While looking for cheer and how to spread it this year, I’ve keep returning to Melissa’s exotic fruit baskets. Opening up the box without a hint of what lay inside was like finding buried treasure. The lush wrapping barely disguised perfectly arranged gems grown from international species. Since we can’t travel right now and miss our families dearly, I’m playing Santa and sending the delicious collections this year. It’s such a giggle to imagine my son biting into a tropical papaya while it’s snowing outside.
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Being home bound for the holidays has been hard for this travel addict too, so I’ve been traveling virtually to each of the world’s regions these intriguing and tasty fruits come from, but first…
An Exotic Fruit Basket for a Very Special Person
You might not think an exotic fruit basket is romantic, but my sweetheart was so tickled with this anniversary gift. Going out to dinner or reserving a weekend away wasn’t going to happen but this bounty distracted us nicely. An exquisite bottle of Napa Valley wine nestled in the basket too. We saved the Yao Ming Cabernet for dinner before our fruit dessert. After dinner we fed each other creamy cherimoya and reminisced. Each bite from the exotic fruit basket reminded us of loading up plates full of tropical delicacies before morning dives in warm and distant tropical waters.
Find recipes from this earlier post about Melissa’s fruits
New Zealand’s Chinese Gooseberries Reclaimed
Kiwi are one of my favorite fruits. The fuzzy, little orbs ripen well at and hide succulent, green centers. Juicy slices have a sweet, tart release. They’re a wonderful snack. Originally called Gooseberries and enjoyed in China for centuries they’ve had a rocky route to western markets. A school teacher, Mary Isabel Fraser, brought some seeds home to New Zealand in 1904 but the fruit was slow to mature. After many unsuccessful attempts in the UK and US, an exporter rebranded them as Kiwi Fruit and since the 1970’s the fuzzy fruit is in demand across the globe.
The Taste of Aloha
Pink Papaya is one of my passions and each bite takes me back to carefree trips to the islands. I was introduced to them as a reluctant teenager on a Maui family vacation. My ungrateful mood lifted with every bite. Now it’s wonderful to have them delivered in winter. Usually I find it hard to be patient and let the green skin soften to a golden glow but not this time. Melissa ships its fruit ready-to-eat.
Ruby Citrus from Spain
Of course, blood oranges remind me of Spain. They were originally nurtured in the southern Mediterranean. I remember strolling to a Granada hilltop park where I paused for sunset. Peeling a blood orange while a band of gypsy guitarists played nearby is one of my favorite memories. Each time I bite into a blood orange I can almost hear them again. (You can read more about that earlier adventure here.
While international travel has been curtailed countries are opening up and Thailand is welcoming visitors again. Here are a few food tours to consider when you plan to travel there.
Spicy Thai Salads
Kumquats are always welcome here. I rarely find them in local markets but love to garnish salads and drinks with the thinly sliced and bright rounds. I was introduced to them at a Koh Tao café, in the south of Thailand, tossed into a salad with sprouts and greens. They say the first time is the best but I beg to differ since Melissa’s make that memory fade and the bunch aged well.
Mad for Mangoes
Mangoes are one of the most sensuous fruits. Melissa’s mangoes were immense and cut easily into perfect morsels of sweet bliss. I try to buy them locally but they’re often full of fiber or never ripen because they have been harvested too early. We slice them carefully in two sections from either side of the large pit, then cut a cross-hatch pattern in the fruit. Turn the slice inside out and little blocks pop-up. Slice and eat but I confess to eating the best of them standing over the sink!
Asian pears are delicate creatures. I rarely indulge in them from the local markets because they bruise easily but my exotic fruit basket delivered a flawless orb. They crunch slightly harder than apples with a hint of flower in each bite. I enjoyed them during a long layover at my favorite airport in the world, Changi in Singapore.
A South American Dragon and Custard Fruit
Cherimoya and Dragonfruit are two of the most exotic fruits I’ve come across. Both hail from South America.
I flashback to tropical days in Cozumel, Mexico whenever I bite into a Cherimoiya. They’re green and with scaley bumps. The skin is thin and when the surface has a slight give it’s time to expose the inner fruit for a custard like treat. Melissa’s sent a large orb that was perfectly ripe. You can’t avoid the large, oval seeds but the fruit is such a delicate treat it’s not a bother.
Dragon fruit, or Pitaya, could garnish a Dr. Seuss illustration. The fall-winter variety of cactus fruit are shocking pink with curling green scales and inside, white spotted flesh dotted with tiny black seeds. It’s firm, with almost a watermelon texture. I’ve enjoyed them most with bright pomegranate syrup and a scoop of vanilla ice cream but let your imagination soar.
Pepino Melon is a species of evergreen shrub native to South America. It’s shaped like a pale teardrop with smooth and thin skin. The interior tastes something between cantaloupe and honeydew melon but less sweet. We ate ours sliced thinly in green salads, but I can imagine an Ecuadorian farmer sprinkling lemon juice and a dash of chili spice across as he finishes a field lunch.
Exotic Fruit Basket Delivery
I could keep going but all these memories are making me hungry. Luckily, I still have a few pieces from Melissa’s exotic fruit basket. They could make the Grinch smile. For this bah-humbug Christmas, I picture friends and family grinning as they dig into the goodies too.