Squeeze Our Melons – Hawaii Tropical Fruit Guide


A tropical fruit guide for Maui

In most island grocery stores, you’ll find a small group of visitors staring blankly at the tropical fruit in the produce section.  Others may squeeze the fruit with their biceps or glare into its belly button to check its ripened state.  Why not take this guide with you the next time you go shopping to avoid tourist embarrassment.  You’ll end up with wildly exotic fruit and an inflated ego for looking like a local while properly picking out the ripest and sweetest in the bunch!


This delectable globe was described by Mark Twain as “the most delicious fruit known to men.”  Some describe it as a cross between an apple and a pineapple, while others say it tastes like bubble gum!  If you need one more reason to try it, the cherimoya tree is called the “tree of ice cream.”  Who doesn’t want to try that?!?  If you’d like to eat your cherimoya on the day of purchase, find one that is blackish green and gently squeeze it with your palm (not your fingers, or it’ll bruise the fruit), and look for a ripe pear or avocado feel.  If you’d like to wait a few days, then pick a firmer cherimoya that feels heavy for its size.  Keep it out of the sunlight and let it ripen at room temperature until it feels like a ripe avocado or pear.  It’s ok if the skin turns brown, as this doesn’t affect the flesh.  When you’re ready to eat it, just cut the fruit in half and scoop!  Don’t eat the big black seeds or the peel.


You can’t miss these big boys, as they can grow up to 80 pounds!  While their size and exterior prickles look intimidating, it’s worth the work to get inside these green giants.  While the flavor is absolutely delicious, it’s hard to describe.  Similar to a blend of banana and pineapple, its texture is something close to medium-aged coconut flesh.  To pick a ripe jackfruit you must first, smell it.  If there’s no smell, than it’s not ripe yet.  It should have a sweet fruity smell and give a little when you squeeze it.  Wash the fruit first.  Before cutting it open, generously oil your knife and hands.  There’s a sticky latex that oozes out and you’ll want to keep your hands stick-free.  You can remove the latex by wiping it off with a plastic bag or a lemon wedge.  Once the jackfruit has been vertically cut in half, remove the inedible middle part.  After that, “pop” the fruit open it loosens the juicy morsels and also allows you to see any bad bits.  If you can’t pop it, then slice it again.  Now you can remove the edible bulbs with your hands or a knife.  Make sure to remove the enormous seeds as well!  There is quite a bit of inedible fiber in this fruit, but it’s very easy to tell what to eat and not eat.  Here’s a picture and video tutorial to guide you to jackfruit paradise!


This spiked orb is considered a very intense experience, from the moment you pick up the fruit, to your first bite.  There is no description that can explain it’s formidable outer scent or its otherworldly taste.  We will do our best to charm you with its possibilities, and then you’ll just have to try it!  Those threatening spikes are protecting a creamy delight, so don’t be deterred by it’s scary facade.  While you can’t expect it taste like anything you’ve every experienced, flavors range from “peanut butter pound cake to chocolate liquor to caramelized onion omelets to vanilla frosting.”  Smell your potential fruit, and if it’s lacking a smell then it’s not ripe yet.  However, if it smells really strong, it’s too ripe.  You’re wanting to find “low-level, earthy yet sulfurous smell, like fresh-cut grass and scrambled eggs.”  There are many preferred ripeness, from the firmer dry and bitter flavors of the firmer fruit to the wet and sweet flavors of the softer fruit.  If your nose isn’t doing the trick, then give it a shake.  No movement means it’s not ripe.  If the seed is rolling around without any resistance, it’s too ripe.  You’re looking for the sound of the durian to softly roll around with a little resistance when you hold it up to your ear.

Now that you’ve picked the perfect durian, it’s time to open up this sucker.  Lindsay, from Year of the Durian, describes her favorite opening technique.  “The Thumb Press:  This is possibly my favorite method, because it never lies. Position your thumb over one of the swollen sections of the durian, where the fruit is. Maneuver your thumb in between the thorns and press down. If the durian is ripe, the shell will actually give a little under pressure, like a hard sponge. If it’s not ripe, you might as well be pressing on concrete. It’s easy to tell the difference!”  Once you’re inside, it’s creamy, sweet, stinky goodness is all yours!  Of course, if this method seems to exhausting, then head up to the Maui Nui Farm in Kula.  The farmers will expertly guide you in picking the perfect durian!


Apparently, tropical fruit likes to disguise itself with scary spikes and evil-looking barbs, but they’re all softies inside!  Rambutan is another to add to that list.  The exterior is intimidating, but the interior is heavenly and the taste is akin to a grape.  Pick them based on their exterior color and spikes.  If the color is vibrant, and the spikes don’t show any signs of black on the tips, then you’re on the right track!  Once you’re ready to eat them, use a knife to make a shallow cut to peel off the exterior.  There is a seed inside, so either eat around it or attempt to cut it out.  If you don’t need to adhere to any manners, stick the whole thing in your mouth and spit out the seed once you’ve nibbled all the juicy goodness around it.


Carambola, also known as star fruit, is a delightful addition to your midday meal or salad!  Easy to find, easy to pick and easy to eat makes this fruit a winner!  Look for fruit that is bright yellow, with a bit of green on its edges.  A little brown is ok, but make sure it feels firm to the touch.  If you’re not ready to eat them, then buy the green ones and put them on your counter in the sun for a few days to ripen.  The taste is a of mix of apple, pear, grape, and citrus.  There are small seeds, but feel free to eat it like an apple.  If you’d like a more elegant presentation, then cut them to create star-shaped slices.


This interesting fruit is actually not sweet at all, and is often used as a potato or bread substitute for dishes.  It tastes like it’s said substitutes and has an unappealing rubbery quality when raw, so you’ll want to get creative and cook with it.  To pick a ripe breadfruit, look for firmness and no signs of molding around the stem. Smell is key with breadfruit and it will have a rather strong sweet smell when ripe.  To get to the breadfruit, you’ll want to peel it like you would a potato.  Then, cut it into quarters and cut out the hard middle core.  Dice up the breadfruit and you can now bake, steam, boil, grill, or barbecue this bad boy!


Also known as Hawaiian Passion fruit, this little ball of delectable delights will blow your socks off.  If you’re wanting to enjoy your liliko’i today, then look for one that is a deep yellow or purple color and slightly wrinkled looking.  Using a sharp knife, cut through the hard shell and you’ll find a concoction of black seeds and yellow gooey goodness.  The seeds are not only edible, but nearly impossible to separate from the passionfruit.  You can scoop out, drink up or simply inhale this delicious fruit.

There you have it.  A guide to the local bounty we offer in paradise.  When they’re in season, you’ll definitely find these tropical fruits at Mana Foods in the historical town of Paia.  Now get shopping!  

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