All About the Starfruit

The starfruit, also known as carambola, got its name from the star-shape of the fruit when cut.

Description of the Fruit

The starfruit is native to Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. It is very common in portions of East Asia as well as throughout the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, and Micronesia. It grows well in tropical zones.

The fruit has five ridges along the side, which create the namesake star shape when you cut the fruit in a cross-section.

Changes to the Fruit Over Time

Experts believe that the starfruit first grew in Indonesia or Sri Lanka, but people throughout Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent have been growing it for years. There is also commercial cultivation in the southern U.S., portions of Africa, and several other areas. In some locations, cultivation of starfruit is purely ornamental instead of for consumption.

Experts have also created several cultivars in recent years, including specific types from Florida, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, and Indonesia.

Description of Taste

You can cut starfruit open and eat the inside. It is delicious when raw, or you can use it for relishes, juice, preserves, and in meals. Smaller starfruits tend to be sour or tart due to a higher content of oxalic acid, while larger versions are sweet. The flesh is juicy and firm.

Is It Used in Desserts?

Many desserts with starfruit have other fruits as well. These include curds, cakes, and tarts.

Pop Culture References

Many people suggest consuming starfruit for its vitamin C, potassium, niacin, copper, and dietary fiber content.

Other Uses

Some areas of the world grow starfruit just for its ornamental purposes thanks to the beauty of the fruit, leaves, and flowers. Some regions use the sour type of starfruit’s juice to clean tarnished or rusty metal, or for mordant in dyeing. Brazilian folk medicine also uses it as a cough suppressant, expectorant, and diuretic.

All About the Water Chestnut

Water chestnuts, also known as Chinese water chestnuts, are vegetables and not nuts.

Description of the Fruit

Water chestnuts are grass-like sedges that are native to Asia, tropical Africa, Australia, and various islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Many cultures grow them to enjoy the edible corms. These aquatic vegetables grow underwater and in the mud. The corms are small and rounded with white flesh.

Changes to the Fruit Over Time

In some areas, including New York, water chestnuts are an invasive species. It arrived in the Northeast during the late 1800s and currently clogs many waterways in the area.

Description of Taste

You can eat the white corms of the water chestnut raw, grilled, or lightly boiled. They are also easy to find tinned or pickled. They are most common in Chinese dishes, where they are frequently eaten raw but occasionally sweetened. Remarkably, water chestnuts stay crispy even after cooking. Water chestnuts taste slightly sweet with a crunch. Their flavor is mild and nutty, easily overpowered by other flavors in a dish.

Is It Used in Desserts?

Water chestnuts are usually part of a range of dishes, both main meals and desserts. You can make a water chestnut egg dessert using water chestnut powder and whole water chestnuts, among other ingredients. Alternatively, you can try a cake made with water chestnuts.

Pop Culture References

Water chestnuts are touted as a health food due to their high nutritional yet low-calorie content, making them a staple for many diets. They are also praised for containing high levels of antioxidants and their potential ability to reduce heart disease risk and high blood pressure.

Other Uses

In Australia’s Northern Territory, magpie geese eat water chestnuts during the dry season so they can put on fat. During the wet season, these geese use them for building floating nests.

All About the Java Plum

Java plums are also known as black plums or Malabar plums.

Description of the Fruit

Java plums, or Syzygium cumini, are evergreen tropical trees that are part of the family Myrtaceae, which includes other flowering plants. The fruit is native in the Indian subcontinent along with the adjoining areas of Southeast Asia, Queensland, and China.

Changes to the Fruit Over Time

Indian emigrants have spread the java plum to other regions of the world. It is now fairly common in former British colonies that have tropical climates. The USDA brought it to Florida in 1911, and you can also now find it in certain South American countries. Brazil has some spontaneously dispersed wild java plum. It is an invasive species in Hawaii. The species grows very slowly.

Description of Taste

The java plum tastes mildly sour, sweet, and astringent. After you eat it, it is normal for your tongue to turn purple.

