1 Jan

Exotic Fruits of the East

One of my favourite aspects of Asia, is the variety of fruits available there. Ranging from the small longan to the giant jack fruit. Read below to find out more about the fruits I enjoyed on my holiday back to Taiwan.

Asian Pears

Chinese pear

When walking through the Checkers in Sea Point a few years ago, I came across the Asian pears for the first time in South Africa. This was very exciting for me, I even phoned my mom to make sure she knew. Asians pears are rounded fruits, with a high water content (like watermelon), grainy and crisp-like texture (such as apple). Most yellow-folk eat fruit raw and peeled as they are usually served in between a few dishes and/or at the end of a meal, almost like a palette cleanser. The Asian pear needs to be wrapped carefully because they bruise easily – so you’ll usually find them individually packaged in paper or even better, little styrofoam webbings.

They contain a high amount of vitamin C and fibre, and are hard when ripe. They’re one of the most refreshing fruits I’ve ever had and are easily found in any market in Asia.

Chinese dates / Jujubes

Chinese dates, also known as jujubes, can come in quite a variety, though the ones I had were green Chinese dates.The green ones are the younger form – like chillies and peppers, the colour changes as it ripens and it can be eaten at all stages. They start off green, then changes to red, then after drying they become prune-like purply-red. The texture is like that of a combination of apple and pear, like a small crispy and juicy granny smith apple, but less sour.

This picture of jujube/Chinese dates is taken from here.

Custard Apples

Also known as the bull’s heart or bullock’s heart in the western part of the world, it resembles the knotted braids on Buddha’s head. This fruit grows in a warm and humid climate, which makes sense to why it’s native to the Middle East. The flesh is sweet and juicy with a slight acidic taste and granular texture.

The custard apple also has many health benefits, including a high level of vitamin C, vitamin B-types, potassium, protein, fibre, minerals, vitamins, energy, copper and little fat.

This picture of cut open fresh custard apple is taken from here.

Dragon fruit

white, pink and purple dragon fruit

This picture of fresh dragon fruit is taken from here.

These fruits can also be found in South Africa as I have seen them in Wellness Warehouse. Like cactus fruits (also known as the prickly pear), it is thorn-like with refreshing sweet flesh on the inside. The fruit doesn’t actually have thorns, so it’s safe to handle them by hand.

The flesh of the fruit is similar to that of a kiwi, but less “strandy”. The small seeds inside resemble the kiwi fruit and can be eaten. It is a delicious fruit, but I feel that it’s more attractive than it tastes. There are ones with bright pink, rich purple and white flesh.


stinky chinese fruit

This picture of cut open durian is taken from here.

Also known as the “King of Fruits,” is the most expensive fruit on the market in Asia. You’ll find that this fruit, like stinky tofu, smells… well like crap. It smells so bad that it’s actually banned from most hotels, buses and trains.

However, even with the terrible smell, this fruit (like the custard apple) is like a super fruit, containing health benefits.

  • High amount of fat, but cholesterol-free
  • Natural laxative
  • High amounts of vitamin C and vitamin B groups.
  • Manganese, copper, iron and magnesium.
  • Potassium, assisting in controlling heart rate and blood pressure.
Jack Fruit
Chinese or Taiwanese largest fruit

When finishing off climbing the Central Mountain Range in Taichung (don’t worry I won’t go into how unfit I was climbing the steep beast of a small mountain) I came across a tree bearing massive fruit that I’ve never seen before. It was basically the size of my head times two. After doing some research, I found out that the jack fruit is the largest tree-born fruit in the world and it can weigh up to 45 kg.

The jack fruit is part of the mulberry family and has a yellowish and pulpy flesh – a little like banana and the seeds can be boiled and eaten like beans.

This picture of cut open jack fruit is taken from here.

Green Apple Guava

Chinese or Taiwanese guava

This picture of fresh green apple guava is taken from here.

It’s actually quite hard to decide which fruit is my favourite, so you can disregard the first sentence above. Green apple guava, unlike the more widely-found Thai maroon guavas, are crispy in texture like an apple.

The apple guava is grown in tropical and sub tropical climates, and is commonly found in eastern Asia, the caribbean, and south and central America (being native to Mexico). It’s also very nutritious as it contains large amounts of vitamin A, C and fibre.

In Asian, we slice the guava up, often deseeded (though I enjoy the seeds), and eat it with preserved plum or prune powder.


dragon eye

This picture of fresh longan is taken from here and the dried longan from here.

Directly translated, longan means dragon eye and since I was born in the year of the dragon, I’m very fond of this fruit. Unfortunately, this trip was in winter and longan is not in season – which made me very bleak. This is one of my best childhood memories as I remember my dad came back from Taiwan to South Africa with a bunch before, and like lychees, we peeled them, got messy and ate them.

Longan is a tropical fruit and part of the lychee family – the flesh tastes similar, but sweeter, and wraps around a large enamel-like stone/pip. The skin on the outside is smooth, unlike the lychee. You can also find dried longan, which is often used in desserts, like the Eight Treasure Sweet Soup.


