From acai to zebra melon, we’re covering the most popular types of tropical fruits from A to Z in this helpful guide to tropical fruits!
Looking for a comprehensive list of tropical fruits? Here you 129 tropical fruits worth trying, along with information on each and ideas on how to use them! Many of these tropical and sub-tropical fruits are well known favorites, but we include quite a few that may be new to you. Have you heard of them all?
What Regions of the World are Tropical?
The tropics include anywhere on the globe between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. This includes much of Central and South America, most of Africa, and Southeast Asia. The definition of subtropical is the areas that border the tropics, so that generally is considered to include Florida, North Africa, Southern China, etc.
Can you name the world’s most eaten tropical fruit? Scroll to the bottom of this post for the answer!
Types of Tropical Fruits
Looking for a specific Tropical Fruit? Let’s take a look at some of the world’s favorite tropical fruits, and a few tropical fruits that are lesser known strange fruits!
Acai are native to the Amazon region of Brazil where they are considered a staple. They are healthy berries loaded with antioxidants. They taste sort of like blackberries, but have a short shelf life making them difficult to export. They are typically exported frozen or dried. These little nutrition bombs are great for flavoring ice cream, and are also used in making skin lotions.
Acerola Cherries are also known as Barbados Cherries or West Indies cherries. They are extremely high in vitamin C, and their bright red color makes them a good candidate for use in jellies, jams, wine, ice creams, pies, and popsicle recipes. If you need more reasons to include this and other cherries in your cooking read here about the nutritional benefits of cherries.
America’s love for avocados is both deep and fairly recent. The USA used to have a ban on fruits from Mexico (the birthplace of the avocado). When these import restrictions were loosened in the 1990’s and removed completely in 2007, avocados could flow freely into our country and cuisine. America’s increasing Hispanic population has also brought with it Mexican cuisine, namely in the form of guacamole. Top this all with the early 2000’s obsession with low carb, high fat diets, and you have the makings for a decade that’s gone avocontrol! If you need any inspiration or just ideas on how to use your avocados check out 16 ways to use avocados with dinner.
Bael are native to India and some of the other nations of Southeast Asia. They are eaten, dried, fresh, in jams, and in a locally popular juice combined with milk and sugar.
Bananas are one of the world’s most favorite fruits. Did you know that 96% of American households have purchased a banana in the last 30 days? There are many varieties of bananas, ranging from starchy plantains to sweet, dessert varieties! The most commonly eaten banana in the USA is by far the Cavendish which makes up 47% of world production. There is so much to this American favorite that we wrote a whole post on them you can find it at Banana 101, and our sister post 15 Healthy Banana Recipes (Great For Overripe Bananas).
The Bignay is also called the Chinese Laurel, Bignai, Bugnay, or Salamander Tree, and is native to New Guinea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and several others across Southeast Asia. It is a small berry that grows in clusters, and is very sour until ripe when it becomes sweet and tart. Its primary use is in preserves.
Bilimbi are native to Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines where they are often grown in backyards. The fruit is eaten raw or dipped in salt. It is also often added as a souring agent to various Filipino cuisines.
The Black Mulberry is native to Subtropical Iran. The berries’ flavor varies from sweet to mildly tart. You can use these in place of raspberries or blackberries, and they are great raw or in jelly, jams, cobblers, and sweet breads.
The Breadfruit is related to the jackfruit, and is native to the Philippines and New Guinea where it is often roasted, baked, fried, or boiled. When cooked the taste is said to be similar to freshly baked bread which is the origin of its name.
This is a small (about an inch in diameter) oval shaped fruit that varies in color from yellow to red or purple. They are cultivated in Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Malaysia, and are generally eaten raw or made into wine. They are also used medicinally in skin treatments.
Cacao trees produce the cocoa beans that give the world chocolate. The Ivory Coast is the world’s leading producer followed by Ghana. Together these nations produce over half the world’s cocoa. Cacao is extremely important to the economies of both nations, but the issue is child labor. It is estimated that over 2 million children work in these two countries in the labor-intensive business of harvesting cocoa beans. An all too common situation is a family with a small farm has more children than they need to work their own land, but not enough money to support them all. So, many kids are sent to larger plantations to work. The conditions on these plantations are said to “vary”. The intent of this article isn’t to pass judgment on people struggling to survive or even the chocolate industry, but this is something to keep in mind – you can buy chocolate that is responsibly sourced.
Calabash are native to South America. They are shaped like cucumbers, and can be green or yellow with just a single seed. They are often eaten raw, dried, or juiced. They are also used extensively in local medicines.
The Canistel Fruit is also known as egg fruit or cupcake fruit. That last name is enough for us to try them. They are grown in Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines. The somewhat pear-shaped fruit are sweet with a yellow skin and a very large pit. You can find these in the US, but expect to pay upwards of $20/lbs.