Is It Used in Desserts?

Many types of cakes feature java plum in them, including one with almond meal and cream cheese frosting.

Pop Culture References

The java plum seed is a common part of alternative healing systems, such as Chinese, Unani, and Ayurveda medicine. The fruit contains high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A. The fruit also appeared in “The Useful Native Plants of Australia,” originally published in 1889. The fruit has some religious symbolism in parts of India.

Other Uses

In Brazil, many native birds, including the great kiskadee, tanagers, and thrushes, make use of the java plum and its tree. The wood of the trees is water-resistant, making it useful for installing motors in walls and railway sleepers. Some people also use it to make cheap dwellings or furniture, despite being hard to work with. The leaves are fed to livestock thanks to their nutritional value.

All About Grapefruit

Counted among the world’s healthiest foods, the grapefruit is a juicy treat that boasts a host of health benefits.

Fruit Description

This unique and incredibly healthy fruit gets the “grape” part of its name from the way its fruit grows in clusters on its tree. Grown on evergreen trees that can reach up to 20 feet tall, it also produces large white-petaled flowers. The grapefruit has a wide range of varieties, including the Oro Blanco, Ruby Red, Pink, Rio Star, Thompson, White Marsh, Flame, Stary Ruby, Duncan, and Pummelo HB, and those are only those of the Texas and Florida varieties.

How Does It Taste?

Tart, tangy, and yet also sweet, the juicy grapefruit is beloved among dieters around the world. In Latin, this fruit is named “Citrus Paradisi”, and a citrusy paradise it truly is.

Just Desserts!

Few things are as satisfying as the perfect balance of flavors that require few ingredients. Perfectly gourmet and satisfying, this recipe for Mixed Grapefruit with Ricotta and Cardamom Honey may require few ingredients but holds a high place among gourmet and high-end desserts. Grapefruit also can work as the star of drinks. Check out this popular recipe to make a Spicy Grapefruit Spritz that even incorporates jalapeno and can be spiked with tequila or mezcal for the perfect cocktail hour treat.

A Place in Pop Culture

Did you ever think that 50 Cent and the humble grapefruit would appear in the news together? After popular comedian Aziz Ansari told a story in his standup about being in a restaurant at a table close to the famous rapper, who was allegedly confused about what a grapefruit was, jokes surged about 50 Cent. However, the rapper insists that he’s had grapefruit juice since his grandma gave it to him as a child.

Tasty Extras

The pith of the grapefruit is bitter, but can be used for cooking and is also incredibly good for you. Rich in antioxidants, nutrients, and soluble fiber, the pith can keep you full for longer and can even have a positive effect on your glucose reactions.

All About the Grape

Classified as a berry, the grape grows on woody vines all over the world.

This sweet berry is used widely in a variety of cooking options, from cooking oils to jams and jellies.

Fruit Description

Commonly enjoyed fresh and raw, the grape is most widely classified into two options: red and green. Cultivation of the grape can be traced back to approximately 8,000 years ago. The oldest known winery dates back to 4000 BC in Armenia. Grapes are found in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Persian history, and Greek and Roman history. Perhaps the most popular product from the grape is wine.

How Does It Taste?

The many different varieties of the grape lends itself to many different taste profiles. Grapes come in seeded and seedless varieties. Some of the seedless options are sweet, and some are more tart and crunchy. The black muscat grape has a higher sugar content, while the crimson seedless variety has a sweet and tart blended taste with a lighter skin along with a more crisp and firm flesh. Globe grapes are popular for their pretty coloring, very sweet flavor, and their big seeds, while flame seedless grapes are appreciated for the deep red of their coloring, firm skin, and tart flavoring.

Just Desserts!

Although often made with cherries, follow this recipe for a fresh and tasty Grape Clafoutis. This French dessert uses green grapes and a thick batter dusted with powdered sugar for a sweet and delightful taste.

