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For summer, a banquet of exotic fresh fruits: Bring travel back home
So you're at home this summer. Your vacation budget is bust. Sure, there are backyard barbeques with friends and family stretching out into summer, but that tropical vacation feels long gone.
Or perhaps, you have never been on a tropical vacation. Perhaps a tropical fruit to you is the canned version of Dole pineapple--the one that waits in your kitchen cabinet.
Hop to it. An exotic experience might be as close as your neighborhood grocery store. As you browse the fruit, section buy those that you haven't tried before.
Perhaps, they are the odd looking ones. Go head. Pick one up. If you're heading to a barbeque, bring some with you and give your friends a geography lesson with the bounty. If you're a parent, pull out a geography book and give your kids a taste of the world.
Here are suggestions and countries where such tastes can be had. I found them in local markets where I've lived and traveled, and some of them, in my own backyard.
1. Last year we purchased three dragon fruits in Chinatown in New York City. Dragon fruits, a nickname for pitaya, are cultivated in Vietnam, among other places. Those three brought back memories of our pleasures of first trying them on our first Vietnam visit. Even though I've had them elsewhere, I attach them to this Vietnam experience.
2. In Bangkok, we head straight to the fresh coconut stand across from the Regency Park where we always stay. The vendors cut off the tops of coconuts, add a hole and slip in a straw. Sucking out fresh coconut juice is one of my daughter's favorite treats.
3. Taiwan was the first place I ate a star fruit. A friend of mine had carefully cut one of these slightly sweet fruits into star-shaped slices and arranged them on a plate for a lunchtime dish.
4. Also in Taiwan, on a bus ride to Taroko Gorge, I ate an Asian pear for the first time at a rest stop. The crunchy, refreshing taste is distinct from the pears grown in the U.S. They're like apples, but not quite.
5. In the Gambia, I was greeted each morning during the rainy season by a tree filled with mangoes that created welcome shade in my backyard. With lack of refrigeration, I ate mangoes morning, noon and night and made mango jam, mango bread and added mango slices to oatmeal. Since the season for that tree was so short, I didn't have time to get tired of them. Not all mangoes are the same. I prefer the ones with juicy flesh and very little strings to get caught in my teeth.
6. If you've ever eaten bananas where they are grown, particularly the red ones that are not much bigger than a fat finger, you'll have a hard time adjusting to the Cavendish variety most common to grocery stores. The Gambia also was a worthy introduction into banana wealth.
7. Also, in the Gambia, papaya trees were one of the easiest fruit trees to grow. Thus, papayas were everywhere, and almost all year long. Although I like them, I suggest squirting a bit of lime on your slice to add a bit of zip to the flavor.
8. The first time I ate a pomelo, my great aunt and uncle brought one back from California. As a young girl, the size amazed me. It's the largest citrus fruit there is. Before I ate it, I took it to school for show and tell.
9. Singapore is a fruit lovers delight. Even though we had a durian tree in our backyard, we let other people have the fruit that is so stinky it's banned on subways. I have had durian ice cream and found it appealing.
10. I first developed a taste for rambutans that we bought from the market in Singapore. One isn't enough.
Of course, if you happen to live in the tropics, relish what you have. You're lucky. You get the goods fresh off the trees.