What do you call "exotic" vegetables and fruits in your country?

I’m from Sri Lanka, and maybe the only one from this land here in HO. As an outsider I would like to know what you would call exotic vegetables and fruits in far away places such as the US, Canada, EU etc.


I’m not sure I’ve ever seen less common (in the U.S.) produce labelled in any way as a category. On a menu, you might see “Vietnamese herbs” or something like that. But in a store, the only separation I’ve seen is organic vs. conventional. There are supermarket aisles for various “ethnic” foods, but you won’t find produce there.


Ha, in the US general markets where I am (Northeast, big city) there would be too many to name. Yet they aren’t that hard to find if you go to a specialty market. The average mass wouldn’t necessarily find these easily in the general supermarket.

Some of the fruits alone I’ve been able to get for years consistently in Asian markets (Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese or Korean) would be lychee, longan, dragon fruit, Asian pears (all varieties), rambutan, jackfruit, durians (yuck, but I digress), young coconut, fresh sugar cane, persimmons, the yellow mangos (not the red/green Mexican mangos) to name a few. This is just the Asian subset, but there are also a lot of Latin speciality markets that will feature more fruits from South America too.

Napa and bok choy are the more mainstream of Asian greens, but there are whole worlds of greens that are barely used. Now because you have more elevated profiles of things like Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese foods, you will find some of the veggies being incorporated into fusion dishes (like Gai Lan, or Chinese broccoli). But the average US family will never have used choi sum (I don’t even know the English names of many of these), Chinese chives, water spinach, tong-ho (also called shungiku in Japanese) perilla, shiso. bitter melons, Indian or Thai egg plants, winter melon, fuzzy squash, etc.

Being in the US, it’s far more interesting for me to find out what’s exotic to Asian immigrants from US markets like - blueberries! Or brussels sprouts! Corn is everywhere in the US, so I’m also constantly amused by what seems to be a corn obsession with many Asian immigrants (my mom and all her friends included).


“Exotic” is anything someone is unfamiliar with. My nephew, who spent time growing up in Iran, thought plantains and yucca were “exotic”. My aunt, who grew up in Puerto Rico, thought they were as “unexotic” as bananas and potatoes.


They’re all jumbled together here. Florida is such a cross section of cultures that there’s no way t define exotic because it’s all normal to someone!

Specialty markets always have better selection and far better prices than the big chains, so I have my favorite Asian, Latin, and Middle Eastern markets when I’m cooking those cuisines.

In France they were on a separate island, labeled “exotique”…but includes things like pecans and cranberries.


LMS - I think many of the fruit and vegetables from your part of the world would be “exotic” in the UK. I go to the Asian supermarkets to buy spices, roti and things like that. And there’s many fresh items I just wouldnt see in the big supermarkets. Now, those vegetables must be well known to folk from the Indian sub continent and your island as they are often not named. So, these things are so exotic to me that I have no idea what they are or how I would use them.



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Lite beer.

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@LastManStanding in the US it really depends on where you are.

In places with large international-origin populations, those markets carry a very wide range of the home country fruits and vegetables.

Speaking for Indian produce, the only things I haven’t been able to able to find fresh (that I’ve looked for) are chikoo (zapota / sapodilla) and tadgola (toddy palm fruit / ice apple / palmyra). Chikoo actually originates in central America, but I’ve yet to come across a version here in the US.

I used to complain mosambi / sweet lime wasn’t available either, but it actually does grow in CA (and Mexico) - it just rarely makes its way to the east coast where I am (there was once a sighting at my local supermarket, but never since).

Vegetables are mostly available at Indian markets, and sometimes other Asian and hispanic markets when there’s overlap in consumption.

When I visit India these days, previously “exotic” vegetables like broccoli and mushrooms are now commonplace (at least in large cities) - the local vegetable vendors even stock them, no need for a specialty store visit. (Actually I was surprised to learn that broccoli - not native by any means - was so plentiful in the winter that it was cheaper than many native vegetables. )

What falls into this category for you?


Sapodilla isn’t an every day sight, but it’s not uncommon in the Latin and Caribbean markets in Florida.