The Cantaloupe is probably sub-tropical at best. Its exact origin is not clear but likely from Southern Asia or the Middle East. 75% of cantaloupes grown in the US come from California, but China is by far the leading producer growing over half the world’s total. Cantaloupe is most often eaten fresh in balls or slices. It is great in fruit or veggie salads, and of course, as a dessert with ice cream or yogurt. For our money in salads like this Vegetarian Curried Melon Salad is an excellent use of cantaloupe. They are loaded with vitamins A & C, fiber, and a bunch of micronutrients.
Cape Gooseberries are native to Chile, Columbia, and Peru but are now also cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions of China, India, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The name comes from a husk that grows around the yellow fruits like a cape. They are often used in pies, jams, ice cream, sauces, and fruit salads.
Cempedaks are a close relative to the breadfruit. They grow in SE Asia and are known for their scaly skin and awful smell. Locally, cempedaks are often eaten raw, deep-fried, grilled, and boiled.
Cherimoyas have a creamy texture which gives them their second name, the Custard Apple. They are grown in both tropical and subtropical regions in much of the world. The taste varies with different varieties and growing regions. They range from sweet to tangy and can have hints of pineapple, banana, papaya, or strawberry taste. They are often chilled and eaten raw from their skin giving them yet another name: “ice cream fruit”.
Ceylon Gooseberries are native to Sri Lanka (formerly known as the Isle of Ceylon). They are a small, about an inch in diameter, juicy berry that is on the acidic side and thus not usually eaten raw, but more commonly made into jams and jellies.
Chayotes are native to Southern Mexico and Honduras. They can be eaten raw, cut into salads, boiled, mashed, baked, or fried.
Coconuts originated in the human diet in the Pacific islands perhaps 5,000 years ago. Fossils from New Zealand show their existence as much as 15 million years ago.
Cupuacu are found in the Brazilian rainforests. It is related to the cacao plant, but is not chocolate. A chocolate-like product called cupulate is made from the white pulp, and it is often used to make ice cream and snacks. The juice from this fruit is also used in desserts and various juices.
Dabai are native to Borneo. They look rather like a large dark grape or a small oblong plum. They taste, however, like neither as they are not sweet. As a result, they are most commonly used in savory recipes.
Date Plums are from Southwest Asia. These yellow plums have all the same culinary uses of other plums, and are regionally used in traditional health aides to assist with digestive issues, hemorrhoids, asthma, and even lung infections. While we can’t support any of these claims, plums have a noteworthy nutrition profile. For more on this world-wide favorite visit Plums 101: Varieties, Flavors, Storage & More.
Davidson’s Plums are native to Australia and look much like the European Damson plum. This being just one of several plum varieties in this post, if you are ready to stop reading and start eating, try this Fruit Smoothie Bowl with Cherries and Plums.
Dead Man’s Finger
The Dead Man’s Finger is native to China, Nepal, India, Bhutan, and Myanmar. It is a blue fruit typically 3-5 inches long with a sweet pulp. The fruit’s smooth skin gives it its name as it feels something like a cold finger.
The Doddler Lauren grows on a parasitic vine in Australia. The small (1/2”) green fruits are picked from the wild plants and eaten out of hand.
Dragon Fruits are native to Southern Mexico and Central America, but are now grown worldwide. Their name comes from their exotic scaly look. The dragon fruit tastes like a cross between kiwi and pears, and they are often eaten by cutting them in half and eating the pulp out of the tough skin. Dragon fruit can also be peeled and cut into chunks to be eaten in salads, with yogurt, or as they are. For more on dragon fruit varieties check out How to Cut Dragon Fruit (& More).
The Duku is an Asian fruit with a white pulp and hard shell. It is said to taste like grapes. Duku are high fiber fruits which give them a variety of well known health benefits.
Durians are grown in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. While the fruit is quite sweet, its most distinct feature is its awful smell which is sometimes described as rotten cheese. The oval fruits are quite large growing to 2-6 pounds and covered in spikes. Fresh, the smell is so bad, they are banned on most public transport in regions where they are grown. Despite this, they are used in a variety of sweet and savory regional cuisines.
Also known as the Chalta or Dillenia Indica, this is a hard-shelled fruit native to India and China. Its name comes from the fact that it is generally eaten by Indian elephants who assist the tree by eating the fruit then dispersing the seeds. The fruit is sour and often used in curries, jams, and jellies. In many areas consumption by humans is not allowed as it is a primary food source for elephants, so commercial sale is prohibited. If you saw the name elephant apple and were looking for apple ideas, check out our 29 Types of Apples and how to use them guide.
Figs appear to have come from the Mediterranean area thousands of years ago, qualifying them as subtropical. Today they are grown around the world. Figs can be eaten fresh, dried, in jams & jellies, and myriad ways in a variety of desserts. Turkey is the world’s largest producer of figs followed by Egypt and Morocco.
