Saturday, 1 February 2014

Exotic fruit and vegetable: Pepino, Curuba, Tamarillo, Lulo, Pawpaw, Kaki, Kohlrabi, Passionfruit

The Fresh & Fruity around the corner from our house is undoubtedly one of the main reasons I like living in Stamford Hill (despite its distance from RCA). I've always thought that having access and proximity to a good market or greengrocer is crucial to one's overall nutrition, because let's face it if you are hungry you are not going to want to walk very far or wait very long to get or make the food (unless you are strangely perverse, or George). When in South Kensington I have the tendency to devolve into a diet of box soups, instant bulgur pots and crisps from the vending machine, or the occasional starvation-induced splurge at the school canteen, but that is because that is the food which is most accessible to me there.

Recently I have been working on a project relating to plant growth regulators and I watched the most amazing fruit documentary (Thanks for the recommendation Katie!) so now I am even more mad for fruit. The funny thing is that around the same time I suddenly realised Fresh & Fruity were importing in different fruits and vegetable. (Whose smart idea was it? I'm totally sold on it.) Since their speciality is just fruit and vegetable, they really have a lot of it and its usually much better and cheaper than the Sainsburys/Asda (unless you want to have everything pre-washed for you in spring water). Sometimes you even get a whole box of produce for a pound or two when they're in excess and on their last legs. The other day I made mango sorbet out of a big box of mangos that I got for a pound. Recently they had an exotic fruit sale and we were fortunate to have gone there on the very day the fruits were being set out in their pallets for sale! They were so exotic that they even had to have long descriptions explaining what they were like on the inside!

The Fruit Portraits

Pepino Melon

The fruit of the Solanum muricatum is also known as sweet pepino, pepino dulce, pepino melon, melon pear. It is distantly related to melons and pears but more closely related to tomato and eggplant. This particular pepino melon came from Ecuador. The thin but surprisingly hardy skin is covered in brown stripes and on the inside the flesh is soft anne you will find a hollow in which there are white flat round seeds in a bunch. It tasted like a rock melon with a lighter, more delicate taste.

Curuba (Banana Passionfruit)

The Passiflora tarminiana is also known as Banana Passionfruit, banana poka (hawaii), curuba sabanera blanca (colombia), taxo/tauso/tacso (ecucaor), tumbo (bolivia). It is related to the passionfruit. Interestingly this is considered an invasive species in New Zealand as it thrives there and it is now illegal to sell or cultivate the plants and there are some concerns that the plant spreads too quickly in Australia and Hawaii. The taste of the fruit itself was very curious, sweet and quite tart with edible black seeds covered in orange pulp that is so intensely colored it is almost red. The seeds of the fruit had a lot more bite to them than a passionfruit we had also bought for comparison and we even worried for a moment that perhaps we shouldn't be eating the seeds. The fruit is covered with tiny hairs and it turns from green to light green/yellow as it ripens. Interestingly, it bruises very easily and is much unlike the passionfruit which you can throw at someone's head without worrying that the passionfruit will be dented. I found it to be very tart.


The fruit of the Solanum Betaceum is native to the Andes of Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. It is also grown in other subtropical climates. It used to be known as "tree tomato" but the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council gave the fruit a new name to make it sound more exotic and seem less like a tomato. Tamarillo comes from the Maori word "tama" (leadership) and the Spanish word "amarillo" (yellow). I bought two types of tamarillos - red and yellow. The red one was more acidic and tart and the yellow one was softer and sweeter in general. Whilst the flesh is quite orange, the seeds are encased in bright red pulp which stains a bit as you cut or eat the fruit, the seeds are apparently edible but sometimes quite hard. In the end, it tasted like a mix between kiwifruit and tomato.

Lulo (Naranjilla)

The fruit of the Solanum quitoense is also known as naranjilla (ecuador, panama) or lulo (colombia). This one is from Colombia. The leaves of the plant have a very lovely shape so it is considered an ornamental plant in some parts; in general the plant itself is very delicate and cannot withstand high wind or sun, and is extremely susceptible to pests and diseases whenever grown on a large scale, often suffering from fungus attacks and pests. Apparently a few batches seeds had been sent to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) in the 1910s and attempts were made to plant it in greenhouses but all of them died! There is another story about how great attempts were made to grow it in Florida in 1948 where they flourished and 20 plants were about to fruit when they were all unexpectedly all destroyed in a hurricane! Basically the story of the naranjilla and the many attempts to grow it elsewhere has been historically a sad one. The fruit is soft and easily damaged when it is ripe and god knows how it even survived to get here. Its skin is looks leathery on the outside and it apparently has lots of hairs on the outside which are usually rubbed off when the fruit is prepared for sale. Its insides look a bit like a tomato but it tastes like a pineapple crossed with a citrus plant of some sort.

Kaki (Persimmon/Sharonfruit)

The Persimmon or SharonFruit needs no introduction. Its very common in Asia and I've eaten so much of it in the past. To be honest this has been one of my favourite fruits from Fresh and Fruity. The only fun fact I can offer about it is that it is technically a berry, but due to its solidly turgid fleshiness we often don't think of it as a berry.


The Pawpaw is actually just a small papaya. In the UK they are small, unlike the huge ones I'm used to seeing in Southeast asia.

Kohlrabi (German radish)

The Kohlrabi is cultivated through artifical selection to get its distinctive swollen shaped stem. It is related to cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts - they all come from the wild cabbage plant (Brassica oleracea).


I bought this Passionfruit so as to be able to crossreference its taste with the Banana Passionfruit. To be honest I preferred the Passionfruit to the Banana Passionfruit as the passionfruit was much sweeter.

The Insides of the Fruits

Pepino Melon

Curuba (compared with passionfruit)




What happened next

The Kohlrabi never got eaten in the end. Unfortunately (or fortunately) after they sat on the arm of our sofa for a few weeks they eventually turned into some sort of vegetal housepets. We named one of them Smiles and the other Lao Wang. It is very hard to eat vegetables that you have given names and personalities. Maybe we will plant them in a pot for summer and give them a new life.

You might also have been wondering why there has been nary a blip from me online recently and it is because I have been slaving day and night over a synbio-related project at school which is about to come to fruition (ahem). This post has been days in the making because I can only manage to find a little bit of time in-between actual work to write these posts up. It has been really intense. Maybe more about my new projects in the next post.

1 comment:

  1. It is funny to see the Kohlrabi between the tropical fruits. Where I originally come from (Czech Republic) it is one of the most ordinary vegetables imaginable. Still it can be eaten raw or cooked. But the most delicious is soup made from Kohlrabi. See if Google translate can make something of this: