How to serve these exotic fruits: Persimmon, Star fruit, Dragon fruit, Litchi & Kiwano
Grocery shopping for exotic fruits can be rather daunting and we tend to avoid foods that we don't know how to prepare.

We take a look at the facts, nutritional value and ways to serve a few of these exotic fruits that are often foreign to our shores.

Persimmon
One persimmon provides 55% of the recommended daily vitamin A and 21 percent of the recommended daily vitamin C. 
Pic: Ryan Anson/Bloomberg News.
Fun facts:

The national fruit of Japan (though it originated in China), persimmons are in season from September through December. There are two types of persimmons: the hachiya, which is shaped like an acorn and is bitter before ripening, and the fuyu, which is sweet, round and usually seedless. Buy this latter variety and eat when it's firm but not hard.

Nutrition:

One persimmon provides 55% of the recommended daily amount (RDA) vitamin A, 21% of the RDA vitamin C, fibre, B vitamins, other minerals such as manganese, copper, and phosphorous, and phytonutrients, antioxidants and flavonoids to help prevent cancer.

Ways to serve:

Chop the crisp, sweet flesh to include in a lunch box, eat like an apple (peeling is optional), make a mozzarella (or any kind of cheese) and persimmon sandwich, top a bowl of ice cream, add to salads, mash into baby food once a baby is 8 to 10 months old, add color to a cheese plate, bake in muffins, or make into a chutney.

Star fruit (carambola)

One star fruit  provides 76% of the recommended daily vitamin C. Pic:  Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post
Fun facts:

When cut crosswise, this fruit looks like a star, hence its name. Star fruit, which is native to parts of Southeast Asia, tastes similar to a grape. The larger varieties tend to be sweeter, and the entire fruit is edible, skin and all. Starfruit is ripe when they are vibrant yellow; if brown spots appear, pop it in the refrigerator. The few seeds are edible or can be discarded.

Nutrition:

One star fruit provides 76% RDA vitamin C, in addition to fiber, potassium, copper and B vitamins.

Ways to serve:

Slice star fruit for a snack or add to a lunch box, blend into smoothies, chop for chutney or salsa, add colour and interest to a fruit salad, or give sweetness and appeal to leafy green salads.

Dragon fruit (pitaya)

One dragon fruit provides phytonutrients, antioxidants and flavonoids, B vitamins, 15% of the daily recommended vitamin C, iron and calcium. 
Pic: The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey
Fun facts:

Dragon fruit, believed to be native to Central America, is technically part of the cactus species, yet look like a smaller, softer, pinker pineapple. It is ripe when firm but not hard. The pink-fleshed fruits tend to be higher in nutrients and a bit sweeter than the white-fleshed ones. Pitaya trees produce fruit multiple times a year, yet the flower blooms just once a year, and only at night, so it is quite a spectacle.

Nutrition:

One dragon fruit provides phytonutrients, antioxidants and flavonoids, B vitamins, 15% RDA vitamin C, iron and calcium.

Ways to serve:

Slice lengthwise, then quarter, and peel off and discard the skin. You can eat the black seeds along with the flesh. Chill it, then chop into cubes or shape with a melon baller for a fruit salad. 

Litchi (lychee)

One half-cup of the fruit provides more than 100% of the daily recommended vitamin C. 
Pic: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg
Fun facts:

These fruits, which originated in southern China, have a tough, bumpy skin that is easily peeled to reveal a white fleshy fruit much like a peeled grape. Litchi fruits have one inedible seed. 

Nutrition:

One half-cup of the fruit provides more than 100% RDA vitamin C, plus fibre, antioxidants, flavonoids, high levels of B vitamins, potassium and phosphorous. 

Ways to serve:

Chop into a salad, or use to flavor drinks such as iced tea or margaritas.

Kiwano (horned melon)

A cup of kiwano melon has almost as much protein as one tablespoon of peanut butter.
Fun facts:

When ripe, this spiked fruit, native to Africa, is bright orange on the outside. On the inside, it is slimy green, much like a kiwi - but with a taste more similar to a banana with a hint of cucumber. To eat, cut it in half and scoop out the middle. The seeds are edible like cucumber seeds, as is the skin. Do not refrigerate.

Nutrition:

A cup of kiwano melon has almost as much protein as one tablespoon of peanut butter, plus vitamin C, iron, potassium and lesser amounts of phosphorous, zinc, magnesium, calcium and copper.

Ways to serve:

Toss on salads, or blend and add to smoothies, salad dressings and drinks.