Tropical fruits grow on plants that generally thrive in warm, humid environments with plenty of rain. The plants are highly intolerant of cold temperatures and frost. Tropical fruits grow in a wide region from Central and South America to regions in the Middle East and Asia to various islands in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Tropical fruits are commonly grown in the United States in California, Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Tropical fruits tend to be filled with vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A and C. They also come in brilliant colors. Think of the vivid orange of a mango or persimmon, the intense yellow of a pineapple, or the brilliant red of pomegranate seeds. These fruits can be expensive due to the cost of shipping and because they are very perishable.
Common tropical fruits that are generally easy to find in an average supermarket* include:
- Banana - A long, yellow fruit with soft white flesh that grows in clusters on trees. Native to Southeast Asia.
- Plantain - These look like large bananas but tend to be more savory than sweet. Native to Southeast Asia.
- Carambola/ Starfruit - A small yellow to green translucent fruit that makes star-shaped slices. Native to Southeast Asia.
- Coconut - A round fruit with a hard brown shell encasing white flesh. Native to South America.
- Papaya - A large, slightly oblong fruit with orange to pink flesh and numerous black seeds. Native to the West Indies.
- Dates - Fresh dates are yellow to orange and the size of a dollar coin. Native to the Middle East.
- Fig - Actually not a fruit but a small inverted flower often filled with tiny, edible seeds. Native to Asia Minor.
- Mango - A large, oval fruit with green, red, or yellow skin with rich colored orange flesh and a single pit. Native to Southern Asia.
- Persimmon - A tomato-like fruit with orange flesh. Native to China. Note: The persimmon that is native to the United States is not considered a tropical fruit.
- Pineapple - A large fruit with a leafy stem and coarse, brown to yellow skin surrounding sweet, acidic yellow flesh. Native to Central and Southern America.
- Pomegranate - A fist sized fruit with edible red seeds. Native to the Middle East/Mediterranean region.
Exotic tropical fruits that are rare and may require a trip to a specialty market* include:
- Ababai - A fruit similar to papaya. Native to Chile.
- Ackee - A small fruit with edible yellow flesh with a flavor similar to scrambled eggs. Native to West Africa.
- Atemoya - This fruit is a cross between and sweet-sop and cherimoya. Native to the Caribbean.
- Bilimbi - This fruit looks like small green cucumbers and is often used as a relish. Native to East India.
- Breadfruit - A very large, round fruit with green or brown skin and yellow pulp. Native to Tahiti and other regions on the South Seas.
- Capulin cherry - This fruit looks like a deep red to purple cherry. Native to Mexico.
- Natal plum also known as Carissa - These are small, tart plums that are used in preserves. Native to South Africa.
- Cherimoya, also known as custard apple - A fruit is the size of a pine cone and has green scales. The flesh is translucent white with black seeds. Native to South America.
- Jujube also known as Chinese dates - Fresh jujubes look like tiny, red pears. Native to Mediterranean and African regions.
- Durian - This fruit has a thorny green to brown shell with yellow flesh inside that emits a strong odor. Native to Malaysia and Indonesia.
- Feijoa - An egg shaped fruit with green skin similar to a guava. Native to New Zealand.
- Guava - A green or pink skinned fruit shaped like an apple with pink, yellow, or white flesh. Native to Central America.
- Jackfruit - The largest tree-borne fruit, weighing up to 100 pounds. It has rough green or yellow skin with yellow flesh. Native to India.
- Langsat - A fruit that looks like a small potato with translucent white flesh inside. Native to Southeast Asia.
- Longan - Very similar to a lychee but with smooth brown skin instead of red and bumpy. Thought to be native to China.
- Loquat - A small orange fruit with large brown seeds and sweet flesh. Native to China.
- Lychee - This fruit is roughly the size of a golf ball with bumpy hard red skin and translucent white flesh inside. Native to China.
- Mangosteen - This fruit looks like a tangerine with a thick red to brown skin and white flesh. Native to Malaysia and Indonesia.
- Monstera deliciosa - This odd fruit looks like a banana with scales that fall off as the fruit ripens. Native to Mexico and Central America.
- Passion fruit - A dark purple skinned fruit with orange-yellow flesh. Native to tropical areas of Asia, Africa, and Central and Southern America.
- Pepino - This fruit looks like a small, light-yellow melon. Native to South America.
- Pitahaya - A red or yellow fruit with white flesh that grows on a cactus native to Mexico.
- Prickly pear - A red fruit with bright red flesh. Grows on a cactus native to Mexico.
- Rambutan - These are similar to lychees with a hairy red shell. Native to Southeast Asia.
- Rose apple - A fruit with green or pink skin shaped like a pear with flesh that tastes like a rose. Native to Southeast Asia.
- Sapodilla - This fruit looks like a brown, unfuzzy kiwifruit with yellow to white flesh. Native to Central and South America.
- Sapote - A fruit similar in appearance to a mango with green, yellow, or brown skin and orange to cream colored flesh. Native to Central America.
- Soursop - A large, dark green fruit with thorny skin and cream colored flesh. Native to the West Indies.
- Sweet-sop - Similar in appearance and taste to a cherimoya. Native to Central and Southern America and the Caribbean.
- Tamarind - This fruit is the dark brown flesh from the seeds of the tamarind tree. Native to Southeast and Central Asia.
- Tamarillo - A fruit that looks like a large plum tomato with red or yellow flesh. Native to New Zealand.
See the individual fruit nodes for more information on finding, selecting, and using the fruit.
* anthropod reminds me that an average supermarket located outside of the tropics will stock only the common tropical fruits, while a supermarket in the tropics will generally have both the common and exotic fruits available.