The Gamboge is native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia. Regionally, it is eaten raw, cooked, in jams, or made into wine. They are now grown in both Australia and Florida.
Genips are juicy fruits found around the Caribbean to include Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Haiti. They are also found in some Central and South American nations. You peel them to reveal a salmon-colored pulp that is tangy and just a little sweet.
Giant Lau Lau
The Giant Lau Lau is a native of New Guinea, but has seen little commercialization outside of New Guinea. This could be because the taste is generally described as astringent or bland. The trees are, however, often grown decoratively. So, why didn’t we skip this fruit? Well, it has a cool name.
The Governor’s Plum is also known as the Madagascar Plum, and is grown in much of Africa and tropical regions of Asia. It also grows in Florida where it is often considered invasive. The small fruits have a yellow pulp with a sweet yet acidic taste. They are often eaten raw, in jam, or in wine.
Granadillas are also called Sugar Fruits as they are like an extra sweet passionfruit with a taste similar to papaya. They grow in the tropical regions of Central & South America, the West Indies, and Australia. They are available in the USA, but are quite pricey. There is a lot you can do with a hyper-sweet passionfruit! How about a Passion Fruit Smoothie?
Grand Nain Banana
Grand Nain Bananas are a variety native to Southern Asia, primarily India. They appear to have been first cultivated by humans around 10,000 years ago. Bananas are still extremely popular around the world though the Cavendish is hands down the most eaten banana in the world. For more on this amazing fruit check out Banana 101.
The Grapefruit is a relatively recent discovery. They likely originated in 18th century Barbados, and are believed to be a cross between an orange and a pomelo. The name comes from how they grow in clusters like grapes. There are three common types:
Guaranas are native to Brazil, and used mostly for medicinal and purported health benefits. There are numerous claims that it can reduce fatigue, boost energy, and serve as a learning aid. It contains caffeine which may be the basis for these claims. Some sellers of Guarana claim it can lower cancer risk and promote weight loss. There is also evidence that it can be dangerous if consumed in high quantities. There is always a catch.
Guavas are a tropical fruit eaten around the world. They are likely native to Mexico and Central America. The sweet refreshing juice from guavas is, in our opinion, best used in Hawaiian POG Juice. If you haven’t tried this, you need to give it a try.
Guavaberries are not related to Guava. They are a blueberry sized fruit that grows wild in Central and South America, but has been introduced to Florida and Hawaii. They are often used to make jam and drinks to include several popular varieties of European schnapps.
Hala Fruit is found in tropical regions around the world to include Southeast Asia, Florida, Hawaii, and other Pacific Islands. It has a mildly sweet taste that is a cross between pineapple and mango. Unfortunately, it is a thick skinned fruit, so much of the fruit is wasted as you peel it making it rather expensive by weight.
Hawaiian Mountain Apple
Hawaiian Mountain Apples are not native to Hawaii. They were brought to the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesian settlers from Malaysia. They are dark red and have a bell shape. They are sweet crispy apples making them great for desserts. There may be as many as 30,000 apple varieties worldwide today, and 2,500 of these are grown in the United States. Apples have been grown and eaten since the Roman Era, and quite possibly before that. If you want more information on just a few of the world’s most popular apples, only a few of which are tropical, check out these 29 Types of Apples and How to Use Them.
Honeydew is such a wonderful fruit that we had to include it though it is subtropical at best. Its origins are actually unclear as it has been eaten for thousands of years, and was considered a sacred food in Ancient Egypt. At only 10 calories an ounce, it is a low calorie fruit (consider that bananas come in at about 25 calories an ounce), and has a good nutrition profile. It is great on a Vegetable Salad, eaten in long slices, or in a fruit salad particularly when balled together with cantaloupe.
Horned Melons are also known as Kiwano melons, and are an exotic and strange-looking fruit grown in Central and Southern Africa. This healthy fruit option is loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, and can be used in both savory and sweet dishes, as well as drinks and desserts.
Huitos grow in the rainforests of South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. They are often used to make jelly, ice cream flavoring, sherbet, and various drinks. Huito’s most interesting use, however, is in use as a dye coloring. Huito Blue is a patented color.
The Imbe is also called the African Mangosteen, Lowveld Mangosteen, and Livingstone’s Garcinia. They grow in SE Africa from Somalia to South Africa. Imbes are a small, sweet, orange berry typically growing from ½ to 1 inch in diameter. This nutritious fruit is generally eaten fresh out of hand.
Icacinas are grown in Western Tropical Africa, primarily Sudan. The fruit, seeds, and tuber are all edible. The tuber, however, is quite poisonous and leads to dysentery if not detoxified before eating. This makes the tuber into a “famine food” eaten only in hard times. In a nation where hard times are the norm, this is hard to imagine. The fruit is known for its sweet taste and gelatinous texture.
