15 Of The World’s Strangest Exotic Fruits

Flickr/Leilson Bandeira “I ate a whole lemon, raw, and it was delicious,” says Katie O’Neill, a Philadelphia-based medical student.

No, she wasn’t on drugs, but her perception was chemically altered: after eating miracle fruit, nearly everything tastes (temporarily) sweet. The experience is so psychedelic that many have dubbed it “flavor tripping.”

Miracle berries, native to West Africa, are a trendy example of the weird world of exotic fruits. A sure sign that you’ve landed somewhere new, such fruits intrigue and challenge us, whether by their unfamiliar size, shape, texture, or smell. The stinky durian fruit, for instance, has become infamous among travelers to China and Southeast Asia.

“I was thrown off a bus once because I had one in my bag,” says travel writer Mikaya Heart. But she’s quick to add that durian is one of her favorite tastes: “It is very succulent and oily, the consistency and color of really thick custard. I would eat it every day if I could.” With a little effort, you can find durian and other exotic fruits without flying halfway across the world; start your search at specialty grocery stores or ethnic restaurants.

Such crazy, beautiful, and above all, natural fruits are a vivid reminder of the planet’s incredible, if precarious, biodiversity. As many farmers mass cultivate the same breeds of common fruit over and over again, other versions may die out to make room for bestsellers like Golden Delicious. At the same time, fruits once considered exotic (like mango or, recently, acai) can find their way into the American mainstream, which makes encountering an unfamiliar fruit that much more of a tantalizing novelty.

Case in point: David Slenk lived with a Peruvian family in Lima during a yearlong trip through South America. At dessert time, they served him a weird fruit: “bright white and kind of mushy, chopped up and covered in orange juice,” he recalls. “I’d never seen anything like it before. I took a cautious bite, couldn’t believe my taste buds, then finished the entire bowl in seconds.”

That’s how Slenk discovered that he loves cherimoya, a green fruit with a fleshy white inside and black seeds. “It’s almost enough to make me move to Peru forever.”

Keep reading for more exotic fruits bound to stimulate your senses.

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Squirting Cucumber Uses – Information About The Exploding Cucumber Plant

The name immediately makes me want to know more – exploding cucumber plant or squirting cucumber plant. I’m not one of those adrenalin junkies that love anything that explodes and makes noise, but I’m still curious. So what are squirting cucumber plants? Where on earth does the volatile squirting cucumber grow? Read on to learn more.

Where Does Squirting Cucumber Grow?

Squirting cucumber, also known as spitting cucumber (the names just keep getting better!), is native to the Mediterranean region. It has been introduced to other regions as a garden curiosity for its unique fruit. It was introduced as an ornamental curiosity to the Adelaide Botanical Gardens in 1858, for instance. It certainly didn’t stop there and can now be found not only in the Mediterranean, but in Southwest Asia and Southern Europe.

Considered a weed in Israel, Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon and Morocco, squirting cucumber plants were found growing and eradicated in Washington State during the 1980’s. It is hardy to USDA zones 8-11 if you want one.

What are Squirting Cucumbers?

Squirting or exploding cucumber plants belong to the family Cucurbitaceae. Its Latin name Ecballium elaterium is from the Greek ‘ekballein,’ meaning to throw out and refers to the ejection of the seeds from the fruit when it ripens. Yes, folks, that is exactly what all this spitting, exploding and squirting is in reference to.

Squirting cucumber is a fragile vine with small greenish-yellow flowers that haunts marshes, sandy roadsides and low woods. Blossoms are bisexual and symmetrical. Often found along railroad tracks, this herbaceous plant of the gourd family has thick, haired stems on a plant that spreads to about 24 inches across. Its leaves are alternate on the vine, serrated and either shallow or deeply lobed.

The plant bears 2-inch bluish green hairy fruit. Once the fruit has reached maturity, it explosively ejects the brown seeds contained therein and detaches from the stem. These seeds may vault 10-20 feet from the plant!

Intrigued? Then you probably want to know if there are any uses for squirting cucumber.

Squirting Cucumber Uses

Is squirting cucumber useful? Not so much. Many areas consider it a weed. That wasn’t always the case, however.

Before we delve into the plant’s historical usage, let’s be clear that squirting cucumber contains high levels of cucurbitacins, which can be fatal if ingested.

That said, the bitter cucurbitacin was cultivated in England and Malta into the nineteenth century to control worms. It has been used as a medicinal plant for over 2,000 years with explosive effects upon the human body worthy of its name. Apparently, the more benign effects treat rheumatism, paralysis, and cardiac disease. The root is said to be an analgesic and topically squirting cucumber was used to treat shingles, sinusitis, and painful joints.

However, the more volatile effects are purgative and abortive. Large doses have caused gastro enteritis and death. At any rate, modern herbalists do not utilize squirting cucumber at this juncture nor should you.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.

