On the market stalls, in the super trolley and in our fruit bowl, there are many varieties of esotic fruit which are extremely familiar to us, so much so that we have forgotten that they come, originally or literally, from distant countries. Without going to bother them citrus fruits, which came to us in a distant past from Southeast Asia, just think of the municipalities Kiwi, who traveled the road from China to New Zealand at the end of the nineteenth century, to arrive here around the seventies and find such fertile ground that, today, Italy is the second largest producer in the world. They continue to travel from the Tropics to our shores pineapple And bananas, but we hardly remember them anymore and we consider them almost ordinary. The alchechengi they are a pastry classic that has always covered them in chocolate. And we associate the coconut more to the hawkers on our beaches than to the Indonesian palm trees.
Varieties from all over the world
To grasp a touch of exoticism we must look to avocado, mango, papaya, passion fruit (or maracuja) and even more niche varieties. Among these, there is the Brazilian feijoa, similar to a smooth-skinned kiwi, with white pulp that reminds of banana when ripe. The Australian finger lime it is a small citrus fruit which when cut reveals a "heart" of transparent pearls. The South American pitaya, also called dragon fruit, externally it can be mottled pink or lemon yellow, inside it has a white or fuchsia pulp strewn with tiny crunchy black seeds. The Chinese lychees, with a thick and rough shell, they contain a pearly pulp and are very similar to Asians rambutan, with the rind covered by a sort of rigid down. The scarlet tamarillo Ecuadorian looks like a small tomato but is sweet and aromatic. The yellow one granadilla it is part of the passion fruit family, of which it recalls texture and taste.
The surprise is that some of these fruits, following the well-known climatic changes, are becoming more and more Western, if not really "local". There carom, a yellow star-shaped fruit from which very decorative slices are obtained, is widely cultivated in Florida. But also close to us, since Lazio at the Sicily, passing through Basilicata And Calabria, avocado, mango, papaya, feijoa, finger lime productions are gaining momentum. Often these are even organic products that combine the freshness of a "short kilometer" product with healthiness and sustainability.
Transport makes … maturation!
Just read thelabel to understand the origin which, in turn, can affect quality. In fact, the longer and slower the journey to reach our stores, the more likely we will be in front of fruit with a non-optimal degree of ripeness. In fact, those who come from East and South America by boat, taking up to 20-30 days, they are picked still unripe and stored in cold rooms. Upon purchase, they may still be hard and not ready for consumption, while aging away from the sun could make them less sugary and tasty. Conversely, those that have come down to us by air (which is always indicated on labels, boxes and packaging, as opposed to maritime transport which is "omitted") were detached from the plant at the right time, usually 4-5 days before "landing" on our markets. This, of course, affects the price, significantly higher, rewarded by the fact that the quality is much better. Even better if the fruits were born and grown in our regions or just across the sea, in North Africa.
How to choose them
Reading the label, of course, is not enough. And it is not always easy to understand if we are buying a good, tasty and aromatic product. The truth is that we are not very familiar with these fruits and it is often difficult to test their quality. However, some tricks can be used. A pineapple that shows up too green and odorless should warn us, like the almost brown one that releases scents of fermentation. Fruits with soft skin, which can be tasted, such as avocado, mango or papaya, must turn out yielding without appearing too tender and not presenting very dark or blackened parts. On the contrary, passion fruits are bought with a tight and smooth skin, but they are at the right point of ripeness when it becomes shriveled. The feijoa must start presenting one tapping dark on the skin: if it is uniform bright green, the pulp will be white and cheeky, instead of cream and sugary color. The "leaves" that wrap the alchechengi must be crunchy, not wilted. Finally, the coconut must appear heavy, a sign that inside it is still rich in its water, which keeps the pulp moist.
Keep them out of the fridge
Whatever the origin, but even more so if it is still unripe fruit, storage must take place outside the fridge, at room temperature, albeit away from light, direct heat and excessive humidity. Exotic fruits are in fact "accustomed" to tropical climates and the cold risks ruining them, as anyone who tries to refrigerate bananas knows. The ideal is to keep them closed in paper bag, avoiding mixing the qualities, and in any case consume them within a few days of purchase.
What they know and how they match
A quality that is somewhat common to all exotic fruits andacidity, more or less marked, which balances them sugary components. For this reason they are excellent in pastry for creams, fruit salads and jellies, but also in savory dishes. Among the most suitable combinations, the one between papaya and i cured meat like ham and culatello, like our melon. Mango marries well i shellfish more elegant, both raw and cooked, and they can be prepared chutney sweet and sour perfect with roast meats, especially di pig. The seed-rich pulp of the passion fruit, or its centrifuged juice, also goes well with shrimp, scampi, and company. Thinly sliced or grated coconut is great on the rice Pilaf and in soups inspired by Thai curries. All can be added to mixed salads. L'exception which confirms the rule is avocado: pasty and buttery, it is not at all acidic and not even sweet. In fact, it is rarely used in pastry, while it is often combined with the well-known pungent chilli and raw onion, for example in the famous guacamole, excellent with eggs, salmon and tomatoes, on toast, in bagels and in exotic versions of the club sandwich. The watchword remains to experiment and let oneself go, even in the home kitchen, to exotic fusion suggestions.
Francesca Romana Mezzadri