Ibogas are small orange berries that grow in parts of Africa, and are sometimes called Eboka. It is said to be tasteless and sticky, but used by some who believe it can assist with withdrawal symptoms from opioids though this claim is unsubstantiated. IIboga are illegal to sell in the United States, so to sum it up the Iboga is a sticky berry with a name that sounds like Ebola, has no taste, and little use. Nothing to see here folks move along.
The Icaco is a shrub that grows in tropical regions of Africa, the Americas, and Southern Florida. It yields an edible fruit with a mildly sweet taste that is sometimes used in jams.
Ilama are tropical fruits native to Central America where they are generally cut in half, and the fruit scooped out and chilled. Ilama are green or pink. The green skinned variant contains a sweet white flesh and the pink skinned a rosy tart fruit. These fruits grow to as large as two pounds (900g).
Indian Jujube Fruit
This is also known as the Chinese date, Chinese Apple, and Dunks. They are often eaten raw, but also pickled or juiced into beverages. They are also popular candied in India. Nutritionally, these are very high in Vitamin C.
Indian Almond Fruit
This almond is native to Asia, Australia, some Pacific Islands, and Madagascar. They have a mildly acidic taste with little flavor but a pleasant aroma.
Indonesian Limes are also known as Kaffir Limes, and are indigenous to Southeast Asia and Southern China. In Asia the leaves are the most used part of the plant, and are used in Thai Tom Yum, Cambodian Kreung, and a variety of other national dishes. The lemon rind is commonly used in Thai curry paste.
Ita Palm Fruit
These are also known as Aquaje or Moriche Palms. They are native to the tropical regions of South America. The fruit’s skin is hard, brown, scaly, and its fibers can be used as thread. The fruit is very high in vitamin A, and is known among native people as “The Miracle Fruit For Women”. There is a persistent belief that it aids in fertility, menopausal symptom relief, increased estrogen, and increases in buttock, thigh, breast and hip measurements. We aren’t supporting this claim, just passing it along. While the fruit is difficult to find, you can buy a “health” extract on Amazon.
Indian Gooseberries are also called Amlas in India where it is used to make amla juice. These sour green berries are used in candies, pickled, and in chutneys. In Southern India they are used in a lentil based dish called dal. The gooseberry is also believed to aid in reducing LDL and triglyceride levels. Because of this they are often found in supplements you can find on Amazon.
Indian Persimmons are native to India and SE Asia. The trees are commonly grown more for their ebony timber than for the fruit. Persimmons are eaten around the world raw like an apple, dried, or cooked into cookies, cakes, puddings, and pies. Try them fresh as a breakfast cereal topping.
Jackfruits are a sweet fruit native to Southern India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia. Jackfruits are good with yogurt or just eaten fresh. Jackfruits are sometimes used in vegetarian meat substitute recipes, like Jackfruit Pulled Pork or Jackfruit Carnitas.
Jaltomato is another fruit with an apt name as they are often said to taste like a cross between a tomato and a grape. We haven’t tried one, but that seems an odd pairing. They are native to Mexico and Central America, are dark purple, and are about the size of blueberries. They are often used to make jams and jellies.
Jamaican Nutmeg is an egg sized fruit cultivated for its nutmeg seed used to make spices for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It is purported to have value in relief from pain, indigestion, insomnia, as well as whole body detoxification. We clearly can’t warrant any of these claims.
Jatoba Fruit is also known as the Stinking Toe Fruit. We didn’t make this up. It is also called the Locust fruit. The fruits are wrapped in a large brown pod whose shape does sort of look like a toe. The pods are 3 to 5 inches long and sweet, but the strong smell gives it the name. Jatoba are native to Southern Mexico, Brazil and Peru.
The Java Apple is also known as the Rose apple, and is native to SE Asia. They are a staple in Vietnam where, like most apples, they are often eaten out of hand. The Java apple has a bell shape and ranges in color from pink to bright red.
Jelly Palm Fruit
The Jelly Palm is also called the Pindo Palm and is native to Brazil and Uruguay though they are today prevalent throughout South America and many southern states in the United States. It is often grown in the USA for its ornamental value though people often complain about the mess the abundance of fruit makes in their yard as the ripe fruit drops to the ground. They taste like a combination of pineapple and apricot and are often used in jams and wine.
Jacotes are also known as the Hog Plums, and are native to the tropical Americas. Unlike most plums, they have a spiny, tough exterior, so they aren’t normally eaten right off the tree. The plants are often used regionally in traditional medicine, and are said to aid in rheumatism, digestive issues, gonorrhea, colds, dysentery, and a variety of other ailments.
Jujubes are also known as the Red or Chinese Dates, and are native to Southern Asia. They are sweet and chewy making them very useful in making candies and dried fruits. They are also a high fiber fruit with a good nutrition profile.
