinitely better from that which you purchase at your local Costco, Winn Dixie, Albertsons whatever.
posted by adamvasco at 12:35 PM on March 15, 2009

St. Alia of the Bunnies, was it a pomelo? I've always wanted to try one.

Oh, I think that was it! It was really good, too!

St. Alia of the Bunnies, I have news for you, most fruit and vegetables bought direct from grower or from non processed providers tastes very different and infinitely better from that which you purchase at your local Costco, Winn Dixie, Albertsons whatever.

I live in the South and have had lots of homegrown watermelon, etc. and I still maintain that Southeast Asia still produces a superior product. But I don't disagree with your main point.

(See, this is why I laughed at Jane Fonda decades ago when she came to my university and proclaimed none of us knew what a real tomato tasted like to an entire auditorium of folks who were probably raised on homegrown tomatoes and knew better to buy the crap available at the A & P in those days.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:57 PM on March 15, 2009

You should be able to find pomelos in the supermarket. They are in all of the grocery stores here in North Carolina. They sometimes cost a few dollars each, though. However, they're delicious and one usually makes for at least two servings.
posted by statolith at 1:02 PM on March 15, 2009

Another fruit found in the American south is the kumquat.
posted by ornate insect at 1:07 PM on March 15, 2009

Hey, benezendream, if you start a fruit-tasting society, let me know, OK? I don't know of anything like that currently in the Bay Area but it sounds like fun, especially with all the Asian and Latin American markets around here.

Alas, the only home-grown fruit I can contribute are some intensely sour mandarin oranges called, confusingly, Rangpur limes. They would certainly be the acid test for miracle fruit (although it might be dangerous - they have a nice citrus/floral flavor and if you don't realize how sour the little buggers are, your teeth might dissolve before you stopped eating them).

Oh, and I wish the photos in the links identified the exotic fruits a little better. "Butt nuts" are almost certainly coco de mer but what are the muffin fruits? And how do these things taste? I've had a lot of tropical fruits while traveling in the tropics, and while fresh fruit ripe from the tree is unbeatable, a lot of fruits are really somewhat nondescript. Sweet, juicy, and nonetheless rather bland. There are a few standouts, and those are mostly the ones that are already widely cultivated and shipped around the world (mangos, pineapples, oranges, etc). The rest are pleasant enough, but not really worth making a pilgrimage for. (Then again, I prefer intensely-flavored food, so apples and pears don't get me too excited.)
posted by Quietgal at 1:13 PM on March 15, 2009

I believe the "muffins" are sapucaia nut. They contain seeds something like brazil nuts.

Butt nuts are, yes, coco de mer, or "ladyfruit."
posted by peggynature at 1:23 PM on March 15, 2009

You can get pomelos in Costco for $1.29 each. I've got two sitting on my counter, one of which has developed a very happy smiley face through the efforts of my three-year-old daughter and a green marker.

The mangosteen is the most delicious fruit I've ever tasted. The flesh is rich and deep, sweet with a tart kick.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:17 PM on March 15, 2009

Yay Asian fruit! People don't understand why I don't like berries; Asian fruit is tons better!

I'd like to try some of the non-Asian exotic fruit he's listed up there.
posted by divabat at 2:18 PM on March 15, 2009

I watched the video about miriacle fruit being banned by the FDA, but the guy interviewed didn't say why. He implied that it was some sort of industrial conspiracy, but the interviewer interrupted him before he could get to the point.

So does anyone know why the FDA hates miraculin, and whether it really was do to the evil machinations of the Big Sugar, Big Aspartame, or the atheist Big Startling-But-Statistically-Inevitable-Coincidence Fruit industries?
posted by metaBugs at 3:00 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Info about the FDA and miraculin is kind of sketchy/hard to find, but I did find this blog post, quoting a WSJ article (subscribers only), which says:
Miracle fruit remains in a kind of regulatory limbo in the U.S. It's perfectly fine to grow and sell it, because the Food and Drug Administration doesn't require prior approval to sell fresh fruits, though it can intercede if it suspects problems. The trickier part comes when people try to use it as an additive in other foods. That's when regulators start asking questions.

Two American entrepreneurs, Robert Harvey and Don Emery, tried this route back in the 1970s but the venture ended in heartbreak...The FDA sent a letter calling miraculin a "food additive" requiring years of testing. The letter effectively scuttled the venture, which was on the verge of selling products and wasn't prepared to spend money on extensive testing. Miralin filed for bankruptcy and fired 280 employees. It's only in the past five years that "I'm able about to laugh about this instead of crying," says Mr. Harvey, now 75 years old, who went on to a lucrative career making blood pumps used in heart surgery.
I'm not sure if there's any more-official FDA info out there on miraculin, but I'd be interested in seeing it if anyone can dig it up.
posted by peggynature at 3:23 PM on March 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Cashew apple? What the fuck? So Americans go ahead and call the seed by the fruit's name, and then have to go around and call the fruit "Cashew apple"? So I guess pineapples are the fruit from which pine nuts are extracted?

for the unaware: that fruit is where cashew nuts come from. And it's called a cashew ("caju"). The thing at the top doesn't look like a cashew nut, it isone. The fruit is actually kinda meh to eat by itself (too adstringent), but the juice is good (cashew juice concentrate is quite common in Brazil, perhaps because we have to move all the fruit that remains from all the cashew nut exports...).
posted by qvantamon at 3:50 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Most regions of Australia have a good variety of interesting fruits and nuts and the like, collectively "bush tucker" or "bushfood" (I've never actually heard it called this but Wikipedia knows best!). Some appetizing images here, here, and here (yes those are witchety grubs at the front), and a little more info here. The go-to guy for bush tucker is the imaginatively-named Bush Tucker Man, Les Hiddins, previously an Army Major. One of his objectives during his later military career was to make his way through the wildernesses of Australia and liaise with native communities, acquiring knowledge and methods for living on the land, which included, naturally, being able to identify nutritious bush tucker.

