Inside international markets: 6 fruits & veggies to try

International markets are a prime place for produce in Tennessee, especially if you want to expand your home-cooking playbook with new recipes.

But knowing where to start can be intimidating if you’ve never cooked with produce like jicama, kohlrabi or chayote before.

Here are 6 fruits and vegetables commonly found in international markets, plus a few easy ideas on how to use them.

1. Chayote

Known as “the savory pear,” this vegetable has flavors of both squash and potatoes, which means it can be eaten raw or cooked. It’s a popular ingredient in both Vietnam and India, as well as Central America.

Try chayote in a shaved salad, sauteed in ratatouille or mashed the same way you would potatoes.

2. Guanabana

Also known as “soursop,” this tropical fruit looks a bit like a pineapple but is closer in texture to a banana. With flavors of apple, citrus and strawberry, guanabana is a great natural source of sweet and sour flavors.

Use guanabana to make a delightfully tart milkshake, sorbet or ice cream, which is how it’s traditionally prepared in Mexico.

3. Jicama

This large root veggie has the sweetness of a cucumber but the texture of an apple or potato and is often referred to as a “Chinese potato” or “Mexican turnip”. Because of its mild flavor, jicama is perfect for slicing into matchsticks to eat raw.

To turn it into a simple slaw, simply mix jicama with shredded carrots and cabbage, toss with dressing and top with herbs (cilantro, basil) and chopped nuts (peanuts, almonds). It’s great as a side dish or on top of lettuce wraps for a bright, healthy crunch.

4. Kohlrabi

As part of the cabbage family, kohlrabi is most common in German-speaking countries but can be found in cuisines from India to Sri Lanka.

Kohlrabi looks like a peeled white onion, with bendable, leafy stems shooting out. The bulb is sweet and extra crunchy, similar to a broccoli stem, so it’s great marinated in salads, tossed in slaws or cooked in stir frys. You can also use the leaves in soups or stewed like collard greens.

5. Lychee

This pinkish-red fruit is typically about the size of a grape, and it’s a very common ingredient in Chinese cuisine.

While the outside of the small, oblong fruit is inedible, the sugary interior is often used in cocktails, sweets and desserts. Simply peel your lychee and use it as you would any fruit, such as in jam, pudding or cake.

6. Nopal

Commonly called a “prickly pear” in English, nopal is the flesh of a cactus leaf. Once the spikes and skin are removed from the paddles, the tender green “meat” inside has a mild, fresh taste — almost like a green bean.

You’ve probably seen nopal served in Mexican cuisine as a topping for tacos and fajitas, but it’s also a great natural thickener and sweetener. Try it in a smoothie with pineapple and a squeeze of citrus.

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).

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Filed under: Food & Recipes


Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).