Jungle plums are native to Brazil. They are a small (less than an inch in diameter) purple fruit said to be sweet and usually eaten raw. They are not commercially grown, and are generally picked and eaten wild.
Junglesops typically grow to as much as 5 kg (11 lbs.), but can be as large as 15 kg. This Central Africa native is part of the custard apple family, and is used as an alternative food in times of famine due to its high nutritional value and large fruits. The fruit can be either sweet or sour depending on both the maturity of the fruit and the genetics of the specific tree.
Kaffir Lime trees are grown more for their leaves than fruit. These bumpy limes are native to Southeast Asia, and their leaves are used much like bay leaves to flavor Thai dishes. For more on all manner of limes check out Limes 101.
The Keitt Mango is a larger variety of mango, but is every bit as sweet as other varieties. It is often eaten raw as it is fiber free and thus quite creamy. You can’t go wrong with any variety of mango in a Nutritious Summer Mango Smoothie.
Kiwi are native to China, but these peculiar fruits were first commercially grown in New Zealand, where they got the name “Kiwi fruit”. Kiwi’s popularity has seen them become popular worldwide to include in the USA. They are nutritional powerhouses with more vitamin C than oranges. Their natural acidity makes them a unique cooking ingredient due to their ability to tenderize and digest proteins. Want to try a healthy summer treat? Try these Green Smoothie Popsicles!
Korlans are a SE Asian fruit grown in Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They are small red berries with rough skins that grow in the wild, and are often eaten raw. While not commercially cultivated, the wild fruits are harvested and sold in local markets.
Kowai are small oval shaped fruits also known as Ivy Gourds. They grow in the tropical climate of Southern India where they are used in local cuisines and medicines. Kowai look like small cucumbers and are normally cooked. Medicinally, Kowai is used to reduce blood sugar thus preventing diabetes, and is thought to be beneficial for the heart and nervous system.
Kwai Muks are grown in Southern China. They are too cold intolerant for the northern regions of China. These small fruits have an excellent flavor when ripe and can be eaten raw or are often dried or preserved in a sugary syrup. The Kwai Muk is related to the jackfruit which is to say they are one ugly fruit. They seem to grow into whatever shape suits them, and are generally lumpy and discolored.
The Lablab is a type of bean native to Southeast Asia. It looks like a purple pea pod, and we believe they were cultivated in India as much as 2,500 years ago. They are often used in curry recipes. They aren’t easy to find in the USA, and mostly sold as deer bait.
Lady Finger Banana
Lady Fingers are found in Southeast Asia particularly Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. As their name suggests, they are a smaller variety only growing to about 5”. These seeded bananas compensate for their diminutive size with a sweeter, creamier taste and texture than other bananas. Lady fingers are great in desserts, and would be a good choice in many of these 15 Healthy Banana Recipes.
Lancetilla Mangoes are native to Honduras, but migrated to Florida in the last 20 to 30 years. They are larger than most mangoes weighing up to 5 lbs. These would be a great variety in our favorite Easy Mango Salsa Recipe.
Langsats are tropical fruits native to SE Asia and mostly found in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. They look like small potatoes and can be eaten raw or juiced. The fruit is quite sweet, but the seeds are quite bitter.
Lemon Aspen are native & endemic to the rainforests of Queensland Australia. These small fruits have a taste similar to both lime and grapefruit. The lemon aspen is considered a bush food meaning they are often eaten wild by Australian natives, but unlike other bush foods there is some cultivation of lemon aspens. The fruit is used in wines, juices, flavorings, dressings, relish, and juices.
Lemons are one of the world’s most ubiquitous fruits as they are grown and eaten around the world. This said, we aren’t really sure of their origin. They are nutritional powerhouses low in calories, but high in vitamins. For more on these little gems check out Lemon 101.
Limes, along with lemons, are among the world’s most ubiquitous citrus fruits. Easily grown in tropical regions, they are found across much of the globe. Limes are used extensively in drinks, desserts, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, Indian, and a host of other cuisines. For more on the nutritional value and uses see Limes 101, and if you just want something easy and decadent try this Healthy Key Lime Pie Smoothie Recipe.
Limeberries or sweet limes are native to tropical Southeast Asia, specifically Indonesia and the Philippines. They are not often cultivated and have become invasive in some regions to include the Southern United States. The berries are sweet and can be used in preserves by those willing to pick them in the wild.
Mamey Sapotes come from a tree native to Mexico and Central America. They are often used in smoothies, milkshakes, ice cream, and jams. A specialized use is cutting the fruit into strips and frying it like bacon. To bacon enthusiasts this no doubt seems heretical, but hey this is a vegetarian recipe site.
