We live in an increasingly artisanal world when it comes to food. There’s never been a time when our food choices have been more diverse. Each day more niche markets open up, offering strange and wonderful exotic edibles from backyard farms to far-away places.
Grocery stores, farmer’s markets, restaurants, food trucks, and everything in between are pushing this trend. Food trucks, in particular, have been instrumental in systematically changing the way we dine out. From office dining halls to festivals, the food truck revolution is showcasing culinary innovation as restaurateurs seek out the next viral edible creation that will inevitably set the food world on fire, while simultaneously satisfying our hungry bellies.
To help you navigate your way through some of the “What’s that?” items you may see in markets or on menus wheeling your way, we compiled a list of the top five weird, wonderful, bizarre, and nearly unknown fruits and vegetables that are coming to a truck near you. With such a diversity of unknown flavors, textures, and scents out there, we thought a guide to help you understand what you’re eating was in order.
Interested in learning more? Check out the Interesting Facts and the “How to Eat” sections under each description to find out even more about the eccentric fruits and vegetables on our list.
Jackfruit is one of the hottest food truck trends on the scene for those looking for non-meat alternatives. This exotic pear-colored, rough-skinned fruit is a sweet choice and has been compared in flavor to a banana with a slightly tart edge. It has also been compared to Juicyfruit gum, which is an apt comparison.
It grows in some of the world’s warmest climates such as India, Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, and is now being grown in Brazil, however, despite its foreign roots, they’re coming to plates near you simulating chicken or pulled pork, or adding flavor to salads and sides. From barbeque to tacos, you can find Jackfruit popping up as the main vitamin-rich ingredient at food trucks near you.
Interesting Fact: The jackfruit is the largest fruit in the world and can weigh as much as 80 lbs. and often exceeds 3 feet in length.
How to Eat: If you can get one of these behemoths into your car, the traditional way to consume this fruit is either frying, sautéing, or eating it raw.
In the mood for a delicious and healthy meal? You must try this BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich recipe!
Also known as the “Horned Melon,” the African cucumber is a spectacular-looking fruit that is not only edible but used for ornamental purposes as well. Its yellow-orange skin, small spike-like protrusions, and suspiciously melon-like shape earned this fruit its perfectly fitting name. However, if you cut one open you’ll find it has a green color, sweet and jelly-like pulp, and a seed structure reminiscent of its more common family member: the cucumber.
If you ask someone who’s tried the African cucumber, they’ll tell you that its true name is more befitting to its taste than the nickname. It has been reported to have a cucumber and zucchini flavor with hints of lemon or citrus, which is great for making cocktails and mixed drinks. The African cucumber is native to Africa’s Kalahari Desert but is now grown stateside in California and cultivated in New Zealand.
Food Truck Finder: Upohar
Interesting Fact: If picked too young, unripe Horned Melons may have excessive levels of a compound that can cause stomach cramps, so make sure you’re eating the beautifully colored, ripe African cucumbers!
How to Eat: The Horned Melon is mostly used in cocktail drinks, sauces, or added to salads raw. Its combination of sweetness and bitterness helps to balance out drinks the same way a cucumber does a Gin and Tonic.
Want to impress your friends at your next cookout? Whip up a batch of these Pre-Historic Rum Martini’s complete with Horned Melon skin cups!
This is by far one of the strangest-looking fruits on the planet. Golden yellow in color with long “fingers” that make it look like a yellow octopus or a mutant lemon, this fruit is prized for its intense citrusy-lavender scent. Unlike most citrus fruits, Buddha’s hand has a rather sweet rind that is edible and makes an incredible garnish for pies, salads, or drinks.
If you’re looking to get your hands on the Buddha’s Hand fruit, you can find them in most Asian markets and in large farmer’s markets – just look out for a large group of people standing around gawking. Going hand-in-hand with food trucks, you will likely find this citron fruit at craft beer festivals where you’ll find frothy, hoppy, creations concocted with Buddha’s Hand.
Brewery Finder: Breckenridge Brewery – Buddha’s Hand Wheat, Wiseacre Brewing Co. – Azazel Golden with Buddha’s Hand
Interesting Fact: The Buddha’s Hand fruit is so powerfully aromatic and satisfying that it’s commonly used as potpourri or used to enhance the smell of laundry.
How to Eat: Grate it into a garnish for salads, desserts, drinks, or chop them up and candy them. You can treat the Buddha’s Hand as you would most citrus fruits, except you can eat the rind this time!
Start off your day the Zen way with these Buttermilk Buddha’s Hand Waffles!
From the moment your eyes lock onto the Pitaya fruit, you can’t help but be captivated by it. With an uncanny resemblance to a flame or a fireball with bright pink skin and touches of lime green, the Pitaya exudes an air beauty that demands your attention. The Pitaya is more commonly known as Dragon Fruit, and unlike others of its ilk, does not come from a tree or a vine; it’s a species of cacti.
Once you get beyond the unique exterior of the fruit you will find a white center that’s speckled with hundreds of tiny black seeds. The contrast between the white and black inside and the flamingo-like exterior might make you believe this fruit is extremely sweet, but it turns out the Pitaya is quite mild and has a flavor comparable to a mild melon or kiwi fruit. Food trucks are bringing this fascinating super fruit right to your palate in a variety of fun and funky ways.
Interesting Fact: Native to Central and South America, the Pitaya, or Dragon Fruit, is native to Central and South America and grows on a fruit-bearing species of cactus!
How to Eat: The easiest way to eat the Dragon Fruit is to cut it open and scoop out the white and black flesh similar to how you scoop out the center of an avocado. The Pitaya is a great addition to salads, smoothies, and can also be frozen into a sorbet-like dessert!
Just in time for Summer, check out this delicious and simple Dragon Fruit Sorbet recipe!
If you asked someone ten years ago if they’ve ever eaten Dandelion Greens, the most common response you would hear would probably be “You mean those weeds that grow in my yard? No way!”
Fast forward to 2017 and Dandelion Greens have made their way into the diets and hearts of Americans everywhere. Today, you could ask people that same question and you’ll find that several people had the greens in their salads for lunch. If you haven’t tried this exciting new green, you can find it in farmer’s markets and Whole Foods across the country. Food trucks are also utilizing this hot veggie in things like pizzas, crepes, and specialty cheeses, as its crunchy texture and slightly bitter flavor lend themselves well to these foods.
Food Truck Finder: Pennypackers Food Truck
Interesting Fact: Dandelion greens have been used as a folk medicine for hundreds of years. It’s recently been discovered that there may be something to the medical lore, as the greens have 535% of your recommended daily Vitamin K, play a role in limiting neuronal damage, are high in Fiber, and provide you with 112% of your daily vitamin A.
How to Eat: The most common way to consume Dandelion Greens is to mix them in with spring mix or lettuce leaves. However, these greens have been popping up on a variety of pizzas, sandwiches, and have found their way into smoothies across the country.
Tired of your same old omelet or scrambled eggs for breakfast? Spice things up with this mouth-watering Sautéed Dandelion Greens with Eggs recipe!
If you enjoyed this article then we highly recommend ‘The Botanist’s Guide to Summer Cocktails’”! Enjoy our guide to a number of delicious drinks for those hot summer day cookouts with friends and family! And if you have questions about what Ambius can do for you and your business, contact us here.