A Place in Pop Culture

Perhaps most popularly, The Grapes of Wrath is a classic American novel by John Steinbeck that may be your first thought when considering grapes in popular culture. In modern culture, wine has moved from a high-class delicacy to a common and oft-enjoyed drink, making grapes more widely understood and appreciated.

Tasty Extras

Young grape leaves can be boiled for approximately ten minutes and used to wrap rice or meat for baking.

All About the Gooseberry

With a pale green coloring and a full, spherical fruit, the gooseberry is as enticing as it is delicious.

Fruit Description

Native to Europe, North Africa, and the Caucasus, this colorfully green fruit grows on tall bushes. While it is predominantly green, it does have red, purple, yellow, and white varieties. The berries are known to have hairy skin and have been popular since the late 1800s.

How Does It Taste?

Interestingly enough, a perfectly ripe gooseberry is hard to come by. When eaten unripe and raw, they have a sour grape flavor. When perfectly ripe, they have a distinctly boozy, Muscat grape flavor. The gooseberry is grown on bushes and is largely eaten raw, although it does also cook well.

Just Desserts!

Aptly named, this Gooseberry Dessert is the perfect way to highlight the fresh flavors of the gooseberry. Requiring little in the way of cooking materials, this dessert takes the gooseberry and incorporates it into a fresh and light pastry for a delicious and nutritious dessert. If you’re interested in trying a dessert with an element of tradition, the Gooseberry Fool was first published in The Saturday Evening Post all the way back in May of 1868.

A Place in Pop Culture

A popular reference to the gooseberry in today’s culture will bring up the idea that the idea of this fruit was hijacked from China by New Zealand. As references to the gooseberry stretch far back into history, today, New Zealand has marketed it as the kiwifruit and has enjoyed the fruits of its labors in high popularity.

Tasty Extras

The leaf of the gooseberry is heralded for its maple-like qualities. However, be aware that the picking of this fruit in the wild will require gloves, as it has spiky prickles that can impale your hands!

All About the Goji Berry

Also called the wolfberry, this vividly colored berry is taking the health world by storm.

Fruit Description

The goji berry has a history of medicinal qualities that stretches back to ancient China. With a vivid red coloring and a sweet and sour taste highlighted in its dried form, the berry has been used to focus on the treatment of eye, liver, and kidney issues. Boasting a high level of vitamins C and A, fiber, iron, zinc, and various antioxidants, just a small serving of the goji berry can count towards close to ten percent of your daily protein level.

How Does It Taste?

Depending on the variety, this versatile fruit has a variety of tastes. The fresh berry has a high water content that softens its tartness, giving it an interesting balance between tomato and cranberry. The dried berry is chewy yet soft, with a tart and sour taste similar to a cranberry flavored with herbal notes. This healthy fruit could not accurately be described as sweet, which gives it a wider place in savory recipes. 

Just Desserts!

The great part about cooking or baking with goji berries is that they can open you up to a whole new culinary world. Mix this berry with maca power to craft this delicious Raw Goji Maca Cake. Looking for something a bit simpler? This recipe was created when its creator realized that their oven was broken. Try out this delicious recipe for Skillet Rock Cakes with Goji Berries.

A Place in Pop Culture

In today’s health world, the goji berry has been dubbed the “miracle fruit” for its high content of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, protein, and amino acids. Said to boost both the immune system and brain activity, this miracle fruit is also said to help protect you against cancer and heart  disease and has even been said to increase your life expectancy.

All About the Fig

An Asian flowering plant, the fig is not just a tasty harvestable.

Anyone who has been around the plant itself knows that it is both ornamental and popular for sending sweet, enticing smells through any garden.

Fruit Description

Native to the west of Asia and the Middle East, the fig has held a place in popular culture for centuries. Its tree has smooth white bark, and its leaves are glossy and dark, giving it an attractive appearance. be aware of the sap of this beautiful tree, as it is irritating for human skin.

How Does It Taste?

When allowed to perfectly ripen, the fig drips with a rich syrup that will even drizzle from the base itself if it sits for very long. The flavor itself has a honey sweetness brightened by hints of berry. Many enjoy and even prefer the fig when it’s been dried, which gives it a coarser texture along with a flavor that is more intensely sweet.