Mammee Apples are also known as Tropical Apricots or Santo Domingo Apricots. They don’t really resemble apples, and don’t appear to be a staple anywhere they are grown, which includes Jamaica, the Bahamas, and other Caribbean nations. They are, however, perfectly edible, but known for their bitterness. They are often used regionally in fruit salads or stewed.
Mamoncillos are juicy fruits found around the Caribbean to include Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Haiti. They are also grown in some Central and South American nations. Their salmon-colored pulp is tangy and just a little sweet.
The Mangaba is a native of Brazil. This oval shaped fruit is generally yellow with a hint of green, but can trend to red as well. The white pulp is sweet and fibrous. The name Mangaba means “good fruit for eating” and locals like to eat it raw as well as in juice, ice cream, jellies, pastries, and even wine.
Mangoes are originally from South Asia, but they made their way across the tropics and into America around 1880. There are many varieties of mangos, and they are now one of the most commonly eaten fruits in the world with over 40 million metric tons grown each year. India is the leading producer, but not a huge exporter as they eat most of what they grow. The mango is a stone fruit, meaning it has one hard seed surrounded by fruit. Peaches, cherries, and plums are all stone fruits as well. For information on how to select, store, and cut mangoes plus a whole lot more check out Mangoes 101.
Mangosteen is native to Southeast Asia where it is popular for its juiciness and sweet & sour flavor. It only became available in the US in the last 10-15 years, and was initially rather expensive. Efforts to grow the mangosteen in the US and Canada have not been very successful, so most are imported from Thailand. With its thick purple skin and white segmented pulp it is certainly an interesting fruit that has potential for aesthetic use in a fancy displays.
Maracuya is a yellow variety of Passion Fruit grown in South America. It can be used as you would the more common purple passion fruits we are used to in America. We maintain that the superpower of passion fruit is in Hawaiian POG Juice. If you haven’t tried it, trust us you should.
The Marang is also known as Terap and is native to Borneo. They look like a jackfruit, but are larger and covered in spines. Their pulp is quite sweet, and they are locally eaten as a dessert. Now for the downside. Marang are a smelly fruit often not allowed in hotels when tourists attempt to buy them in local markets. We included the marang just out of interest as you can’t even find this one on Amazon.
The Mayan Nut is an ancient seed grown in the rainforests of South America. It was a staple in the diet of prehistoric people who likely ate them boiled and used them to attract deer and other game. Today the trees are disappearing at an alarming rate as they are cleared to plant corn and other farmed crops.
This is a small red berry native to the tropical nations of West Africa. Its name came from the fruit’s ability to make sour foods taste sweet. That seems like an appropriate name to us. It is often used locally to sweeten palm wine and other drinks.
Nam Dok Mai Mango
Nam Dok Mai mangoes are tropical fruits that grow in Thailand. They are known for their juicy sweet pulp, as well as their small size. Nam Dok Mai mangoes are a popular ingredient in Thai cuisine, and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
The Nance is a cherry sized yellow or red berry grown in Central and Latin America. It is sometimes called the nanche, hogberry, or yaca. Nance can be eaten raw, juiced, or used in a variety of desserts.
Naranjilla is a bright orange citrus cultivated in Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Columbia. Its culinary use varies from nation to nation, but includes in making juice, preserves, wine, sherbets, pies, and a variety of baked goods. The fruit can be eaten fresh, but the skin is rather tough, so it is more commonly cut in half and the juice squeezed out.
Neem is a fruit grown in India for which you can find many purported medicinal uses, but no recipes. Various sources claim that it can be used for hemorrhoids, intestinal worms, urinary disorders, diabetes, wound treatment, head lice, skin ulcers, and as a mosquito repellent. Oh, and also leprosy. Should you want to test neem’s health benefits, you can find it in supplement form on Amazon.
Oil Palm Fruit
Oil Palm is native to West and SW Africa. The fruit yields two types of palm oil. Crude palm oil comes from squeezing the fruit’s pulp. Kernel oil is harvested by crushing the stone from the fruit. These oils are used to make soap, candles, fuels, cosmetics and lubricants.
Papaya originated in Central America thousands of years ago, but today India is the world’s leading grower of this very nutritious fruit. While we can’t substantiate the claims, there is evidence that this nutrient dense fruit aids in digestion, diabetes control, heart disease, and possibly cancer prevention. They also taste great either cut into chunks and eaten or in desserts like this Tropical Chia Parfait which works great with either papayas or mangoes.
Passion fruit is a tropical fruit native to to Brazil, Paraguay, and Northern Argentina. Today, however, they are grown in a much wider swath of the globe to include Hawaii and Florida! On the outside, passion fruits are typically dark purple, sometimes wrinkly, spheres. On the inside, passion fruits are bright yellow, with many black seeds. Passion fruit tastes tart and sweet with a strong tropical aroma. Go blend up some Passion Fruit Juice, or a cool Passion Fruit Smoothie. I guess it is pretty obvious we are passionate about this fruit.