I don’t normally bother too much with Latin names, but it is important here as there are two plants that are known by the name ‘exploding cucumber’, one, Cyclanthera explodens, the edible one which we will look at today, then there is the poisonous one, which you definitely shouldn’t eat, also know as the squirting cucumber, Latin name Ecballium elaterium. The first one fires its seeds out dry like shrapnel, the second one squirts them out in a gooey stream like a, well, like say a water pistol.

Exploding Cucumber on Vine

Both of these are dangerous in their own way. The first one is poisonous and inedible but the edible one I have been growing comes with a health warning which I must admit I didn’t pay much heed to. I thought it might be a bit of a sales gimmick. Not so, I was poking around in a bowl of these which had been sat on the side for a couple of days and BAM! there was a pop, and one of them ripped itself open and threw seeds across the room, probably 3 or 4m.

These are another example of my addiction to growing odd things, not just odd chillies, but odd cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs etc. etc. I always seek out the unusual, and always shun vegetables with names like ‘Bountymore’ ‘Harvest King’, ‘Moneymaker’ and the like, mostly these are going to be prolific, quick, but correspondingly bland.

The seeds came from realseeds.co.uk They are weird flat things with rough edges. I started them in late March (in the southern UK), they germinated well and grew quite quickly in the greenhouse. I needed the space so I planted them outside in a sheltered spot thinking it might be a bit too early for them, but no, they flourished.

Exploding Cucumber – Cyclanthera explodens

Very quickly they spread, more than I thought they would. In fact I have had to cut them back quite ruthlessly, otherwise the two plants would take over the garden. They have probably spread about 10 feet in every direction, and there is still quite a lot of growing time left (as of 6th August). They were starting to strangle some beans, some ‘normal’ cucumbers, a tomato plant and a big rocoto chilli, and they are marching through some crocosmia to a flower bed.

That said, this isn’t really a complaining, they are a food plant, and a bountiful one, so it is my fault for not giving them enough space to flourish properly. Next year I will do better.

Bowl of Exploding Cucumbers

For those that fancy a go at these, I would say that in their habit, they are more like mouse melons (cuca melons, Mexican gherkins, etc. etc. the ones James Wong loves to grow), so treat them the same. I think they are a bit more edible though, you pick them young, and chop them in two or 3 pieces straight into salads. I find mouse melons a little tough and sharp if you don’t get them early. These are quite happy outdoors once they have been given a warm start, in fact you would be mad to let them take over your greenhouse unless you had unlimited space.

WARNING (and this is no joke). If you leave them to grow to their full size (about 3cm, or just over an inch), then they can and will explode black seeds at you from a long way off, and so fast that you won’t see them and they will get in your eyes. So the warning I took with a pinch of salt definitely stands. Pick them quick and do it wearing glasses or goggles.

Exploding Cucumbers

Squirting Cucumber Or Exploding Cucumber Seeds

Squirting Cucumber Or Exploding Cucumber Seeds (Ecballium elaterium)

Squirting cucumber (Ecballium elaterium), trailing herbaceous plant in the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). The plant is native to the Mediterranean region but has been introduced to other areas as a garden curiosity for its distinctive explosive fruits. Squirting cucumber contains poisonous cucurbitacins, and all parts of the plant can be fatal if ingested.

The hairy, rough, thick-stemmed plant may spread out to about 60 cm (about 24 inches) and has yellow bell-shaped flowers. The long-stalked bluish green fruits are about 4–5 cm (1.6–2 inches) long. Upon reaching maturity, the fruits explosively eject their brown seeds as they detach from the stem; the seeds may travel 3 to 6 metres (about 10 to 20 feet) from the plant.

Before we delve into the plant’s historical usage, let’s be clear that squirting cucumber contains high levels of cucurbitacins, which can be fatal if ingested. That said, the bitter cucurbitacin was cultivated in England and Malta into the nineteenth century to control worms. It has been used as a medicinal plant for over 2,000 years with explosive effects upon the human body worthy of its name. Apparently, the more benign effects treat rheumatism, paralysis, and cardiac disease. The root is said to be an analgesic and topically squirting cucumber was used to treat shingles, sinusitis, and painful joints. However, the more volatile effects are purgative and abortive. Large doses have caused gastro enteritis and death. At any rate, modern herbalists do not utilize squirting cucumber at this juncture nor should you.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.

Squirting Cucumber video

WIKIPEDIA:

Ecballium is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cucurbitaceae containing a single species, Ecballium elaterium, also called the squirting cucumber or exploding cucumber (but not to be confused with Cyclanthera explodens). It gets its unusual name from the fact that, when ripe, it squirts a stream of mucilaginous liquid containing its seeds, which can be seen with the naked eye. It is thus considered to have rapid plant movement.

It is native to Europe, northern Africa, and temperate areas of Asia. It is grown as an ornamental plant elsewhere, and in some places it has naturalized.

It is suspected to provide food for the caterpillars of the tortrix moth Phtheochroa rugosana.

This plant, and especially its fruit, is poisonous, containing cucurbitacins. In the ancient world it was considered to be an abortifacient.

Elaterium or elaterin is the name of the greenish substance extracted from the juice of the fruit that is used as a purgative.

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