Can’t travel? Let these 5 Rare Exotic Fruits Take You Places

UPDATED January 3, 2024–The aromas of these rare exotic fruits can trigger travel memories. But if you go one step further and take a bite of fruits from around the world, then you could be virtually transported to your favorite tropical paradise! This article includes where to buy exotic fruits, so read on…

very large wooden bowl filled with rare exotic fruits including kiwano melon, passion fruit, jackfruit, pineapple, cherimoya and more
Let the aroma of these Rare Exotic Fruits Take You Places | Photo by Barb Sherman

Psychologists say that our sense of smell is linked closely to memory. You might be able to think of times in your life when the scent of something triggered a long-forgotten memory. That’s how it was for me when I opened a crate of rare exotic fruits shipped to my quarantine kitchen recently. I might not be able to travel to tropical destinations right now, but sampling these five exotic fruits brought the destinations to me. It felt like having the world delivered to me in a box. Ahhh!

Have you tried any of these unusual fruits from around the world?

Table of Contents

Fruits from around the world: Jackfruit

Author holds Jackfruit up near her face showing how large this oval shaped fruit really is 1.5x the size of her head
Arizona travel writer UNSTOPPABLE Stacey holds jackfruit | Photo by Barb Sherman

Lifting the jackfruit out of the fruit crate was like lifting a baby out of a bassinet. Jackfruit is the largest fruit that grows on trees, and mine weighed in at twelve pounds four ounces. But unlike a human babe, my jackfruit’s skin was prickly to the touch.

close up of army green jackfruit skin - little prickly bumps everywhere looks like cloves tightly packed and stuck into a ham
Close up of the thick, tough jackfruit skin | Photo by Barb Sherman

The jackfruit’s unique aroma

The jackfruit’s unique aroma is difficult to describe. The earthy smell is something like an indoor basketball court right after practice: fresh sweat mingled with wood. Memories of the first time I saw the humongous fruit hanging from a tree flooded my mind. I remember being amazed that it didn’t fall to the ground. The guide on our Zanzibar Spice Plantation tour explained that the fruit originally came from South and Southeast Asia rainforests and is now cultivated around the world in places like the tropical island we were visiting off the coast of Tanzania.

Young man in long-sleeved white shirt who is our guide holds green fruit still on tree
Spice Plantation tour guide in Zanzibar, Tanzania, East Africa talks about jackfruit… or is that a Durian fruit? | Photo by UNSTOPPABLE Stacey

Jackfruit in Thailand

Once I opened the jackfruit—which was quite a trick, by the way—I plucked a pale yellow-orange lobe of the inside. After taking a whiff, I remembered tasting the tropical fruit on the streets of Chiang Mai in Thailand. I could hear the noise of the busy street and see the smile of the street vendor as she handed me the delicious exotic fruit. Jackfruit was one of the special memories from my three days in Chiang Mai.

At that point, I didn’t realize all the work she’d done to remove the fruity lobes from the sticky fiber surrounding it.  Now I do! I describe how to prepare and cook jackfruit in my next blog post.

Check out this childhood memory of durian fruit.

Jackfruit on a busy street in Chiang Mai, Thailand | Photos by UNSTOPPABLE Stacey
Jackfruit hacked open with a machete at a street food vendor in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Substitute for pulled pork in BBQ

The sticky fibers of the jackfruit are becoming popular as a substitute for pulled pork in BBQ sandwiches and tacos. I first tasted vegan “pulled pork” barbeque at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, and it was there that I decided to try to make it myself.

I thought it would be good fun to trick my husband, the meat-and-potatoes vegetable hater, with the vegetarian version of BBQ pork. For an amateur version of “Smile, You’re on Candid Camera” to see how THAT went; you’ll have to head on over to my next post after you finish here.

plate with sandwich on onion bum with pickles - inside the sandwich, the bbq jackfruit looks just like bbq pork
BBQ Jackfruit substitutes for pulled pork in this vegetarian sandwich | Photo by UNSTOPPABLE Stacey

The taste of jackfruit

The fruit, which to me, tastes a lot like Juicy Fruit gum, is sweet and starchy and chock full of nutrition. Some cooks replace potato dishes with the fruit. The seeds, once cooked, are edible, and in fact, I gave a quarter of my jackfruit to a vegan girlfriend, and she cooked and then sliced the seeds to add to a salad.

Author lifts 2 halves of split jackfruit, the largest of all exotic tropical fruits, on table
The intimidating jackfruit typically weighs between 10 and 20 pounds | Photo by Barb Sherman

So then, even stuck in my quarantine kitchen, one sniff of this exotic fruit took me on three “virtual trips” around the world: Zanzibar, Thailand and Utah. Learn other ways to Create Virtual Vacations You Can Take From Your Home

Passion fruit: the most sensual of exotic tropical fruits

close up of dark-skinned passionfruit halfed to shoe juicy interior of this exotic tropical fruit

Although Spanish missionaries to South America named the plant “passion flower” because various parts of the plant symbolized Christ’s passion, today, many associate the fruit of the plant with sex. While some report that passion fruit improves sexual function, I find its ambrosial essence stimulates my olfactory receptors. (What does THAT mean?)