Peach Palm Fruit
Peach Palms are native to the tropical forests of Central and South America where they are often used as animal feed. The starchy fruit is often used as a corn substitute in feed mixtures though it can certainly be eaten by people and has been for centuries typically after boiling.
Pequi grow mostly in Brazil. They grow to the size of an orange, but are not very easy to eat. Once you cut it open and remove the large orange pit, you have to be careful to avoid the tiny spikes that surround the pit. Pequi are typically nibbled at by locals who know the risk to eating this citrus and cheese flavored fruit.
Despite its subtropical origins, Persimmons are grown and eaten in many regions across the globe. In the United States they are grown primarily in California and Florida. Persimmons are usually eaten without preparation other than chilling, but they are also added to fruit and vegetable salads, yogurt, ice cream, and all sorts of desserts.
Pineapple is native to South America though many of us naturally assume Hawaii. A question often asked is “Why Does Pineapple Make My Mouth Hurt”? Well, fresh pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain which breaks down proteins. So essentially, the enzyme is working away at your mouth as you chew the pineapple, which can cause some irritation, tingling, or pain. Once you swallow the pineapple, your stomach has what it needs to protect itself from bromelain. In fact, bromelain may help reduce inflammation. If you want to use pineapple for a beautiful and delicious display try this Grilled Pineapple Salsa. We serve it from the split pineapple to make a nice tropical presentation!
The “pome” in pomegranate comes from the Latin word for apple, and the “granate” from the word for seed. But “granate” may also have come from the Old French word for “grenat”, which describes the deep red color of the fruit. Obviously, pomegranates have been eaten for thousands of years given their Roman origin. If you are looking for ideas on how to use pomegranates as well as how to deseed, store, and more check out Pomegranate 101, or try this Pomegranate Bulgur Salad.
The Rambai is a Southeast Asian fruit that grows wild, but is also cultivated in Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, and several other nations in the region. The small fruit grows in strands making cultivation fairly simple. The fruits are used medicinally in some regions with a belief that they prevent cancer and other maladies.
Rambutans are native to Southeast Asia, and are a truly unique fruit. Its skin is a bright red coating of hair like spines. The inner pulp is off-white to pink, sweet, and mildly acidic. They are said to have a flavor like grapes.
Ramontchi are native to much of Africa and tropical Asia. It resembles a plum in shape and color (red, yellow or purple) with a yellow or white flesh. It is commonly eaten out of hand, made into jam, or used in wine.
The Raspuri Mango is native to Southern India and is said to contain more juice than other mango varieties. All Mangoes are originally from Southern Asia, but made their way across the tropics and into America around 1880. Today, mangoes are among the most commonly eaten fruit in the world, with India being the leading producer though they export little as they love their mangoes. For information on how to select, store, and cut mangoes plus a whole lot more check out Mangoes 101, and did we mention that they make fantastic tropical smoothies? The BEST Mango Smoothie Recipe (3 Ingredients).
The Rata or Yellow Mangosteen is believed to be a native of the Western Pacific. That is a pretty broad region, but some sources claim it is from New Zealand and others Indonesia or the Philippines. The fruit can be eaten raw, and has a pleasant but somewhat sour taste. It is often used locally in jam.
Red Bananas are native to SE Asia. Some people say they have a hint of raspberry sweetness to them. There are about 1,000 different varieties of banana in the world today, but Cavendish bananas are eaten about as much as all the other varieties combined. There is so much to this great fruit that we had to do a whole separate post on them at Banana 101!
The Riberry is a small red berry found in Australia. They are described as “refreshingly tart” with a hint of clove and cinnamon. They are often used to make a uniquely flavored jams as well as in syrups and confectionery treats.
Saigon Mangoes are native to Vietnam. Like most mangoes, one of the world’s most highly consumed fruits, it is sweet and can be used in a variety of desserts or in fruit salad. The Saigon Mango is known for making great drinks, and is canned for export for just that purpose.
Salaks are native to Java and Sumatra, and are known as the snake fruit as they have an unusual brown scaly skin. The flesh, however, is extremely sweet and slightly acidic which can result in a mild citrus tingle on your tongue. They are locally eaten fresh, cooked into various recipes, or canned. And, did we say their peel is really cool?
The Sapodilla is native to Southern Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, but today is also grown in the tropical regions of the Pacific to include Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. The fruit is about 2-3” in diameter with a yellow to light brown flesh which is very sweet unless it isn’t ripe in which case the tannin it contains will make you pucker.
Soncoya is a softball sized fruit covered in spines that grows in Columbia, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela. Its pulp is eaten raw or juiced, and it is often used in traditional medicine.
Star Fruits are also known as Carambolas and get their name from their five-pointed star shape. There are both large and small varieties of star fruits. The larger is sweeter than the smaller variety. Star Fruits are often eaten fresh as the skin is perfectly edible. You can also use them in salads, bake them in pies, include them in your curry recipes, or make preserves from them.
