BY WENDY HUNG
Just this morning, I had the most amazing breakfast: all fresh from this season. On my plate were: a green orange, a giant persimmon, an even bigger pomegranate and a luscious dragon fruit. That’s only a smidget of what I grew up eating.
Taiwan isn’t known as “The Fruit Kingdom” for nothing. Although a high percentage of fruit vendors sell imported produce, Taiwan is naturally a subtropical zone and an ideal land for growing all kinds of tropical fruits. With mountains 4,000 meters above sea-level, and breezy cool climates from such mountains; Taiwan is a tropical island perfect for temperate-zone fruits as well.
So the next time you visit Taipei, don’t just indulge in what you know. Taste all that Mother Earth has granted this small but gorgeous island. Guavas, mangos, lychees, papayas are just for rookies! Here’s a colorful list of all things you must try on your next big trip to my fruity island!
1. Shoot for the stars with Star Fruits
They have a slightly waxy skin with crunchy flesh. Although it contains lots of juice, it lacks fiber. The sugary taste isn’t overpowering, at times, I would venture and say it tastes…salty. But definitely worth a few experimental slices!
2. Sweet and adorable Wax Apples
They’re shaped like bells and each fits perfectly into any palm. They’re sugary and absolutely delicious. Look for “black pearls” wax apples, they are the most sought-after kind (with a purplish-red color) and can only be found in Taiwan.
3. Don’t envy, eat Green Mangos
Smaller than typical red mangos, they’re also sweeter, containing a lot of juice. It’s the perfect summer fruit to chew on but be careful, it can get real messy!
4. Sugar-Apples, aka, “Buddha’s Head”
Because they’re shaped like it! They are fragrant and sweet. Insides are custardy, creamy, and filled with seeds. They are delectable summer-to-autumn fruits, take a spoon and just go for it!
5. Go easy breezy with Yellow Watermelons
They’re lighter and more fragrant than red watermelons. In Mandarin, we call them “jade watermelons” because of the color resembling an emperor’s robe. Must note: these make great smoothies as well!
6. Milk Pineapples are a special breed
No, it’s not really milk with pineapple, but it sure is high quality and absolutely delightful! The meat inside is pearly white, with a sweet and light smell. You’ve got to try it to believe it.
7. Guavas exist all over, but the ones in Taiwan are particularly sweet
If you are lucky enough to find ones that are pink inside, they are even sweeter. Some texture are crispier or mushier than others, and sizes vary as well. But they’re all over, many Taiwanese plant guava trees (instead of apple) in their backyards!
8. Same with Papayas…
Again, also prevalent in other countries. But the ones in Taiwan are more sugary and some have rouge flesh. Unlike in Thailand where green papayas are used for salads, Taiwanese papayas are perfect for creamy smoothies or they’re completely amazing on their own as a fruity snack.
9. Durians are smelly but they are indeed the king of all fruits
Spiky like porcupines on the outside. If you can get past the revolting smell, the insides are sweet like honey. They make the perfect frozen ice cream. Don’t be an ignorant traveler and make disgusting faces as you walk by a stand. Try first, then judge.
10. Dragon Fruits are gems!
They look like fireballs on the outside but offer breezy, fresh bites of summer goodness. Make sure to peel the pink skin off, then dive into an interior of polka-dots. They make gorgeous summer salads as well!
11. Muskmelons whiff of the garden
Taiwanese like to slice these babies up after heavy meals as a refreshing replacement for chocolates or cakes. Muskmelons in Taiwan have smooth skins and each comes in the size of a fist. Much smaller but just as sweet.
12. Loquats taste like graceful combos of: peaches, citruses and mangos
Imagine that! Also called, pipa (No, not Middleton) have yellow to orange skins, which are quite thin and need to be peeled off. They also make yummy jams and chutneys.
13. Pomelos are Mr. Populars during Moon Festival every early autumn
They’re the largest citrus fruits and are typically seen in pale green to yellow when ripe. The skin is quite thick so it takes a village and a half to peel but the flesh is white and incredibly delish. Worth the peeling effort for sure!
14. Longans, also known as, dragon eyes. They’re little ‘bros to lychees!
Darker shells, smaller in size, super sweet flesh with pinball-size seeds (hence, dragon eyes). Just like their older brothers, lychees, longans are beyond delicious and to-die-for. Dried longan also make gorgeous soups and hot teas.
15. Jujube are basically what people call dates, but better, which means…
…They’re not dried! The actual fruits that make dates are even tastier than apples. Crisp, fresh, light, juicy. I can live on them for months!
16. “Beauty Tangerines” are no ordinary citruses
They are larger than tangerines in the U.S., and totally sweeter than any other regular oranges. The skins are thicker, but easy to peel. Best part: no seeds! If so, very little.
17. Lychee (not from a can) are naturally sweet and juicy. I emphasize, naturally…not.from.a.can.
Unlike the ones we’re used to seeing in martinis now, they’re transparent if purchased fresh from the market. The taste is delicate and the smell is lovingly floral. They’re the perfect summer treats!
18. Asian pears usually have brown or yellow skin, and they’re not used in pies!!
Because of their high water content and crisp, grainy textures, they’re normally served raw and that’s the only way you’ll want to appreciate them.
19. Sapodillas are called “people heart fruits” (人心果) by locals because of their hearty shapes
With 2-5 seeds inside, they taste like extremely ripe pears. Dried sapodillas by themselves or made into cakes are quite popular. They’re intense and make for perfect afternoon snacks.
20. Sugar canes make the best fresh juices!
You can easily find them at street vendors or local markets. After the seller shaves off the purple bamboo skin, he’ll also chop them into stick-like pieces so you can chew, suck up all the juices then spit out the dry parts. So local, but that’s the way you gotta do it!