Chinese grapefruit

One of my all-time favourites is the pomelo. This fruit falls in the citrus family and is a type of grapefruit. Unlike the grapefruit found here in South Africa, pomelos are sweet, a tiny bitter (maintaining the grapefruit flavour) and so damn juicy.

We can find them in South Africa, I often buy them from Checkers, if I can find them, or from the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill. Yellow folk also eat them on the night of Mid-Autumn Festival, along with mooncakes.

Wax apples 

 red Chinese or Taiwanese fruit

The wax apple is one of my favourite fruits and is widely cultivated in the more tropical areas. In South Africa, Durban is the only city that can grow these fruit trees owing to the much-needed humidity. It’s also known as a love apple, java apple, Royal Apple, bellfruit, Jamaican Apple, water apple, mountain apple, cloud apple, wax jambu, rose apple, and bell fruit.

The exterior is a shiny colour of red ranging to purple, with a bit of a white/colourless wash and the flesh on the inside is white. The fantastic thing about the wax apple is the texture. Even though it has a foam-like candy floss mesh, the ratio of the amount of water to flesh this fruit holds is equivalent to that of a watermelon.

Chinese or Taiwanese red fruit

This picture of cut open wax apples is taken from here.


  • I find Asian fruits so fascinating and wish I could taste them all. I have had a few that you featured here, but dying to try the others. Sounds like you are having a fabulous holiday Minglet. S x 😛

  • […] original post can be seen on Butterfingers […]

  • :mrgreen: dragon fruit looks nomnomnom!

  • This is so interesting! I want to try them all!

  • Very interesting post! Of these I’ve had the asian pear and the dragon fruit – I agree, it looks much better than it tastes, I found it to be a bit watery & bland, but thought that I just had a dud. Would love to try some of the others, though I’ll probably have to travel east to get my hands on them. PS: New layout looks good!

    • Thanks Marisa! If you get the chance, there are custard apples sometimes in the Green Point Spar and Pomelo from the fruit and veg lady at the Old Biscuit Mill Market on Saturdays 🙂

  • Very interesting Subject on Exotic fruits. When I go to a food store I always look for something different to taste! You get the Asian pear at Food Lovers Market, when I bought it~I must say it looked better than its taste. Its very crisp but so bland! The wax apple I also tasted, not a yummy at all ~ I believe wild animals love them~ they grow wild here in Durban! Thanks for info.

    • That’s fantastic to hear! I think the taste of the fruits in Durban may be slightly different to how they taste in Asia, owing to the humidity and agricultural circumstances. Hope you find many more to taste along the way!

  • […] For more photos, see the original post on Butterfingers […]

  • Dude, this post is awesome! I love tropical fruit in general and one of my missions in life is to travel around and eat all of these! I’ve been able to find many of these fruits in California (custard apple, pomelo, Asian pear, dragon fruit)- was able to try jackfruit in Florida and longan in Hawaii. I’d love to try Durian- they sell it at some of the Asian markets in California but you can only buy them whole so the price is crazy (and I’m not sure I’ll like the taste), and I’ve never tried jujubes or wax apple. Some of my other faves are soursop tamarind, starfruit, bilimbi, and sapotes – have you seen any of these in Asia? I fully plan on doing a food/fruit tour there someday. There’s a palm grown in people’s gardens here and in California and the fruits are amazing- called butia palm. The fruits are longan-sized, orange/red in color and taste like pineapple/mango. Andrew and I steal a bunch from one of the trees on the Stellenbosch campus- not many people/animals seem to know that you can eat the fruit so they’re easy to find once they are ripe (March/April). If you see one in Cape Town you should try one (they don’t grow tall)!

    • Oh wow, thanks for that Michelle! I definitely will make it a mission to find butia palms now! When in Taiwan, I actually didn’t come across any of the summer fruits because we were visiting during the winter time, I did see star fruit though. Durian was… different. I only got to try the dried ones, which had a slight bit of a strange taste, thought I have to say, those who like durian, love it. It’s the two extremes.

  • This is a most interesting site, but would be even more useful, if you could include where we could obtain these plants. I am desperately looking for custard apple trees and any help would gratefully received, I am Durban based.

    • I tweeted this question out and many replies said that custard apple plants are obtainable at nurseries in the Eastern Cape. Hope this helps 🙂

    • hi Katherine,

      i do have plants(seedlings) of the red custard apple available. i am also aware that Jack Fruits are available in Durban. Trees grow and bears well in Durban.


  • At Willowvale, we had Custard Apple and Loquats growing years ago. Whilst loquats are still more common, I hadn’t seen custard apples for some thirty years. I was surprise, during my last visit, they had managed to grow Custard apple from seed. Our tree is now about 1.5 meters tall already. No one seems to have a clue about this fruit when I mention it. Surprising is that it apparently has an African cousin which is prevalent in Senegal and grows wild in KZN.

