Take your taste buds on a tropical fruit trip with this tasty fruit dip

Farm Forum

“Try this miracle fruit,” our tour leader said as he plucked a few red berries from a shrublike plant in Costa Rica and began peeling the outer skin.

I watched carefully as he peeled the small red berry to reveal a white inner seed. We all began swirling the seeds in our mouths like cough drops.

“When you taste this lime, it will taste sweet,” he added. I was skeptical, but feeling adventuresome. Maybe the altitude was affecting my reasoning ability.

The seed really didn’t taste like anything. However, when I tasted the lime, the typically mouth-puckering fruit was as sweet as candy.

I decided I would do some investigation about what causes this change. The miracle fruit (that’s really its name) affects our taste buds and perception of sweet and sour because it contains a “glycoprotein” (sugar-protein). The glycoprotein does not change the acidity of the food.

Miracle fruit was just one of the many tropical fruits I tried. In fact, I really had not thought too much about the origin of some of the fruits that we can buy at times in our local grocery stores.

Costa Rica produces a wide range of fruits, including bananas, mangos, pineapples and papaya. We were served plates of tropical fruit or glasses of fresh-squeezed fruit juice at almost every meal, along with plenty of beans and rice.

I really never had thought about what type of shrub or tree produces some of these fruits, so that was eye-opening. Some of these fruits grow on bushes, close to the ground, while others grew high in the trees.

I admit I wasn’t sure where to look when someone said, “Look at all the mangos!” They were high in a tree above a house. I also noted that tropical houseplants such as the foot-tall ones I have at home towered over my head when they were in their natural element in Costa Rica. Amaryllis plants grew like wild plants on the slopes of hills.

Here’s a little quiz. Name the fruit that I am describing with the clues listed below. These are all available in Midwestern grocery stores.

Question 1: This popular fruit grows on a tall tree. Each fruit is considered a “finger,” and a group of the fruits is called a “hand.” They are inexpensive and readily available. The creamy white interior is rich in potassium, which we need for muscle contraction and nerve impulses. It provides complex carbohydrates and serves as a quick source of fuel in its own biodegradable yellow wrapper. If you have a pet monkey, you might want to watch these fruits closely. What is it?

Question 2: This fruit is similar in appearance but is less sweet than its “cousin” described in Question 1. It is starchy, with a neutral taste similar to a potato. It often is served with a sweet glaze. What is it?

Question 3: This fruit has sweet and sour flavors and is greenish-yellow, usually with five distinctive ridges. It can be eaten raw or used in cooking. When you slice it open, its shape may remind you of the nighttime sky. What is it?

Question 4: This tropical fruit grows on trees up to 130 feet tall. It is oval to round, with a smooth outer skin that ripens from green to golden yellow to red, depending on the type. It is a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, and several other vitamins and minerals. (Hint: I mentioned it earlier.) What is it?

Question 5: This fruit grows on waxy, long leaves, sometimes fairly close to the ground. If you add this raw fruit to Jello, the natural enzyme bromelain will cause the gelatin to become watery. Use the canned chunks or tidbits in gelatin salads. This fruit is an excellent source of vitamins C and A, along with minerals. What is it?

How did you do? The answers are 1. banana; 2. plantain; 3. star fruit or carambola; 4. mango; 5. pineapple.

We also learned about guava, nanzi, guava or “cas,” anona, guanabana, papaya and several other fruits I never had encountered. One smelled like rotten cheese, so I politely declined the opportunity to taste it after seeing the scowling faces of those who took a bite.

We all have our own “local foods,” depending on the climate and growing season. We grow many fruits and vegetables in our area, but we also import many, which adds variety to all of our diets. Fruits and vegetables of all types have many health benefits.

We all should aim to fill half of our plates with fruits and vegetables, according to current dietary guidelines. Adults, on average, should aim to consume at least 41/2 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with other healthful foods, may help prevent cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases.

Because gardening season is close at hand, visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/fieldtofork to learn more about growing, preparing and preserving many fruits and vegetables that grow well in our area. To add a little variety, pick up an unfamiliar fruit now and then at the supermarket.

Here’s a tasty dip that goes well with a variety of fruit. You can use any type of sour cream or yogurt; the nutritional analysis is based on lower-fat, lower-calories types.

Tropical Fruit Dip

2 c. sour cream, reduced-fat

1 (8-ounce) container low-fat yogurt (vanilla or your favorite fruit flavor)

4 Tbsp. vanilla instant pudding (about half of a 31/2-ounce package)

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly and chill. Makes 12 servings, about 1/4 cup each. Each serving has 90 calories, 5 g (grams) fat, 3 g protein, 8 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber and 105 milligrams sodium.