Take a trip to the tropics with an exotic fruit plate. One bite of a perfectly ripe papaya will make you feel like the beach is just steps away.
It's the best time of year for some of the tastiest tropical fruit. Lucky for us, they're much more readily available in our local grocery stores and Asian supermarkets. Here are some of the most delicious ones you can find to put together an unforgettable fruit tray.
This one may be the easiest one to come by, and they give you quite a bang for your buck. Look for unbruised fruit with yellow or orange skin. A little bit of green is okay, but you want them to be evenly ripe. Papayas will continue to ripen on the countertop so you can always set it aside until it gives slightly when squeezed. Remove the peel and scoop out the seeds, then serve in chunks or slices. We always had ripe papaya with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, so give that a try, too!
Bigger is not always better when it comes to mangoes. Champagne or Ataulfo mangoes are smaller, slimmer versions that are far superior in taste to the "regular" grocery store mangoes that are more round and chubby. Let these ripen further at room temperature, just a few days, for the best flavor. The skin may start to wrinkle, and that's okay! Simply cut away the two sides from the central seed and score or scoop out. Don't forget to nibble the fruit away from the seed, too – that's the best part!
Sadly, these fun-looking fruits don't taste like much. They're best for that pop of juiciness and cool visual effect of their white interior with tiny black seeds. If you can find yellow dragon fruit or the red-fleshed variety, those are actually sweet, but don't look for a huge burst of flavor with these.
Longan, lychee, and rambutan are all in the same category of grape-like fruit, in my opinion. I prefer longans because they have a central seed that is easy to separate from the flesh. Simply crack the outer skin with your teeth and remove the peel and pop the whole fruit in your mouth. Roll it around a bit and spit out the seed. Canned longans are surprisingly good – almost as good as fresh if you can't find them, so try those too if you see them.
You can find guavas in many sizes ranging from golf balls to softballs. They also have yellow, white, or pink flesh, so try whatever you can find and see what you like best. They can be eaten hard when they have a crisp texture, or soft when they have a mellow, sweeter taste. Guavas have a distinct resinous overtone to them that you're either going to love or hate. If you want to use them for smoothies, go for seedless frozen guava puree or canned guava nectar. When fresh, you eat them whole – skin, seeds and all.
This is another juicy fruit that doesn't have much flavor. Look for deep pink fruit with unblemished skin and use them for a pop of color on your fruit tray. They have crunchy seeds that are fine to eat, but be careful when peeling them – the juice stains!
Putting it all together
While you can absolutely eat everything just as it is, some tropical fruits taste better with a little something extra. Lime goes well with papaya and underripe mangoes taste great with a bit of chile limon seasoning. If you can't find any, mix some salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to offset sour fruit. I bought all of these at my local Asian supermarket, but you can also find some of these at your "regular" grocery store as well.
**All of the photos in this article are by Sarina Petrocelly
What's your favorite tropical fruit? Where do you find it locally? Let us know in the comments!