  • As we grew up we had a sole grapefruit tree at our home. The orange looking fleshy version. We didn’t know the term ” grapefruit”, we called it Bhabhamunsi. Was I shocked to discover that there is logic to this strange name. In other parts of the world, grapefruit is actually called PAMPELMUS.

  • Wow. These look like SO much fun to grow and yummy too! (well, except for the one that “smells like crap”, lol).. I’m in Durban frequently; do you know where I could get some seeds for those yummy little wax apples? Or are the plants they easily available at nurseries, maybe?

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Will a Durian/jackfruit tree grow in Cape Town if in a very warm, north facing sheltered from wind spot? And more importantly if it did survive would it be able to fruit successfully?

    Is a wax apple the same plant as a Surinam cherry?


    • Hi, from what I have read, Durian is supertropical – I think even growing it in Durban would be borderline- apparently it stops growing at 22C. I don’t know anyone who has a living tree in SA, You may be able to grow Jackfruit in a protected spot- it is not as fussy.

    • hi Alexander,

      the Jack Fruit grow and bear well in Durban and i do believe that they would do the same in the Cape. also consider growing Pomelo which is citrus and believe that they would bear even better then they do in Durban. i do not have any of the above plants but i do have some Red Custard Apple plants. the Jack Fruit and Pomelo can also be grown from seeds, which may be a better way to get them to you since i am in Durban.


  • This is such an interesting article. When in Thailand about 3 years ago I was fortunate to taste both the dragon fruit (which I agree looks far better than it taste…very bland tasting fruit) and the longan (these were delicious…and as a lychee lover it was awesome to taste them). Im really interested in tasting the rest of these weird and wonderful fruit but am unsure as to where they are available. I live in joburg and have only seen Durian (which I refuse to try…it smells horrific and cant imagine it tasting better than it smells) in the spars here. Do you know of any other shops that supply these fruit?

  • Dragon fruit is the best.

  • Hi 🙂

    This is a super interesting post! I love exotic fruits but it’s quite hard to find seeds here in SA! I am currently looking for seeds for the African Custard Apple, Annona Senegalensis. Anyone know where I can buy them from? I live in Joburg, so can’t get from KZN 🙁 By the way, for anyone who is interested , there is a facebook group for Rare fruit growers in South Africa if anyone is interested in joining 🙂 You will be able to buy or swop any seeds or plants you might have and even buy the fruit from group memebers once it has grown 🙂 Please feel free to join, let’s grow a rare fruit community! 🙂
    Find the group here:

  • I am looking for wild custard apple tree (Annona senegalensis). Did anybody localized these nurseries in the Eastern Cape which may have these trees for sale?

  • Dear All

    Were can I buy a custard apple tree.

    Best Regards

  • i think this sight is awsome – i am looking for the plant called SIRSAK (INDONESIAN) SOURSOP – where can i obtain this plant or if possible the Juice
    – please contact me at my above email address – i will surely also join the Rare Fruit Growers Site too – thanks


  • I have 15 Small Jackfruit trees grown from seed.
    If anyone wants one, contact me. 0824520469j

  • Hey Petet, Thank you so much for your post… I’ve just learned that a very good friend of mine is busy dying from testicular cancer, and my friends in Dubai told me that Jack Fruit is very helpful for this condition… Is there any truth to this, and if yes, then i will Definitely need some from you Please?

    • Hi Da Mano, apologies, I can’t tell you if it’s helpful as I don’t have any medical background. I do know that it is incredibly healthy, but at the same time Durian, the stinky fruit, is the king of fruits when it comes to nutrients.

  • i live in joburg and am growing custard apple annona from seed. they take ages to germinate. one is starting to branch out already. the others are quite small. for their first winter theyll be indoors. custard apple is a very wide term . theres atemoyas cherimoyas and annona squamosa / i think i have the last one. we have a guava tree which is about 1/2 m and has given 2 fruits 1 day ago. i live in lenasia and over here there are quite a few mango trees which do fruit in the summer. has anyone planted the australian lime

  • I live in Johannesburg. We have a guava tree (newly planted). This year it produced two guavas. I am also growing custard apple trees (i think it is annona squamosa). These are grown from seed and the one has started to branch out. They take ages to germinate. I hope to build a small shed and plant some mangoes and litchis in it. In our area there are quite a few mango trees as well as wax jambus.

  • Hi! Any idea where to get jackfruit in Cape Town? I heard it’s a great substitute for meat.

    • I’ve seen some at Spars and at the Old Biscuit Mill – Neighbourgoods Market 🙂

  • Any idea if custered apples r sold in
    Durban sa

  • Hi.

    Urgently looking for Custard Apple. If anyone can help please contact me.


  • Hi, I am looking to purchase a dragon fruit tree and a wood apple tree in the Gauteng area. If you know where these can be bought then would you be so kind as to share that info with me. Thanks Ravin

  • Hi.

    Urgently looking for Custard Apple or custard tree cuttings . If anyone can help please contact me.

    084 837 4087

So, what do you think?