Sweet Granadillas are also known as Sweet Passion Fruits, and they are just that. They are larger and have a higher sugar content than other passion fruits. What do you do with an extra sweet passion fruit? How about this 3 Ingredient Passion Fruit Mousse, or for a healthy summer kid friendly treat try our Passion Fruit Popsicles.
The Sweet Lime is a small lime grown in the Middle East and Southern Asia known for its sweet lime flavor with little acidity. Its sweet flavor makes them great for recipes like this Healthy Key Lime Pie Smoothie.
The Terap is native to Borneo. They look a lot like jackfruit, but are larger and covered in spines. Their pulp is sweet and they are locally eaten as a dessert. Teraps are, however, a smelly fruit often not allowed in hotels when tourists attempt to buy them locally. This is a difficult to find fruit, so we recommend just sticking with jackfruit.
Velvet Tamarind is a small (grape sized) fruit with a hard brown shell. It grows in the forests of Western Africa. The pulp is eaten raw or made into beverages. The fruit is also used regionally as a treatment for a variety of ailments.
Wampees are native to Southeast Asia. This small citrus fruit is often eaten whole, but is sometimes used in recipes that require a sweet/sour flavor. They are not often used in dessert recipes due to this flavor. Today they are grown in China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia, but are to a lesser extent also grown in Florida and Hawaii.
Watermelons are about 92% water, so their name is appropriate.They are generally considered melons, but are scientifically a type of berry called a pepo. Adding to the confusion over their culinary status, Oklahoma named the watermelon their state vegetable. Watermelons originated in Southern Africa, but appeared in Egypt over 4,000 years ago on the way to going worldwide. The normally red fruit is famous for being sweet and juicy, but don’t neglect the rind. The rind is often used in Chinese cuisine and is not only perfectly edible, but great in this Strawberry Watermelon RIND Smoothie Recipe. For more ideas on how to use, select, store, and more check out the Health Benefits of Watermelon (According to a Nutritionist!).
White Mulberries are native to India, but are now grown in the USA, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, Turkey, and a variety of other nations. While the fruit is certainly edible, they are grown primarily to feed silkworms and have been for over 4,000 years.
Ximenia Caffra fruits are native to tropical Africa. They grow mostly in East and Southeast African nations to include Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, and South Africa. This oblong fruit is less than 2 inches long and an inch in diameter, and is sometimes called the sourplum. The skin is red when ripe with an orange to red juicy pulp. Ximenia Caffra are often made into jams and jellies, and like most red & orange pulped fruits are high in vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and several other micro nutrients.
Xylocarpus Granatum is a species of mangrove that grows in Asia, Australia, several Pacific Islands, and Africa. It is also called the cannonball mangrove due to its round shape. It is used medicinally rather than in cooking and is sometimes used to treat dysentery, diarrhea, and other digestive issues.
The Yayat Palm is native to Brazil and Uruguay though they are today prevalent throughout South America and many southern states in the USA. They are often grown in the USA for their ornamental value though people often complain about the mess the abundance of fruit makes in their yard as the ripe fruit drops to the ground. They are occasionally used in jams and wine.
The Zawngtah is an unusual fruit growing in tropical regions. It is also called Bitter Bean or Stink Bean. It is a flat, long bean that contains seeds about the size and shape of almonds. Zawngtah are best used in savory foods due to their cumin-like flavor. It has long been a favorite among the Mizo people of Northeast India.
The Zebra Melon is native to Indonesia, and looks sort of like cantaloupe both inside and out. They are noted for being aromatic fruits with a sweet honeyed flavor. They are popular in Indonesia as they are inexpensive and a delicious snack on hot days.
The Zig Zag Vine is also known as the Drop Vine or Wild Banana. It grows in the rainforests of New Guinea, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Borneo, and Indonesia. The name comes from its unusual growing pattern of starting low on the tree and growing in somewhat of a zig zag path upward. The fruit tastes like a tangy orange sherbet, and it is often used to make liqueurs.
Zucchini are often thought of as a vegetable, but are in fact a fruit. They are a summer squash that is extremely versatile. While they are native to Central America and Mexico, zucchini grow well in your home garden in more temperate climates, but be careful to not let them grow too large (and they will) as the skin gets much harder and the seeds larger with too much growth. Zucchini are a healthy fruit with less than 5 calories per ounce and a lot of vitamins and minerals
The top consumed tropical fruits in the world are:
#1 Tomatoes (from South America which is tropical) at 182 million metric tons annually.
#2 Bananas at 116 million metric tons. Americans eat on average 27 pounds a year.
#3 Watermelon at 105 million metric tons.
#4 Oranges at 75 million metric tons.
#5 Mangoes at 40 million metric tons.