Tropical Fruits are juicy, sweet and remind us of our last holiday at the beach. Sun and summer, hot happy feelings ebb and flow when we think of Mango, Pineapple, and Papayas.
But these popular tropical fruits are just a fraction of what we know. There are countless quirky but super flavorful and natural sweet exotic fruits out there!
Where do tropical fruits come from?
Tropical or so-called exotic fruits come from places close to the equator, the tropical climate belt. The weather there is mostly warm or hot the whole year round with a humidity level higher than 65%. The seasons are limited to the hot or wet season (monsoon).
The tropical climate is completely frost free. This is why these exotic fruits can only grow in this particular climate.
Most well known tropical places/countries:
This is to give you an idea of which countries are known to have a tropical climate. Note that the list of tropical climate countries is larger.
- Caribbean islands
- Sri Lanka
Tropical fruits such as Bananas travel usually miles to get into your grocery basket. Yet, certain countries such as the US are lucky to have various climates in one country. So, for example, tropical fruits can be grown in Florida as well. That way the fruits don’t need to travel that far.
Traveling to discover tropical fruits!
Yet if the tropical fruits don’t come to you, why don’t you travel to the fruits?
There is a growing number of travelers (including myself) who travel not only to discover a place and it’s culture but also to get to know the local cuisine and the local produce.
And what better way then immersing yourself into the surrounding by tasting the gorgeous looking fruits from a bazaar somewhere in the Caribbeans or South East Asia?
Our forefathers were mesmerized by the exotic fruits which they discovered on their traveling trading adventures across the globe. Cashew, Cocoa (Chocolate), Tamarind and Chili traveled that way across the seas and each found a place somewhere else.
We just continue the quest for the grail of all tropical fruits, for the fruity aha effect which we oh so love each time we find something that the world needs to see!
The diversity of fruits and the fruit varieties might just be in jeopardy due to mass productions and laboratory altered seeds. Mother nature has much more to offer and fruit diversity might just turn into a new found passion for you.
List of tropical fruits with pictures
I reached out to travel blogger friends from all over the world and asked them to share their amazing tropical fruit discoveries. Little did I know that we would exceed our own expectations with some of the weirdest fruits having made an appearance.
This is not your usual list of tropical fruits. This is an ultimate collection of exotic fruits from the tropics. I am bound to update this “database” whenever someone shares a new fruit.
My traveling friends share their perspective and how they learned about the fruit in their picture. I also share all my fruits (most of which have been growing in our garden), you might recognize a few from my tropical garden part 1 and part 2.
Do you know all the tropical fruits? Which one is new to you? Is a fruit missing? Feel free to share with us your thoughts further below in the comment section!
Pomelo is a tropical citrus fruit, closely related to the grapefruit. The difference to the grapefruit is the size and flavor. Pomelo is the biggest citrus fruit in the world, it is as big as a football (if not bigger at times). The rind is very thick and sponge-like. The fruit flesh is not as juicy as a Grapefruit, in fact, the fruit pulp can be picked out by hand and it tastes rather mild compared to a Grapefruit.
In season from November to April.
Soursop (aka Graviola/Guyabano)
Soursop (aka Graviola, Guanabana) has gained wide popularity in the whole world over the years. Unfortunately not necessarily because of the taste but because a certain belief has been shared that the fruit can kill cancer cells. It’s utter nonsense, soursop hasn’t cured anyone of cancer yet. However, soursop is rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants so it can prevent corrupted cell formations in a body but then most fruits can do that. No matter what, one thing is certain, soursop tastes amazingly good! The cream-like grainy fruit flesh is like custard. In fact, soursop is related to sugar apple, Cherimoya and Bull’s Heart (The Custard apple family). You can make delicious fresh Soursop Juice for breakfast!
In season all year round.
Tamarind is a fruit that grows in interconnected pods, and with the shell covering the soft fruit flesh on the inside. The fruit flesh is extremely sour (that’s not an understatement) but kids love to pick them up and eat the fruits. Sometimes you will even notice monkeys and squirrels sitting on a tamarind tree eating the fruit flesh. Tamarind is turned into a fruit pulp which is used in various cuisines around the world. In Mexico, they prepare a Tamarindo cold beverage. In England, they created a Worcestershire Sauce with the Tamarind pulp. In Thailand, tamarind is essential for a good Pad Thai Sauce.
Tamarind is in season from January to April.
