Handful of lesser-known fruits worth consideration

I have written before about unusual vegetables, flowers, grain and grasses, but I don’t think I have written about unusual fruit. There are many exotic varieties available at produce counters, but potential customers have questions about ripeness, sugar levels, calorie count and recipes.

Here are some ideas about ones I have tried and enjoyed.

The kiwi by now is familiar to most people, and I love it. Preparation just consists of peeling. The easiest way to do that is to cut it in half and then scoop out the emerald green pulp with a teaspoon. The thin, brown, fuzzy skin is unpleasant in the mouth.

I did see a tray of kiwis in a store that had been sliced with the skin still on. I am not sure how that could be used. But once peeled and sliced. it is delicious in fruit salad or with fresh strawberries and meringue in a Pavlova.

When I was growing up in England, a favorite fruit was the lychee. My sister and I would beg to eat at the local Chinese restaurant on the rare occasions we went out to eat, just for the delight of ordering lychees for dessert. They also are known as litchis.

Lychees somewhat resemble grapes, but have a distinctive sweet flavor and soft white flesh. They are available in cans in some larger supermarkets.

The papaya is of special interest to me because I grew a plant last summer in a container, and it has survived the winter in the house. It has lost leaves as fast as it has grown new ones, but it has survived to become about 24 inches tall.

Botanically, the papaya is not a tree but a shrub. In the tropics where it grows in the wild, it can reach up to 20 feet, with a crest of giant leaves on the top. The fruits cluster under the leaves and are yellow and pear-shaped. The texture and flavor is something like a ripe melon. The seeds are edible, wrinkly, gray-black and with a gelatinous covering.

The carambola descriptively is known as star fruit, from the shape of a horizontal slice. It requires no peeling or seeding and becomes the main attraction in a fruit salad with its yellow-green stars. Carambola is an important crop in Asia and also grows in Hawaii and the Caribbean.

If you see this fruit on the produce aisle, avoid ones with brown edges or shriveled ribs because they will be sour.

The pawpaw tree is a North American native, and there are some in Seneca County in low-lying, wooded areas. The fruits start off bright green and yellow as they ripen, finally turning brown in the same way as a banana.

The pawpaw should be sliced from end to end, and the brown seeds are inedible and need to be removed. The flesh is sweet and can be pureed as a sauce or topping or simply eaten in chunks.

I encourage you to try some of these less familiar fruits for variety in your summer desserts.

It is almost summer, isn’t it?

Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.

Contact her at