Summer Splurge: Exotic In-Season Fruits

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If the fruit in your diet consists of the same boring basics, and you’re willing to spend a few dollars more, the spring and summer are the time to tingle your taste buds with new healthy choices.

Farmer’s market apples in the fall and clementines in the winter come cheap, but spring and summer bring a number of fragrant and flavorful, though a bit more expensive, tropical fruits.

Cracking Open the Mangosteen
Not actually a relative of the mango, the mangosteen has a thick, dark purple skin with juice that’s nearly as red and staining as beets. You’ll have to score the skin to peel it off and get to the sweet, fruity, flowery and juicy inside, consisting of slimy, white segments. It’s packed with antioxidants, so it’s well worth the work.

Native to Indonesia, but now grown in South America and other regions with warm climates year-round, the mangosteen was banned from import to the United States until the summer of 2007 because of Asian fruit fly concerns, which have since been assuaged by irradiation and fumigation measures.

Now even Snapple (Stock Quote: DPS) is touting the “immunity-building” properties of the mangosteen with its Snapple Peach Mangosteen Juice Drink. If you're hesitant to go all in, the drink could make for a gentle introduction to what's known as the “queen of fruits” in southeast Asia.

While a bottle of Snapple is around $1, a 32-ounce bottle of the pure juice could run you about $15.

If you want to try the fruit fresh, be prepared to pay significantly more than what you pay for a more common antioxidant-rich super food, the raspberry.  Mangosteens generally cost about $4 each for a thick-skinned, tangerine-sized fruit while they’re in season from mid-April to August. Meanwhile, a full pound of raspberries during their peak from June to September costs about $3, according to Melissa’s, the largest distributor of specialty produce in the U.S.

Under the Skin of a Rambutan
The rambutan may look a little hairy and scary, but underneath the red skin and green tentacles is a vitamin-C rich, mildly sweet fruit similar to the lychee, with a hit of natural grape flavor and a firmer feel.

Canned rambutans are available in ethnic supermarkets, and when peeled and stuffed with pineapples they are a luscious addition to your summer barbecue.

The fresh rambutan is in season throughout the spring, summer and fall, but expect to pay about ten times more for rambutans than you’d pay for common red grapes.  This tropical fruit can cost as much as $10 per pound in some supermarkets, compared with 99 cents a pound for red grapes during their peak season in July.

Luckily ,syrup-drenched canned rambutans aren’t likely to cost you more than $2 or $3, just a little more than you’d pay for early season red grapes at around $1.99 a pound, according to Melissa’s.

More than Just Strawberries
Nutrition experts say that choosing fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors is a great way to get a range of the vitamins you need.

Strawberry heirloom peaches are named for their deep-red flesh. This stone fruit and its candy-sweet fragrance is only in season for a few weeks in late July so they may be much pricier than regular peaches.


Also known for its deep-strawberry color is the strawberry papaya.  While orange-fleshed papayas were once the most popular version of the tropical fruit in the U.S., the strawberry papaya has gained popularity, says Melissa’s spokesman Robert Schueller, and it’s available year-round. 

Papayas contain protein-digesting enzymes, making them a great meal-ender, especially if you’re having a barbecue. 

On average, football-sized strawberry papayas are sold for about $2.25 each.  That’s about what you’d pay for a decent-sized watermelon and a bit more than the $1.50 per pound you’d pay for actual strawberries during their peak season from April to July.

Baby Pineapples: Smaller and Sweeter
Sugary-sweet pineapples are great on the grill, and the South African baby pineapple is so sweet that it’ll reach your taste buds before you cut it open.  (If the bottom of a pineapple smells sweet, it’s ripe.)  And pineapples are high in fiber and provide vitamin C, potassium and digestive enzymes as well.

The six-ounce South African baby pineapple, available year-round, costs between $1.99 to $2.49 each.  It’s more expensive per pound than what you’d pay for an average, three-pound golden pineapple, $5.99 to $6.99, but since it has no core and it’s the perfect single-serving size, it’s not as hard to cut and there's not as much waste.


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