Mariza from hoponworld.com is a South African expat living in Taiwan. There she encountered a very unusual kind of tropical fruit, the Buddha’s Claws or Buddha’s Hands:
I spotted Buddha’s hand wandering the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam. At first glance, I wasn’t quite sure what they were, but I was very intrigued by awfully weird clawed fingered fruit. Surprisingly, Buddha’s hand is a citron fruit, belonging to the same family as pomelo and mandarins. The fruit is seedless, juiceless and has a similar tangy taste as a lemon. Although Buddha’s hand is not common outside South East Asia, it’s health benefits are endless making it one of the healthiest tropical fruits to include in your diet.
Tamarind Plum is a fruit I have personally never heard of before. Mike from 197TravelStamps.com came across these unique tropical fruits in his travels to the African continent. He explains:
The thing I love most about traveling to exotic places is that I always encounter new things. New flavors, tastes and smells. On a trip to Ganvie in Benin, a country in West Africa, I discovered something I hadn’t seen before. A woman on the market was selling some peculiar looking black fruits.
We had no idea what it was and just went ahead and bought a small bag. The outside of the grape sized fruits have a velvety skin and the inside has an orange color. At the hotel, we found out the name of the fruit: tamarind plum (or Dialium Indium). The fruit has a sweet-sour taste similar to tamarind – hence the name. The fruit is popular in West Africa and Southeast Asia.
Cucumber Tree Fruit
Cucumber Tree Fruit is also known as Bilimbi in Asia. This fruit is common in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Thailand. As the names suggest, it looks like a small cucumber, yet it grows on a tree and it’s not only juicy watery but also quite sour and therefore stuffed with Vitamin C. In Asia, this fruit is usually used in Curries as a souring agent besides turning it into a flavorful pickle.
The Tropical fruits grow two times a year. Season one is from March to June, Season two from September to December.
Sugar Apple (aka Custard Apple, Sweetsop)
The Custard/Sugar Apple, as the name suggests it, tastes and looks like custard on the inside! Elisabeth from DigitalTravelGuru.com explains:
Custard Apple – also known as sugar apple, sweetsop, and sitaphal. It is a subtropical fruit belonging to the Annonacea family. It is documented that the custard apple fruit was native to the West Indies and was carried to other countries such as Central America, Mexico and later brought to Africa and Asia by traders.
I first tried this fruit in (West Africa -Nigeria, and then during my travels in South India), it is a delicious fruit that looks green / orange on the outside, with a bumpy skin texture, it has black seeds inside like pods which are covered in a cream coloured soft fleshy like texture, the taste is very similar to custard and apple, hence the name it was given.
Sugar Apple is a winter fruit, it’s in season from October to February.
Bull’s Heart aka Wild Sweetsop
The Bull’s Heart is related to the Sugar Apple/Sweetsop (part of the Custard apple family) Cherimoya and the Soursop fruit. The Sugar apple and Bull’s Heart tree are almost identical from the looks so we thought we were growing a sugar apple tree. The doubts were cleared once the red Bull’s Heart’s fruits emerged. True to its name it is the size and shape of a bull’s heart, the flavor is more intense to the Custard apple but as custardy creamy as the relative. Bull’s Heart is also known as Wild Sweetsop.
Bull’s Heart is a winter fruit, it’s in season from October to February.
Java Plum (aka Black Plum, Jambul)
The Java Plum (also known as black plum or jambul) is the size of a bigger black grape variety but with the characteristics of a plum. A thin skin surrounding a juicy purple colored flesh is what makes the java plum so special. The fruit is sour bitter and sweet, depending on how ripe the fruit is. The riper it gets the darker the purple color appears. The Black Plum is most common in India, Indonesia and has been introduced to the USA as well. Kids love eating this fruit, not only because it tastes great, but because the jambul colors your tongue naturally purple. Java Plum Juice is a common way to enjoy the fruit.
The Java Plum is in season from May to July.
Sara from BeyondCruise.com shares the Mangosteen with us:
This small purple tropical fruit is an incredibly popular fruit in South-East Asia where crops thrive in the heat of the rainforests. It’s thick exterior breaks off in pieces to reveal a white lychee-like flesh that are segmented like an orange. It’s absolutely delicious and probably the best fruit I’ve ever had. Unfortunately for everyone who lives outside of South-East Asia, the mangosteen tree only grows in 40°C temperatures which means it’s hard to find almost anywhere else. I came across mangosteen on my travels in Thailand and I highly recommend you go and purchase a whole bag of them if you visit! The only other place I’ve been lucky enough to come across them in is one of the mega continental supermarkets of Dubai, where of course, they have to import basically everything!
In season when the monsoon begins, April to August, depending on the country.
