Freaky fruit: Nature's weird and exotic foods

buddha's hand (kaldian), miracle berries (Hamale Lyman), durian (AFP), pluot (BMRR)

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British consumers have a new treat: the "papple". Described as a cross between an apple and a pear, it is actually a cross between different pear varieties. But it is just one of an array of oddly shaped, strangely flavoured and strikingly colourful fruits grown around the world.

For centuries, humans have taken the wild fruit that nature has to offer and cultivated its most desirable features by cross-breeding different varieties, or by simply selecting the best fruits of a native variety to seed another crop.

Here are some of the most tempting and bizarre results.

Pluots, plumcots and apriums

Fruity mash-ups:

Lemon
  • Lemons: Originating in India, lemons are a natural hybrid of a citron and an orange. Use them to make homemade mint lemonade
  • Grapefruit: Created by happy accident when an Asian pomelo tree was transported to a Barbados glasshouse. It naturally hybridised with a native sweet orange producing what was called at the time, the "forbidden fruit". Use it to create a devilled mackerel with orange and grapefruit salad
  • Loganberry : Dark red, large and juicy, this berry is a child of the raspberry and wild blackberry. This is perfect in a summer pudding
  • Yuzu: a Japanese citron hybrid that is very acidic, so used in moderation. The lemon-lime sour flavour has hints of tangerine and pine. It's a key ingredient in chicken goujons with yuzu mayonnaise

The pluot, the plumcot, the apriplum and the aprium are all types of what Americans call "interspecific plums".

Hybrids between different prunus species, they tend to have a much higher sugar content than their parents.

Half plum and half apricot, the plumcot hybrid was named by the botanical pioneer Luther Burbank in the early 20th Century, who created 11 varieties of plumcot.

Sometimes called apriplums, plumcots are a first generation cross between a plum and an apricot. They are shaped like plums with a smooth skin and typically have a red or purple flesh.

By contrast, pluots and apriums are complex combinations of later generations and are trademarks of fruit geneticist, Floyd Zaiger's company.

Whereas pluots are mostly plum with a smooth skin and a fleshy core, apriums are mostly apricot, resembling their dominant ancestor from the outside.

They have a flavour that has been compared to a sweet blend of fruit juices.

Buddha's hand

Buddha's hand fruit

Buddha's hand originates from north-eastern India or China and is one of the oldest known citrus fruits in cultivation.

With its long protruding fingers and thick rind, this strongly scented fruit has no internal flesh and is considered inedible in many parts of the world.

The plant produces dark green foliage and small white flowers with a heady scent of citrus blossom which fruits from late spring to late summer. It can be grown in a well-drained pot or in a sheltered area outdoors.

In China the fruit has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb to treat indigestion and sore throats. It can also be used in marmalades and to flavour sweet and savoury dishes. The Chinese also pickle the fruit in salt to remove its bitterness and then wash it, steam and dry it, so that it can be candied in a similar way to lemon zest.

Buddha's hand symbolises happiness and a long life in China and is traditionally given as a New Year's offering to household gods.

Durian

It is known for its pungent aroma, which is loved by some and loathed by others. But it's not just the smell that keeps people away from this fruit, which is native to south-east Asia.

It's also hard to get close to the edible flesh of the durian fruit due to its spiky exterior, making it difficult to handle if you don't know how.

In countries like Malaysia where it is found, it has been nicknamed the "king of fruit" because its flesh has a complex taste, which is said to be similar to caramel and fine French cheese.

The BBC's Juliana Liu demonstrates how to eat a Durian

In fact food journalist Fuchsia Dunlop, a self-confessed "fan of durian" says it has a "bewitching succulence".

There are 30 described species, and it is rich in potassium as well as other minerals and vitamins. It actually has the same nutritional and bio active properties as avocado and mango, and can be recommended as part of disease-preventative diets, a study in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology found.

Australian finger limes

Australian finger lime

If you've ever seen what looks like green caviar, chances are it's the fruit of microcitrus australasica.

The delicacy is also known as "citrus caviar", the juicy spheres are full of lime flavour, and "pop" in you mouth when eaten.

From the outside, finger limes look longer than traditional limes and are shaped like gherkins.

They come in an array of colours, not just green, but also black, orange, yellow and pink.

Discovered by early settlers, the finger lime is now commercially cultivated in Australia and in the United States as demand for "gourmet bush tucker" grows.

Top chefs and mixologists have begun incorporating the fruit in dishes and drinks around the world.

Miracle berry

Miracle berry plant

The miracle berry plant originates in Ghana, West Africa where it has been grown for centuries.

The plant is better known for its taste enhancing berries which make sour or bland foods taste sweeter after eating.

The effect is produced by the glycoprotein miraculin contained within the flesh of the fruit, which tricks the tongue's taste-bud receptors into experiencing a much sweeter flavour.

The "sugar hit" is said to last between 30 minutes to an hour after eating.

In 1968 an attempt was made to extract and sell the plant's miraculin protein in tablet form.

However, in the 1970s the US Food and Drug Administration put a ban on the commercialisation of the berry until further research was carried out.

The miracle berry has no legal status in the EU but is sold in tablet form as a dietary supplement in the US. In Japan, the berry is popular amongst dieters who use it as a sweetener in rosehip tea and desserts such as lemon gelato.

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