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This section describes some of the more unfamiliar fruits as well as some of the better known. They are all imported into Britain and reach the shops in prime condition and at higher prices than home-grown fruit. Most of the fruits are served as fresh dessert fruits.

ExoticFruit2Almonds

Small, oval, flat nuts in light brown pitted shells. They are available bitter or sweet, shelled and unshelled, and are best bough with the thin brown skins on. Available all year round.

Bananas

ExoticFruit3These are normally picked and shipped green, then stored and sold in varying stages of ripeness. The mealy flesh becomes sweeter as it matures. Chose bananas from a bunch rather than buying them loose, they should be golden-yellow, flecked with brown. Avoid any with black spots or patches, and damaged and squashy fruit. For cooking purposes, choose under ripe green bananas, as they slice better and can be kept in a cool larder for up to one week. Available all year round.

Brazil Nuts

ExoticFruit4Hard, dark brown, three-edged shells enclose firm, slightly oily nuts of coconut and hazel nut flavour. They are sold unshelled and shelled. Avoid any which feel light or rattle in the shells. Available all year round, best November to February.

Cape Gooseberries

These berries, covered by orange-yellow, shrivelled and papery husks, are the fruits of Chinese lantern (Physalis). The plump, round, golden berries are served as a dessert fruit, stewed or made into preserves. They keep well for two or three weeks if bought unripe. Season all year.

ExoticFruit6Chinese Gooseberries, Kiwi

Egg-shaped or oblong, with brownish-red,hairy skins, these have soft, juicy, sweet, green flesh, pitted with seeds. Avoid any with shrivelled skins. Season from July to February.

Coconuts

ExoticFruit7These large nuts have a hard, dark brown outer shell closely covered with tough fibres. At the top of each nut are three small indentations which must be punctured so that the colourless liquid can be shaken out. This is served chilled as a drink. Crack the tough shell by hitting it with a cleaver about one-third of the way down from the top. Prise the shell open, and cut out the tough flesh with a sharp knife. To test a whole coconut for freshness, shake it to make sure it contains liquid. Available all the year round.

Cranberries

Small American fruit similar to Bilberries. The skins are lustrous, varying in colour from pink to dark red. The berries, which have a sharp, slightly bitter flavour and are used for preserves and sauces should be firm and smooth. Available from ExoticFruit8October to February.

Dates

Fresh dates are plump and shiny, yellow-red to golden brown and with smooth skins. The pulpy flesh has a sweet sugary flavour. Dried dates should be plump, 2.5 cm - 5 cm long and shiny, avoid any with a shrivelled look or with sugary crystals. Available September to March.

ExoticFruit10Figs

Fresh or green figs are imported from the Mediterranean countries. The squat, pear-shaped fruits are soft to the touch when ripe, and the skin, which is either white, red or purple, has a bloom to it. The juicy pulp is sweet, deep red and heavily seeded. Fresh figs are available from August to December. Dried figs should come easily out of the box and not be too sticky.

ExoticFruit11Grapes

There is a wide range of black, red and white dessert grapes,mainly imported but a few grown in Britain under hothouse conditions. The juicy, thin-skinned grapes should have a distinct bloom to them. When possible, buy in bunches and avoid any with shrivelled, split or squashed berries, or those which show mould near the stems. They are available as blue, black, red, amber and green grapes. season is all the year round.

ExoticFruit12Loquats

These stone fruits, also known as Japanese medlars, are imported from Israel. They are similar in shape and size to plums, with smooth, golden yellow, orange or red-brown skins. The juicy cream-coloured flesh is slightly tart. Chose firm fruit. Season is all year round, but scarce.

Lychees, Litchis

Of Chinese origin, these stone fruits are the size of large cherries, with hard, scaly skins, turning through pink to brown. The white pulpy flesh is firm, juicy and slippery. Buy when skin is red, but avoid any with shrivelled dry skins. Available from December to February.

ExoticFruit14Mangoes

These large stone fruits come in different shapes and sizes, some are round, others long and narrow, kidney or pear-shaped. The largest fruits may weigh up to 1.4 kilograms and the smallest are the size of an average peach. The tough hard skins range in colour from green to yellow,orange and red, flushed with pink. The orange-yellow, juicy flesh has a delicate fragrance and spicy taste. Fresh mangos are served as a dessert fruit, avoid mushy-looking fruits with blemishes. Available January to September.

Melons

ExoticFruit15These refreshing juicy fruits, served as dessert or as a first course, come in different sizes and shapes. When buying melons, always insist on touching them to check for ripeness, a ripe melon will yield to pressure applied gently at the stalk end. Melons are generally available throughout the year, with the exception of watermelons which are available from May to September.

Cantaloup melon has a slightly flattened shape, with green to yellow rough skin. The flesh is heavily scented, succulent and orange-yellow.

Charentais melon is perfectly round and small. The yellow-green, slightly rough skin is marked with downward indentations, and the deep orange flesh is faintly scented.

Honeydew melons is the most widely available. It is shaped like a rugby ball and has green, yellow or white wrinkled skin. The sweet flesh is pale green to pink.

Ogen melon has yellow to orange skin marked with faint green strips. The pale yellow flesh is very sweet and juicy.

Watermelon is the largest of all melons. Glossy dark skin surrounds the scarlet and juicy almost watery, flesh and prominent black seeds.

ExoticFruit16Passion Fruits

These tropical fruits are similar in shape and size to large plums. The tough skin is purple and deeply wrinkled when ripe.The aromatic orange pulp is sweet and juicy, and deeply pitted with small black seeds which are eaten with the flesh. Available most of the year.

Pawpaws, Papayas

Large tropical fruits, pawpaws have smooth skins which ripen through green to yellow or orange. The sweet juicy pulp is orange-pink and melon-like in texture, the brown-black seeds lie in the centre. Avoid fruits with dry or blemished skin. Available June to December.

ExoticFruit18Persimmons

These tropical fruits look like large tomatoes with their leathery skins which turns from yellow to bright red. The orange-yellow juicy and soft flesh has a sharp flavour. Fruits with pitted or cracked skins should be avoided. Available from October to January.

Pineapples

Large oval fruits with hard,knobbly top skin, which varies from deep yellow to almost orange-brown. The firm, yellow to cream flesh is sweet and juicy. Look for fruits with stiff leaves. Available all the year round.

ExoticFruit20Pomegranates

These are the size of oranges with thin but tough rind. In prime fruits, the rind is pink or bright red, and the juicy flesh crimson. The pulp is packed with seeds, and the flesh is sucked from the seeds. Available September to January.

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