My local greengrocer has had wax apples lately, but I’ve never seen ice apples!

You are not an outsider. You’re family like everyone else. I’m the odd uncle many are not quite sure what to do with. grin

I’m going to take your question as directed individually as opposed to “what do Americans find exotic.”

For me, if I don’t know what to do with something it is exotic. If I don’t even know what it is, it is really exotic. Rutabagas were once exotic to me. I learned to make Branston pickle and from there branched out to other things. No longer exotic. Kohlrabi was once very exotic to me but it showed up in a CSA box (community supported agriculture where we pay for an annual subscription for a weekly box of vegetables and get what we get) and is no longer exotic.

Okra is exotic for me because try as I may I still despise the stuff.

For the last fifteen years I’ve lived in Annapolis MD. Other than mainstream US foods access to less commonly used food items is pretty well limited to Amazon which gets quite expensive. It’s an hour and a half each way to an Asian market. We have a couple of places for Hispanic food but they have limited selection and aren’t very good; an hour each way to better markets with parking and security issues. Much of my exploration is when away from home on business trips.

A secondary definition of exotic for me is something labor intensive with minimal reward, like using a hollowed out pineapple with two straws for a drink. I’m sure there is a tool for hollowing out the pineapple without wasting the flesh that would make it less exotic.


From my experience, corn here is much sweeter and more tender than what’s commonly available in China and especially in Pakistan. In Pakistan, we would douse corn with lime and chili to make it palatable. And it required a lot more chewing.


Nah. Okra is commonplace. It’s everywhere. That said, it’s there for other people to buy as, like you, I despise the stuff.

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I absolutely love okra. Can’t make gumbo without it. Dusted with cornmeal and fried, its divine. Grilled, it is fabulous. The main problem is that many people don’t know how to cook it. Its like squid. You have to either cook it quickly with high heat, or bash it into submission with long slow cooking. In between you get the nasty stringy gooey mess.

Remember when arugula was new and “exotic”? I always said the name sounded like it was a Caribbean island. Where did you go to get that awesome tan? Arugula! Then when I found out that it was called rocket in the UK, I thought that’s an even better name.


I’m in U.S. Northern California. I’m not sure I understand the question, but I thought of this book. So I call them “uncommon”


It’s more than ten years old now, so many things in it might be common by now. I use it to figure out what to do with my CSA box.

I also stumbled on this; in looking through it, you might see a lot of these depending on where you live in the U.S., and where your family is from.

Many of those have different names depending on where you are from. I could never find culantro until I learned some of it’s other names. My inlaws ( and now I) call chayote “cho-cho”.


Uncommon seems like a useful term to me. That said, to me it’s helpful when a non-local fruit or vegetable is identified in some way by the cuisine(s) in which the produce is used. That helps me research recipes when the produce looks interesting to me.

Another identifier that’s useful to me can be the place of origin, when the place/region/country where the item is grown is noted for quality product or is recognized for certain desirable characteristics.


I presume we’ve anglicised the French roquette.

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That sounds like the stuff grown for ethanol in the Midwest.

Yak (Tibet).

I can think of at least three and a half things to make with yak.

American corn has almost completely taken over in India.

It’s close to impossible to find local corn - only the handcart guys who sell charcoal-grilled corn on the streets seem to have it. (My dad will only eat the local stuff because he says the other is too one-note - just sweet. Of note, local corn is much more expensive.)

Flavor and texture are very different.

I think it’s a flavor preference - not to do with making it palatable - not that different in profile from mexican elote.

We ate the grilled corn with chilli and lime (street style), but when it was boiled at home it was eaten just with butter.


You can get canned ice apples at asian stores - but that defeats the purpose, being soaked in sugar syrup.

One of the reasons they’re so hard to find is that they are very delicate, have to be dug out of the hard outer shell, and then peeled further to eat. They are highly perishable once dug out of the shell.

There’s a tiny bit of liquid (like fresh coconut water) in each one - the skill of both rounds of peeling is to preserve that.

In India, they’re only available in two short seasons, and with very specific vendors who specialize in the fruit.

I make do with persimmons, which I think taste like chikoo but have a texture approaching tadgola :joy:

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