One memorable episode of his television series saw Les explaining how one could make a refreshing lemony beverage by putting on the old billy, ripping a weaver (or green) ant nest from the nearest tree, and plunging the entire seething (and boy do those nests seethe like you wouldn't believe, it's quite terrifying) package into the boiling water. Strain it and pick the bits out and you have a delightful, if acidic, drink. I've never tried this "green ant tea", but can verify that green ant backsides taste a lot like violent limes with extremely bad attitudes.

I no longer condone the drowning of living creatures in boiling water and furthermore do not approve of eating their bottoms.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:16 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Man'o'man. I really have no desire to read a book about cute exotic fruit. Give it a week and we'll see LOLfruit sites popping up all over. I can see it now... "I haz a muffin nut!". Also, I hope the homeopathy crowd mentioned in another thread today doesn't hear about "miraculin". They'll start putting it in everything.
posted by runcibleshaw at 4:55 PM on March 15, 2009

Take note, there exists a fruit called a jaboticaba.

The world is even more awesome than I had imagined.
posted by JHarris at 5:09 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

They're pretty tasty, too, but will get things moving pretty regular if you enjoy too many of them. They grow right off the trunk, or branch, in little clusters, rather than in bunches near the extremity of the plant. My little niece loves them and gets them right off the tree at my brother's place, shoves them into her mouth, masticates them for a while, then lets the skin and pip fall to the ground with an endearing "bleaugh".

They also have a couple of chocolate pudding trees, but those fruit are just vile.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:13 PM on March 15, 2009

I believe the reason that miracle fruit is banned by the FDA is that it has the ability to make anything taste good. Potentially awesome, until food producers start using it to pep up dishes and ingredients that are no longer good for some reason, and selling it with no external indicators that it's gone bad. Here is a previous post about it.

benzenedream, if you really want to have a bay area fruit party, i know a few people who'd love to do it, myself included.
posted by duende at 5:21 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mr. Harvey, now 75 years old, who went on to a lucrative career making blood pumps used in heart surgery.

So the overhead in testing and approving medical devices used in heart surgery is less than that to test a natural sweetener?
posted by mikelieman at 5:38 PM on March 15, 2009

I can spell "benzenedream", really. See? I just did. One of the mods must have snuck in and messed up my post. J'accuse!
posted by Quietgal at 5:39 PM on March 15, 2009

+1 for Bay Area fruit party.

Which sounds like a totally naughty circuit party but is in fact probably even weirder and more decadent.

[this is good] postings. I can't get enough of the pics of unusual fruit.
posted by loquacious at 5:46 PM on March 15, 2009

Oh god somebody tell me there is a fruit party sort of thing around Boston, because I am SO there. My one dream in life is to eat a fresh mangosteen. And one of every other edible thing on planet earth, but, you know, mangosteens are special. *Buys this book immediately.*
posted by Mizu at 6:19 PM on March 15, 2009

Sarawak is a great location for wild-gathered foods and fruit hunting. The Dabai is one of my favorites - unique to the region, I believe. [self-link]
posted by BinGregory at 6:59 PM on March 15, 2009

A friend of mine has a bottle of liqueur made from jaboticaba. It's f'n delicious.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:11 PM on March 15, 2009

MMMMMmangosteens. Would that I could find decent ones on this side of the planet... if anything is worth a plane ticket, mangosteens are.

Did you know that the number of little petals on the bottom of the fruit (not the big leaves on top) is equal to the number of segments inside? Really! But don't tell anyone; I've got a reputation for clairvoyance to maintain.
posted by Westringia F. at 8:14 PM on March 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Man, this thread and that book are making me wish I'd bought a mamey at the flea market this past weekend.
posted by crataegus at 4:14 AM on March 16, 2009

One of the best parts of my Hawaiian vacation was the visit to the Hilo farmer's market. Quietgal is right, though--not everything is really that fantastic (brown sugar fruit tasted like brown sugar, and nothing else, and dragon fruit, while beautiful, isn't really that tasty). But, oh, my, did the fresh little white pineapples spoil me for anything else, and the 5 papayas for $1 make it difficult for me to stomach buying them back home, and the 4 types of mango (and cheap, too) were amazing.

I was able to pick up fresh mangosteens here in DC, at least.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:40 AM on March 16, 2009

Ugh. I won't let my hubby even bring fresh "cashew apples" into the house because of the way they smell. The juice is decent but I can only drink it with my nose plugged!

Now, jaboticaba is a different story--it smells as good at it tastes!
posted by wallaby at 11:34 AM on March 16, 2009

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