The fragrance of passion fruit

The heady fragrance brought back romantic cruises in Mexico with my husband, where the ship’s chefs made creamy desserts from passionfruit or guava, which tastes similar to passionfruit. I like to say that the rare exotic fruit “tastes like guava – smells like paradise.” The ambrosial tropical fruit originated in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, but farmers across the globe now cultivated it. With my passion fruit, I made a delicious custardy mousse, which is called mousse de maracujá in Brazil.

3 servings of passionfruit mousse: in taller martini glass, in glass bowl, on crystal plate
Mousse de maracujá or passion fruit mousse - note the seeds | Photo by UNSTOPPABLE Stacey
close up of exotic passionflower - white petals, purple center
The purple radial filaments of the passionflower were said to represent Christ’ crown of thorns | Photo from Wikimedia via Frankd

I’ll post the recipe for this sensual dessert in upcoming posts, so be sure to subscribe to my travel blog at the bottom of this page so we can notify you of new stories. Order passion fruit now and take your own virtual vacation to wherever its intoxicating scent may take you.

Learn why I’ve become passionate about passion fruit since discovering it in my Melissa’s Produce crate.

Rare exotic fruits: Kiwano melons

Kiwano melon, the strangest looking of all rare exotic fruits | Photo by Barb Sherman

Kiwano melon is visually stimulating with its spiky orange skin that resembles something from a sci-fi fantasy. The spikes are what gives it the name horned melon, and it’s also known as jelly melon (because of its green gelatinous flesh) or the African cucumber. These exotic tropical fruits originate in the Kalahari Desert that overlaps Nambia and Botswana and is a member of the cucumber family.

The taste of kiwano melon

I like it best for its bizarre looks but found its taste to be disappointingly mild—like most cucumbers. The slimy, jelly-like texture of the flesh and seeds were fun to eat raw and right out of the skin with a spoon.  But the seeds were challenging to strain when using kiwano for an ingredient in another dish. Marc, husband of travel, food and wine writer friend, Robin Dohrn Simpson did not remove the seeds when he used kiwano melon in his Kiwano coleslaw. The seeds, much like cucumber seeds, are easy to chew, unlike seeds from other fruits from around the world. Check out Marc’s coleslaw recipe.

Try bolstering the mild cucumber taste by combining the fruit with ginger for a Kiwano Ginger Martini. Show off the cool green Kiwano color in a Martini glass, or serve the boozy concoction right in its own skin—I love it when the fruit comes naturally in its own container. Watch for the upcoming story, How to Prepare Kiwano Fruit with Kiwano Fruit Recipes, which will include the recipes for making ginger syrup and Kiwano Ginger Martinis.

Where to this buy exotic fruits? You can find fun kiwano melons here on Amazon.

Kiwano Melon is also known as horned melon, jelly melon, African cucumber and other descriptive terms of endearment | Photo by Barb Sherman
Martini glass with light green drink garnished with kiwano fruit and low ball made of kiwano melon rind
Kiwano Ginger Martini made with ginger syrup, ginger liqueur and kiwano fruit garnish | Photo by UNSTOPPABLE Stacey

Cherimoya: the lesser-known tropical fruit

close up of the reptile-like skin (scales) of 2 cherimoyas
Cherimoya is a lesser-known of the fruits from around the world | Photo by Barb Sherman

Another exotic tropical fruit that has a bizarre appearance is the cherimoya or custard apple. The reptilian brown and green skin might make this fruit fun for Halloween parties. 

What does cherimoya taste like?

Its white flesh is crisp like an apple but tastes tropical with flavors of pineapple and banana. Cherimoya has a creamy texture, which must be why it’s called a “custard apple” because I couldn’t get the aroma of custard that some say the exotic fruit emits. Don’t eat the dark brown seeds—they are toxic.

The ancient Incas cultivated this subtropical fruit in the equatorial Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador.

quartered cherimoya lays in front of whole cherimoya revealing white interior and dark brown seeds
The Cherimoya’s white flesh is crisp like an apple but tastes tropical with creamy flavors of pineapple and banana | Photo by Barb Sherman

When one of my favorite travel writers, Mark Twain, visited Hawaii, we called the cherimoya, “the most delicious fruit known to men.”

