Issue: December 2004

Exotic Fruits and Vegetables Add Zest to Winter Diet

Although gardeners must wait for spring to plant again, consumers can choose from an array of exotic fruits and vegetables in the supermarket.

Some of these novel fruits and vegetables require a little extra preparation. For example, the Bitter melon looks like a shriveled cucumber, but is popular in Asian and East Indian cooking cuisine. A member of the squash family, it's somewhat bland with a slight sour taste. Soaking the fruit in salt water will lesson bitterness. Remove seed and use in soups or braised dishes. Look for mature green fruit with a slightly yellow cast.

Instead of traditional bananas, try burro, or chunky bananas, which have a tangy lemon flavor. Although they look similar to the traditional Cavendish banana, chunky bananas are generally shorter and flatter and have a blocky shape.

Red bananas are sweeter than Cavendish. They have purplish to reddish skin when ripe, and creamy white flesh with a slightly pink to pale orange hue.

Also, try plantains, which are cooking bananas. When peels are green to yellow, the flesh will have a bland flavor and can be substituted for some potato dishes. When the peel turns from yellow to brown or even black, the flesh is sweeter and can be fried.

The tomatillo is no stranger to New Mexico. The green, cherry tomato-like fruit is covered with a papery outer coat. The seedy flesh has a sweet, plum to apple-like flavor. Fruits can be steamed and added to casseroles and salsas.

Jicama is a fleshy underground root with brown skin and white, slightly sweet, crisp flesh. The rounded turnip-shaped roots can be peeled, cut up into pieces, chilled and served raw on a relish plate. Jicama can also be used in soups, stews, salads and stir-fry dishes.

The plump, oval, egg-shaped mango is often found near pineapple and bananas. Mango, which mixes well with grapefruit and oranges, can be diced for fruit salads.

Papayas are another exotic delight. Also called pawpaws, the thick skin can be easily removed with a vegetable peeler. Firm fruit can be placed in a paper bag with a banana to make them ripen faster. High in vitamin C and a good source of folate, papayas are also great for a high fiber diet. Papayas can be eaten fresh, baked or even barbecued.

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For more gardening information, visit New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service publications world wide web site at

George W. Dickerson, Ph.D., is is a horticulturist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

Also Please join us on Southwest Yard & Garden, a weekly garden program made for gardeners in the Southwest on:
KNME-TV Albuquerque at 9:30 p.m. Saturdays,
KENW-TV Portales at 10 a.m. Saturdays,
and KRWG-TV Las Cruces at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays (repeated at 1 p.m. Thursdays.)