A few weeks ago, I went to the shuk, Jerusalem’s open-air market, and bought one of each of the most unusual fruits I could find. And I came home with…
I already told you about the passionfruit and the starfruit. Here is the scoop on the other three.
First, the pomelo.
The pomelo is a large citrus fruit, very closely related to a grapefruit.
The taste is actually quite similar to a grapefruit, but just a little less tart. Delicious!
However, the size was a tad cumbersome. It took us a while to eat it, so I think it’s good to try it once, and it’s probably great in fruit salad or if you’re sharing it with others, but unless you are keen on eating the whole thing in one sitting it’s better to stick with a grapefruit or orange for a snack.
Also, personally, for snacks, I prefer citrus fruit that is easy to peel because that makes it easy to toss in your bag and eat later. I’m a huge fan of oranges and clementines for this reason. The pomelo is definitely not single-serving-sized, and the peel is so thick that you have to cut into it to eat it. Also, almost the whole top fifth of the fruit is inedible; just a big piece of pith that needs to be cut off. But it is delicious and I highly recommend trying it at least once if you have access to them. They are native to Southeast Asia but are widely available in other places around the world.
The dragonfruit was by far the most unusual of the fruits I brought home. This oddly colored fruit is a New World fruit from a cactus native to Latin America and is also called a pitaya or pitahaya.
The appearance of the dragonfruit was really interesting, not only on the outside, but on the inside as well. The color of the inside is as beautiful as the color of the outside.
To eat it, you cut it in half horizontally and scoop the innards out in one piece with a spoon. It was amazing how easily the innards came out; there was a natural seam (clearly visible in the photo below) between the fruit and the inside of the shell, which actually look the same but have slightly different textures.
The fruit separates effortlessly from the shell along the seam, and actually pops out in one piece after you loosen it just a little bit.
We then cut the fruit into cubes and ate it as a snack. The seeds are edible.
The closest fruit I know in terms of both taste and texture is a kiwi. It is just a little more syrupy than a kiwi, and slightly sweeter, almost like a watermelon, but with a nice sweet-tang partnership like a kiwi. If a kiwi were a melon, this is what it would taste like.
The quince also turned out to be an unusual choice. First of all, it’s the only fruit native to the Middle East of the five I picked, and it is mentioned in the Bible (commonly mistranslated as “apple”) and in Greek mythology. And did you know that, by the time they get soft enough to eat raw, they are already mostly rotten? So the best way to eat quince is to poach them, or boil them in sugar water. Here’s how we cooked them, based on these suggestions. Start by peeling them with a vegetable peeler…
Then cut them in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the core and seeds. Then chop the remaining fruit into cubes and set aside.
Heat a saucepan of sugar and water, with about half a cup of water and 1.5 TBsp of sugar per quince, over high heat until boiling. Then reduce to medium heat and add the fruit.
Cook the fruit over medium heat until soft, about half an hour. Serve warm or at room temperature. Keeps in cooking liquid up to one week in the refrigerator.
The taste and texture are like the marriage of an apple and a pear, which is not the least bit surprising, since both these fruits are close relatives of the quince on the fruit family tree.
This was a huge hit with Rodolfo, who said next time we should definitely buy more than one to poach!
(And just in case you missed the cultural reference in the title, here you go.)