The Breadfruit, related to jackfruit, commonly grows in the Caribbeans and in the Indian Subcontinent. The fruit is kind of spongy but goes into the direction of a starchy Potato. In fact, Breadfruit makes a great nutritious substitute for Potatoes. One grown-up tree can hold more than 100 fruits and each fruit can grow to the size of a bowling ball. That is why this fruit is important for food security in this world. Besides the breadfruit tastes amazing fried, boiled, roasted, grilled and even steamed!
Breadfruit can be harvested from March to July.
Snake Fruit (aka Salak)
Joshua from veggievagabond.com encountered the snake fruit on his travels:
Salak or snake fruit is found across South East Asia but it was in Java that we encountered this incredible fruit. It’s named snake fruit because of it’s scaly, waxy skin which really does resemble a snake – when you first see the fruit it’s easy to mistake it for an exotic animal or insect. Once you peel off the tough skin the yellowish inside almost resembles a small chestnut and has an amazingly unique taste. Depending on the season or where it’s grown some salak have a crunchier dry texture whilst others give a softer juicier experience. Either way the taste is fresh and fruity with some similarities to the taste of pineapple.
Salak is an brilliant food to carry on your travels as it keeps very well and because of it’s tough skin doesn’t ruin or bruise if it gets bashed in your bag. It also has high levels of fiber, vitamin C & A and is a natural diarrhoea remedy so keep a bunch of these guys closeby!
Salak is available all year round.
Kavita Favelle from kaveyeats.com discovered the Jujube Date on one of her trips to Thailand. She remembers:
When we were given a gift by a kindly market stall holder in Thailand, we had no idea what the plum-sized oval green tropical fruits he bagged up for us might be. I’d just bought some sweet and savoury pastries from his roadside stand, using a translation app on my phone to work out the different fillings, a hit and miss effort which made us both giggle. Biting into one of the green fruits revealed a crisp flesh that was mildly sweet, and reminded us of both apples and plums. We nicknamed the fruit “plapple”, a name I still think of them by! Luckily, staff back at our hotel identified the fruits by their local name, and Google quickly came to the rescue, revealing them to be jujube fruit. When fully ripe, they turn red and are softer and sweeter, but they are also popular when green and crisp like ours.
Dragon Fruit aka Pitaya
Dragon Fruits are also known as Pitaya. Those bright pink tropical fruits turn hotel breakfast buffet into a bright delight. On the inside, the dragon fruit can be plain white or just pink with little black seeds. This fruit looks amazing but the taste is usually rather bland.
Lisa from Culturalfoodies.com came across the beautiful dragon fruit on her travels across South America:
Dragon fruit is not only a stunning eye-catching deep color, but it is also good for your health! High in antioxidants and Vitamin C, this versatile fruit can be used in smoothies, eaten plain, or as the base of a pitaya bowl (similar to an acai bowl but instead of using acai berries as the base, the pitaya is blended and used as the base.)
Dragon Fruit is in season from June to December but because of its popularity, it is available all year round all over the world.
The Jackfruit is the largest fruit in the world! One fruit weighs about 20 kilograms on average but can weigh up to 40 kilograms (!) and can feed a whole family for days. When a jackfruit falls, it comes smashing down and it will damage any roof. The fruit pulp of a jackfruit smells like a banana and a pineapple mixed together, the flesh is rather unique in texture. The seeds can be compared to chestnuts and pretty much taste like chestnuts. Jackfruit seeds and pulp can be used in various ways in sweet and savory jackfruit meals.
The Jackfruit is in season from March to June.
Noel from TenThousandStrangers.com introduced me to Bignay and I bet you have never heard of this tropical fruit before. He explains:
Bignay is a very sour and small tropical fruit that grows abundantly in Central Luzon, one of the three main islands of the Philippines. The size is less than 10 millimeters in diameter and upon closer inspections, they look like miniature apples only there are in clusters like grapes. I grew up eating clusters of this fruit during summers and thought it grows solely in the Philippines until I later found out it is also grown in other Southeast Asian countries and even northern Australia.
It has the botanical name Antidesma bunius but also carries several English names such as Chinese laurel, current tree, and salamander tree.
In season February and March.
Jme from travelwithjmeandbryan.com came across this amazing fruit known as Rollinia:
The outside looks a bit like a hedgehog and the inside is white and creamy with large watermelon-like seeds and tastes like vanilla pudding. We also recently found this in madagascar as well, which we were so excited about since we’d not had it in more than 7 years!
