I don’t know. Try it.
Every once in a while, someone would give us something to eat in Asia, and we wouldn’t know exactly what it was. It could be identified as a chip-type snack, or a meat product, or a fruit or vegetable, but we wouldn’t know the name or what the flavor would be. For the kid who wouldn’t eat green things growing up, this was a challenge.
I am a big fan of the seasonal way they eat in China, especially the fruits. Little oranges in winter, perfect Dandong strawberries in spring, gorgeous peaches and expensive cherries in summer, crisp and just sweet enough apples and pears in fall, etc. There are also giant pomegranates, sweet grapes, different watermelons, colorful tomatoes (yes, fruit), persimmons, blueberries, clementines, big and small bananas, pomelo and all manner of citrus, passionfruit and more. I’ve eaten lychee, longan, mangosteen, Hami melon, berries I don’t know the name of, kumquat, hawthorn, apple pears, star fruit, yangmei, durian, rambutan, jackfruit, dragonfruit and loquats. Loquats are, by far, my favorite. I have not tried the reptilian-like custard apples or bitter cucumber fruit, but there is still time. There is still time for quite a few tries. And these are just the fruits! We benefit from what is grown in China, and also what is easily and quickly imported from India, the Philippines, Thailand and beyond.
Over the years, Chinese friends have introduced me to many Asian fruits and snacks. They can usually tell me the name in English, but maybe not. At home, T asks, “What is it?” Then I say, “I don’t know. Try it.” That’s how it often goes when people try new things. Sometimes, you like it. Sometimes, you don’t. Sometimes, you’ll discover a new favorite that you will crave when you can’t find it anymore.
Join me in this taste test of two Asian fruits. To begin, we have a small melon. It is about four inches wide and tall, with a thin, variegated, edible skin. It grows on a vine and ripens in July/August. The only English names I could find were green melon or Asian green melon. Many eat it like an apple, or you can skin it and seed it too. On the inside, the fruit is pretty green with a pale, seeded center. It is soft with just a slight bite to it. It tastes a bit like honeydew, but not that hard, out of season honeydew you get at salad buffets and breakfast meetings. It tastes like sun-ripened piece of summer.
Second, we have a small snacking fruit called husk cherry, husk tomato, husk cherry tomato, physalis, ground cherry, cape gooseberry, and a cousin to the tomatillo. They turn yellow and are harvested from the ground once they fall. Easily peel the thin, papery husk away from the fruit and chomp. One bite. The skin has the texture of a cherry tomato, though the inside is thicker than one. They have an interesting flavor that varies on your tongue between sweet and savory. Perhaps depending on when you buy them, they might be sweeter or more savory. They are perfectly good to snack on, and I’m imagining the more savory ones in a breakfast casserole with sausage and egg and some herbs I haven’t decided on yet.
That’s it for our latest installment of “What Is It? I Don’t Know. Try It.” Enjoy.
For a funny view on Asian fruits, check out the Fung Brothers video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgfegiWS3Ds