Tropical fruit: Papaya

Plate of smoked chicken breast, brown beans and half a papaya filled with pineapple chunks, blueberries and chunked papaya
Brighten up your summertime dinners with fruits from around the world | Photo by UNSTOPPABLE Stacey

Papaya is not as exotic today as it once was. The sweet, juicy fruit originated in the Americas and now grows in tropical and subtropical regions all around the world. Pulling the papaya (called pawpaw in southern USA) out of the fruit crate reminded me of those I saw in Tanzania that were as big as your head. Read more about my travels to Tanzania.

One way to prepare papaya

Scoop the exotic tropical fruit out of the oval-shaped rind and use it as a bowl. I filled my “bowls” with sliced papaya, blueberries and fresh pineapple chunks.

Author stands with three other women dressed in local garb behind table laden with rare exotic fruits
Can you name the exotic tropical fruits that you see on the banana leaf tablecloth? Spice Plantation, Zanzibar, Tanzania | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

Where to Buy Exotic Fruits

1/8th of a jackfruit is packaged in plastic wrap and sits on a shelf in produce
Where to buy exotic fruits? Here’s jackfruit at my local Flagstaff Safeway | Photo by UNSTOPPABLE Stacey

Where to buy exotic fruits? Well, more and more rare exotic fruits are showing up in local grocery stores’ produce aisles. Can you believe I just saw jackfruit at Safeway for the first time ever? Many grocers get their tropical fruit from Melissa’s Produce, which is delivered to all 50 states. If your local grocer does not carry what you’re looking for, you can order directly from Melissa’s Produce online.

The online store is easy and fun to shop. Your rare exotic fruits and vegetables are delivered right to your doorstep, which is awesome during this time of social distancing.

Where to buy exotic fruits? Convenient Melissa’s Produce ships to your door | Photo by Barb Sherman

Melissa’s Produce: veggies and prepared foods, too

Besides the rare exotic fruits, ginger, steamed lentils, steamed beets and Ojai Pixie Tangerines (available March-May) were in the crate that Melissa’s Produce sent. The baby beets are peeled, cooked and vacuum packed and come ready to eat. Melissa’s Produce beets saved me so much prep time when I made a beet and feta salad with a Moroccan twist to bring to a tagine dinner at my girlfriend’s place.

Melissa’s Produce also packages steamed baby beets | Photo by UNSTOPPABLE Stacey

Order fresh exotic fruits and veggies – many are organic – from Melissa’s Produce. Your order will be shipped right to your door.

cardboard crate filled with exotic fruits and priinted with "melissa's Produce"
Look no further when wondering where to buy exotic fruits: Melissa’s Produce | Photo by Barb Sherman

As is common in the travel industry, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey was provided with rare exotic fruit for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the Arizona travel writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

In addition, this blog, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel, contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, Stacey earns a commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help reduce the costs of keeping this travel blog active. 

Further, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks for reading.

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14 thoughts on “Can’t travel? Let these 5 Rare Exotic Fruits Take You Places”

    • I hadn’t heard of it before either, Mary! Thanks to Melissa’s Produce, it is now on my radar. I love the reptilian skin which doesn’t reflect at all the delicate flavor.

  1. I’ve tasted Jackfruit but never knew how to prepare it. I’ll have to come back and learn more. Love Chermoya and we are nursing a tree in the backyard, along with Papaya and Mango. I’ve tasted Dragonfruit before too. Not much flavor but such an exotic looker and great garnish. Fun post!

    • I’ll tell you, Elaine, that jackfruit is a bear to prepare. The stickiness alone was crazy! But I would do it again! But recommend a machete for piercing that tough skin. I hope your tree in the back blesses you with many cherimoya! Now I need to finish up the post about feeding vegan “pulled-pork” BBQ to my meat-eating, vegetable fearing husband. I got it on video!

  2. Loved this post and your site is fresh. Thanks for the run down and the great pictures. I will look for whatever I can find here in Canada. LOL. I suspect we have an international food store here with some of these items. Papaya for instance should be easy to find. Jackfruit a little bit harder to come by in Southern Ontario. Anyways, great post. This made me yearn for travel.

    • Thanks so much, Paula. You could contact Melissa’s Produce through their website and see if they can ship to Ontario. If not, you could look for a Canadian produce supplier online. Glad the “exotice fruit” story could take you on a mini vacay!

    • I had so much fun with the kiwano melon – hollowing it out to use as a dessert bowl or drink container. Try that one first, I’d recommend.

    • Isn’t amazing how our sense of smell can take us back to a place? We are wonderously made! Thanks for sharing your experience, Becky!

    • WoW! That is so amazing that jackfruit is used for silverware and furniture in Kerala, India. That would be great to see and add to my image library f “all things jackfruit!” Thanks so much for your comment, Robin! I loved reading about YOUR jackfruit experience.

  3. Thanks for your marvellous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you may be a great author.

    I will always bookmark your blog and definitely will come back from now on. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great writing,
    Have a nice afternoon!


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