Sara from BeyondCruise.com shares her favorite fruit, the Feijoa:
The feijoa is another one of my favourite tropical fruits and I always miss it when I’m away from my home country of New Zealand. Feijoas are the fruit of a small evergreen tree originally from South America although in New Zealand, they are also a popular fruit to grow at home in the warmer months. The flavour of a feijoa is unique but has the same grainy texture of a guava with a sweet jelly-like centre. The bright green fruit can vary in size from the size of a walnut to the size of an avocado if you’re lucky! It’s popular to eat the fruit on it’s own by slicing it in half and scooping out the centre like you would eat a kiwifruit but it also is popular in cakes, preserves or as an addition to an apple crumble.
Feijoa season is from March to June.
Guava is one of my favorite tropical fruits because it tastes heavenly good. The fruit comes in different shapes, variations, and colors. Guavas are stuffed with Vitamin C, Antioxidants and that is why it’s also known as a superfood. Guava is often while cooked to create the so-called Guava Cheese/Guava Paste, which is a vegan sweet delicacy in former Portugues colonies such as Brazil and Goa.
Guava is a winter fruit and is in season from November to April, making it the perfect source for Vitamin C during the darker cold winter days!
Elizabeth from elizabethskitchendiary.co.uk visited Aruba and shared her experience with a local fruit known as sea grapes:
While visiting the Caribbean island of Aruba, I discovered a lesser known delicacy: sea grapes. There’s a longstanding myth that these wild fruits are poisonous, but the truth is that sea grapes are perfectly edible and absolutely delicious. The berries turn dark burgundy when ripe between August and October, and although they contain mostly seed with very little fruit they taste wonderful – like the best tropical fruit juice you’ve ever tried. These fruits are not cultivated commercially as a foodstuff on the island, although I heard of one fellow who makes wine with them.
Chelsea discovered yellow watermelons when traveling to Taiwan! She says:
Yellow watermelon was incredibly sweet and light, and now I think I prefer it to regular red watermelon. I’ve been on the hunt for it in North America and have yet to find it on this continent.
Rambutan or Chom Chom Fruit
Rambutan (aka Chom Chom Fruit in Vietnam) is closely related to Lychees and is another popularized so-called superfruit in the West. Mariza has encountered rambutan in Taiwan amongst other tropical fruits there.
Rambutans might look a bit scary at first sight, but you are bound to be hooked after the first bite! They are basically a kind of hairy lychee, just bigger and better! And by better, I mean much sweeter. They originated in Malaysia, but are quite common throughout South East Asia. I tried them in Vietnam for the first time, where locals refer to them as Chôm Chôm; meaning “messy hair.” Quite a fitting name!
In season from May to August.
Hog Plum / Spondias Plum varieties
The Hog Plum is a variety of Spondias Plums native to the Indian Subcontinent and South East Asia. So besides the Spondias tropical fruits seen in the picture, which I used in a hog plum curry, you will have come across other Spondias plums such as the June Plum native to Sri Lanka where it is better known as Ambarella. Natalie from apairoftravelpants.com came across the June Plum in Sri Lanka, she remembers:
Ambarella is a small tree fruit grown in the tropics. It is similar in flavor to a mango, but has a crunchier texture. When we went to Sri Lanka, we tried it in a curry and it was delightful. The fruit softened into little pillow-y dumplings with a slightly sweet and sour aftertaste. Prior to going to Sri Lanka, I’d never heard of this fruit! It’s grown in tropical areas around the world and after a quick Wikipedia lookup, it seems that cultures the world over prepare this fruit quite differently. The ambarella curry was delicious, and we thoroughly enjoyed giving it a try, but haven’t seen it since we left Southern Asia!
Hog Plums are usually in season during rainy seasons from June to October.
This is another fruit I hadn’t encountered yet. Lulo is common in South America. Evelyne from cultureatz.com enjoyed Lulo while cruising through Columbia, Panama and Costa Rica:
One of my greatest pleasures in life is discovering and tasting exotic fruits. And I definitely got my fill of new fruit discoveries in Colombia! One such fruit was the Lulo. Cute name, right? The Lulo is indigenous to South America, specifically to Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador. Actually, it is called Lulo in Colombia but naranjilla in the two latter countries.
The Lulo kind of looks like a tomato, with a similar smooth skin, but it is a very bright orange color. The inside is light green and yellow, and the taste is sweet and tart, like a citrus and pineapple mix. It is very fragile and not suitable for export. I enjoyed it in the most traditional way as that the locals do: freshly blitzed in a tall glass in a hole in the wall juice bar.
Bael Fruit (aka Bel, Wood Apple)
The Bael/Bel fruit is native to the Indian subcontinent. Anuradha from inditales.com explains:
Bel Fruit also called wood apple is a fruit that happens abundantly in foothills of the Himalayas in peak summers. Hard outside and pulpy yellow inside, it is a favorite to make cool summer drinks. It takes a bit of skill to open it and once it is opened to manage its pulp. Mix a bit of sugar or salt, few seconds in a mixer – whatever you like and you have a cool drink ready. Mostly Bel Fruit is big to say the size that fills your both hands, but the wild ones are small – may be the size of a cricket ball.
