3 New Exotic Foods You May Not Have Heard Of—And Their Health Benefits

Monday Jun 24 | BY |
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Exotic Foods

The horned melon has a unique taste, and is low in calories.

Are you a foodie? Do you enjoy trying new food items—particularly if they have unique health benefits? Then this post is for you.

We scouted around and found three exotic new health foods you may or may not have heard of. Here are the details, in case you want to add them to your diet today!

1. Horned Melon

It may sound a little scary, but this exotic fruit is harmless, and may actually help you achieve your weight loss goals. Also called “the Kiwano,” or “African Horned Cucumber,” it’s native to southern Africa and is also grown in Australia and New Zealand. Some say it’s similar to the kiwi fruit, but it has no botanical link to the kiwi, and is actually a member of the cucumber family.

The horned melon is usually available from October to March, and is an oval-shaped fruit about the same size as papaya, with spiny lumps on the outside. The fruit is green originally, and orange when ripe on the outside. Inside you’ll find a jelly-like inner flesh that’s lime creen and full of melon seeds. You can use the flesh for salads, fruit snacks, or in purees. As for the taste, you may have to try it yourself! Descriptions range from “a mixture of cucumber and zucchini” to “a combination of lime, banana, and cucumber.”

Health benefits of this exotic food include:

  • Nutritious—a good source of iron and magnesium. Also contains vitamins A, B6, C, Thiamin, Niacin, and folate, as well as minerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and manganese.
  • Good source of antioxidants—including beta carotene, which can help protect cells from free radical damage.
  • Low calorie—if you’re looking for a low-calorie addition to your diet, the horned melon is a good choice.

To try this melon, consider these tips (the seeds are edible):

  • Consume the jelly-like flesh as is, or add a little natural sweetener.
  • Slice and add to exotic fruit salads.
  • Use in your juicing machine to make smoothies.
  • Spoon over sorbets and ice creams.
  • Use as an alternative to vinegar in salad dressings.

2. Chayote Squash

Native to New Mexico and South America, this squash is edible both raw and cooked, and is said to have an apple-like flavor. Called sechium edule, it’s a summer squash also known as “vegetable pear,” likely because of its pear-like shape. Like the tomato, however, chayote is actually a fruit used as a vegetable. Small and pale green, it comes from a perennial vine that likes well-drained, moist soil and a long, warm growing season.

Some of these have a smooth skin, and others have a spiky or fuzzy surface. Inside, the flesh is pale white, and surrounds a cream-white seed ovule in the center. You’ll usually find them between October and April, but Latin American and Asian markets may have them year-round.

Health benefits of this fruit/vegetable include:

  • Low calorie—one cup of cooked chayote squash has only about 30-40 calories.
  • Fiber—one cup of cooked chayote contains about 2.5 grams of fiber.
  • Nutrients—chayote is a good source of potassium, vitamin C, folate, and vitamin B-6.
  • Antioxidants—you’ll find several different flavonoids in this fruit, which may protect against the signs of aging and disease.

To try this fruit, consider these tips—and note that when peeling the skin off, you may want to wear dispoable gloves, as the fruit oozes a sticky substance that may irritate sensitive skin. Cut in half, then remove the large seeds inside.

  • Avoid old stock, as they may have a tough skin and stringy pulp. Choose medium sized, fresh ones, with an apple green color and firm feel.
  • Add raw to salads.
  • Try cooked in stir-fries, curry, and soups.
  • Try boiled, steamed, or pureed.

3. Kukicha Twig Tea

A type of green tea, Kukicha is made from four types of stems, stalks, and twigs, which are usually left out of teas, but that contribute to the unique flavor of this tea. Said to have a creamy, sweet, and mildly nutty flavor, it’s made when growers prune the twigs from the Camellia sinensi shrub, steam, dry, age, and roast them. Also called “winter tea,” it used to be called a “peasant’s drink” because tea farmers would brew it for themselves after selling off the rest of the plant.

The health benefits of this tea are similar to regular green tea, but include additional benefits as well:

  • Helps alkalize the body—most of us eat too many foods that produce acid in the body, straining the organs as they work to restore pH balance. Kukicha twig tea is alkalizing, and can help balance acidity levels which may help prevent disease.
  • Low caffeine—contains 90 percent less caffeine than regular coffee (green tea contains about 60 percent less). Makes a great evening tea.
  • Same antioxidants as green tea (catechins)—which may prevent against disease, including cancer.
  • Lots of calcium—great for building bone density.
  • Aromatherapy—many people find the aroma to be a great pick-me-up.
  • Nutrients—this tea is a good source of vitamins A, B, and C; calcium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, and fluoride.

To try this tea, consider these tips:

  • Make it with hot, not boiling water for the best results. Allow boiling water to cool, then steep for up to three minutes.
  • Mix with apple juice and serve cold.

Do you know more about these three exotic foods? Please share your tips.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com

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