Just Desserts!

Try out this fantastic recipe for Apple and Fig Custard for an intensely colorful and immensely pleasing treat. This recipe has been christened the perfect breakfast dessert for its healthy contents and appealing colors.

A Place in Pop Culture

Perhaps the most iconic place in pop culture for the fig involves its leaves. The fig leaf has been used in art as a covering for nude figures and characters as a way to maintain decency for wider audiences. In the more modern world, the fig leaf has become a go-to choice in the wider design world.

Tasty Extras

Extracts of this beautiful tree have been used in both internal and external application. Poultices with the bark and leaves can be used to treat many different conditions. The enticing aroma from this plant has also been used and can be found in esters, ketones, and alcohols.

All About the Feijoa

Harking from the beautiful green fields of southern Brazil, northern Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, and Paraguay, today this verdant fruit has a diverse growing area.

Fruit Description

This tasty fruit can be found on the branches of a small shrub or tree that only grows to be about one to seven meters in height. It also goes by the name of pineapple guava or guavasteen. Although originally from South America, today it can also be found in Azerbaijan, Iran, Georgia, Russia, New Zealand, and Tasmania.

How Does It Taste?

This is one fruit that has an incredibly unique taste, especially for those outside of South America. Shaped like an egg with a thin skin the color of a lime, the flesh found within is cream-colored. At the center, you may be surprised to find a jelly-textured core. The texture of the flesh itself, on the other hand, is grittier and could be accurately compared to the pear. Flavor-wise, the feijoa has been described as a combination of pineapple, guava, and a strawberry.

Just Desserts!

What better word is there to see in a dessert recipe than “crumble”? You know as soon as you see that tasty little adjective that you’re in for a treat. Follow this link to learn how to craft a deliciously flavorful Feijoa Crumble Slice.

A Place in Pop Culture

Today, the succulent feijoa still has yet to take the world by storm. However, New Zealand is working to change that. In New Zealand, “life without feijoas is almost unthinkable”, and is added to anything you could imagine, including chocolate, ice cream, and even vodka. Its versatility makes it a good match with everything from alcohol to baking, from confectionery to salads. An exporter from New Zealand, called Pole to Pole, is working to bring this sweet treat to international recognition, so don’t be surprised if you start seeing it more and more.

Tasty Extras

The flowers of this fruit are soft, fragrant, and edible. Better yet, they attract bees and butterflies.

All About the Jujube

How can you resist a fruit with a name as fun as jujube? It’s also called the red date or Chinese date, or in Chinese: hong zao jiu.

Fruit Description

Although it is native to Southern Asia, in recent years the jujube has become increasingly popular across the world. The jujube is a small, red, round fruit with a seed pit that grows on large flowering bushes or trees. Tell the difference between a ripe and unripe fruit by the coloring. A fully ripe jujube is dark red or purplish and will have a slightly wrinkled skin.

How Does It Taste?

The jujube has a sweet taste paired with a chewy texture. This flavor makes them an excellent choice for drying out and they are often found in Asia in candy or desserts. When eaten fresh, the taste has been compared to that of a very sweet apple. 

Just Desserts!

Jujubes are perfectly suited to compote, dessert, and jam recipes. They work well in both sweet and savory recipes. Follow this recipe for a beautiful and nutrient-rich dessert: a Fresh Jujube Tart with Walnut Cream, also called a Chinese Date Tart.

A Place in Pop Culture

Today, the jujube is enjoying growing popularity in the health and wellness world. Its low-calorie count paired with its high makeup of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, allows dieters to add a sweet flavoring to their food and drinks without worrying about breaking their diet or adding up their calorie count.

Tasty Extras

The jujube has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine because of the hosts of benefits that it offers, including improved sleep habits, anxiety relief, digestive aid, and disease protection. Typically this benefit is derived from the jujube in the form of a supplement.