Durian is related to the jackfruit and Breadfruit but it’s nothing like the two other tropical fruits. Some people say it stinks, so either you love it or you hate it. Bino from Singapore shares:
I encountered durian in Singapore where many people are crazy about it. Even in hotels where it may otherwise be banned, in Singapore, it is actually welcomed. Other than the fruit itself, the durian is also being offered as cake, ice cream, candy and even as jam. When the durian season is at its peak, some hotel restaurants actually offer a “durian buffet” which is essentially a buffet made up of various sweets, pastries as well as the actual durian fruit.
Durian season is from June to August.
Cashew fruits are not that well known compared to the beloved cashew seeds. While it’s easy to transport cashew seeds, once they have been arduously removed from the green raw tar-like skin, it is almost impossible to move the fragile tropical fruits from A to B without damaging the soft orange and yellow skin and pulp. The fruit can be turned into an alcohol or usually, it’s left with some salt in the sun before being enjoyed raw. Uses for cashew fruits are limited, however, try to taste one raw whenever you get a chance!
In season from March to June.
Kokum is related to the Purple Mangosteen and it’s kind of a tropical plum. The fruit comes from and is mostly used in India for culinary and medicinal purposes. However, people don’t just bite into the tropical fruits as it has a thick skin. The fruit skin is separated from the pulp and left to dry in the sun. This skin is then used as a delicious souring and coloring agent (purple/pink) for stir fries and curries as in this Okra stir fry here.
In season from March to June.
Purple Star Fruit
Carlita from carlita.me came across this unusual tropical fruit in her travels:
During my trip to Vietnam in 2017 I encountered an amazingly tasty fresh fruit known as the purple star apple. We were served this fruit during our tour of the Mekong Delta on Unicorn Island. The fruit is best served chilled during dessert and has a mildly sweet taste with a crispy texture.
Amla aka Indian Gooseberry
Amla is one of those tropical fruits which cannot be consumed raw. The ayurvedic fruit is kind of weird but known to help all kinds of ailments and Garnier has even included it into its shampoo product line in Europe. It tastes sweet, sour, astringent, bitter and quite pungent and this is the fruit with the highest concentration of Vitamin C (that’s why you can’t consume it raw).
In season from October to April, so far only known to grow in India.
This fruit has two names and comes in all kinds of colors, In the West, it’s known as Maracuja in the East, where it grows as well, it’s known as Passion Fruit. The fruit comes in Purple, Yellow or Orange and it has seeds on the inside which are edible as well. In fact. I made a passion fruit strawberry jam once with it.
Lisa from culturalfoodies.com came across beautiful Maracuja/Passion Fruits. She says:
In May of 2017 I visited Colombia and traveled around several regions within the country. The city where I found the most interesting fruit was in Medellin, the former drug capital of the world. The maracuya (passion fruit) is a very commonly grown fruit in Colombia, and has a sweet/tart flavor with lots of seeds.
In season all year round.
Sapodilla (aka Zapota, Chikoo)
Sapodilla has many names in this world because this tropical fruit from the new world was introduced by the Spanish and Portuguese when they colonized the globe. So you will find different sapodilla varieties all over, some being more yellow and others dark brown, and the shapes might vary as well from round to oval. People call it zapote, zapota, chikoo, naseberry, nispero among many other names. The tree produced a glue-like substance which can be used as natural (super sticky) glue. The fruit itself is sweet, and depending on the variety, might taste like caramel. I like to make a Sapodilla Milkshake.
In season all year round.
These are quite some tropical fruits. Did you know them all? Have you discovered new tropical fruits? Are you planning on traveling so to try new fruits? Let us know in the comment section further below!
By the way, Priya from the Photo Wali Blog encountered cactus fruits in India. Those don’t grow in the tropics, in fact, the opposite, cactus fruits grow in arid areas of the world. They are quite exotic, and juicy as well yet I don’t think I will be compiling a post about dessert fruits that’s why I thought I would just quickly share this interesting fruit here at the end. Write me a mail if you know a couple of edible fruits growing in the desserts and I might reconsider a post.
Priya shared the following:
I came across the pretty, pinkish-red fruits of the cactus at a stall at the International Kite Festival in India. Cactus fruits, also called Cactus Pears or Prickly Pears, are not only edible but filled with health benefits. These fruits have a lovely sweet-sour taste to them, making them ideal candidates for making juices and jams.