17 Underrated Summer Fruits and What to Do With Them

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PINCH HITTERS

In addition to all those sunburned tourists, the sunny summer weather brings with it a new crop of ripe fruits to enjoy all season long. But since the produce selection in most grocery stores is very standardized, it can be easy to miss out on some of the summer's more uncommon — though no less tasty — harvests. Here are the best underrated and underused summer fruits to have on hand when you're all out of seasonal staples like strawberries.
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ASIAN PEAR

Asian pears are harvested throughout the year, but most heavily in late summer and early fall. They're typically crisper and richer in fiber than other pears, adding a distinct crunch and honeyed sweetness to sweet or savory salads and grilled cheese sandwiches. They're also tasty to eat out of hand and can be used as a substitute for apples in most any recipe.

Recipe: Asian Pear Slaw with Ginger and Lime from Flavour & Savour

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PAPAYA

Though available year-round in certain parts of the country, papayas are a tropical fruit best suited for summertime, when their mild orange flesh can be chilled to enjoy with a scoop of yogurt or blended into frozen beverages. It may be even better for savory preparations — stuff it like a pepper, toss it in a salad for texture and juiciness, or puree into a meat marinade and take advantage of its ability as a natural tenderizer.

Recipe: Chicken Papaya Salad from Angie's Recipes

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GUAVA

Another fruit with a conveniently long season lasting from spring through winter, guavas have a bright and unique tropical flavor but a tough flesh texture that can sometimes prove unpalatable. As such, they're best paired with savory dishes including pork and scallops or used to add their distinct flavor to sorbets, fruit smoothies, panna cotta, cocktails, popsicles, jams, and much more.

Recipe: Coconut French Toast with Guava Syrup from The Culinary Chronicles

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LYCHEE

Lychees are walnut-sized fruits with a spiky red skin and juicy, jelly-like white flesh that have enough tart sweetness to rival less exotic fruits like cherries or pineapple. From late spring to midsummer, enjoy their distinct flavor on its own or blended with other tropical fruits into creamy desserts, smoothies, or cocktails.

Recipe: Lychee Sorbet from Girl Cooks World

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CHARENTAIS MELON

Charentais melons are a petite, extra-fragrant variety of cantaloupe most commonly enjoyed in France, where they're widely considered the best of all melons. As such, they're usually enjoyed fresh, in sweet or savory salads, especially for breakfasts or when paired with bright cheeses like ricotta or goat cheese. Find them throughout the summer through specialty grocers and produce stands.

Recipe: Ricotta and Pistachio Charentais Salad from Princess Tofu

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PASSION FRUIT

Like guavas, tropical passion fruits have an unusual texture but an irresistible flavor that can be added to almost any recipe in need of acidity or sweetness. Mix the seeds and pulp with vanilla ice cream to enjoy raw, or boil down and add them to cocktails, jellies, sweet breads, and syrups.

Recipe: Passion Fruit Cupcakes from Design. Bake. Run.

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BLACK CURRANTS

While other summer berries are sweet and delicious to eat out of hand, black currants are more tart and thus better served with some added sweetener in cooked preparations including jellies or syrups. Otherwise, use their natural acidity in sauces and reductions to bring out the richness of wild game, pork loin, and other meat entrees.

Recipe: Lamb Chops With Black Currant Barbecue Sauce from Cooking by the Book

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DURIAN

Called the "King of Fruits" despite its powerful and off-putting odor, durians are large thorny fruits, most commonly found at Asian markets in the U.S. The creamy yet vaguely oniony smelling flesh can be eaten raw, but most Westerners will prefer it pureed with some added sugars for recipes like custards, cakes, ice creams, and sticky rice with tropical fruit.

Recipe: Durian Flan from She Simmers

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LOQUAT

Otherwise known as Japanese plums, these stone fruits rarely make it to American shores from their native China due to their easily bruised flesh. They've become more commonly cultivated domestically in warm states such as Hawaii, California, and Texas, however, where they ripen from early spring through early summer. Their flavor is somewhere between mango and citrus, best-suited for eating out of hand or flavoring grilled meats.

Recipe: Loquat Barbecue Sauce from Quite Good Food

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JACKFRUIT

Jackfruits are among the largest tree-borne fruits in the world, weighing up to 100 pounds at maturity. They can be used in baked sweets with other tropical fruits or as a hearty meat substitute. They're becoming easier to find in the U.S., and many Asian or specialty markets offer a canned variety that's almost as good for use as a vegetarian-friendly protein. If you do buy a fresh one, consider making it group purchase and sharing it with friends.

Recipe: Jackfruit Carnitas from Clean Green Simple

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DRAGON FRUIT

More than just a flavor of VitaminWater, dragon fruits are bright pink-and-green cactus fruits with white flesh speckled with edible black seeds. It's becoming more common at grocery stores and produce stands in the U.S., especially during its summer peak season. Rather than cooking this tropical fruit, keep it raw or chilled to enjoy on its own or in tropical fruit salads, salsas, smoothies, and sorbets.

Recipe: Dragon Fruit Salad from White on Rice Couple

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KIWANO / HORNED MELON

With their spiky, bright orange exterior, kiwanos have an eye-catching appearance but a mild flavor reminiscent of most other melons. It has a jelly-like texture and edible seeds similar to cucumber, making them a natural fit for salads as well as fruity beverages. Their rinds can also be saved to make truly distinctive serving cups.

Recipe: Watermelon, Strawberry, and Kiwano Fruit Punch from Gringalicious

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MANGOSTEEN

The so-called "Queen of Fruit" harvests during the hot rainy summer months in Southeast Asia and boasts a sweet strawberry-vanilla flavor that's best experienced fresh on its own, or sometimes in chilled desserts and baked goods. Mangosteen imports were banned in the U.S. until 2007 due to their risk of harboring Asian fruit flies. They've become more common in American markets since, but generally remain a high-priced rarity.

Recipe: Mangosteen Avocado Parfait from Gourmet Fury

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BREADFRUIT

Similar to the jackfruit but smaller, breadfruit is a large green tropical fruit with an exceptionally high concentration of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Unfortunately, it's as bland as it is nutritious, with a flavor often compared to undercooked potato. Nonetheless, it's a valuable and satiating ingredient when used right, as when added to coconut curries or fried and covered in cheese for more healthful nachos.

Recipe: Breadfruit Curry from Daily Food Recipes

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BOYSENBERRIES

A distinct hybrid of several other berries, boysenberries were once a wild-growing staple in California but have become more scarce with development in recent decades. The tender-fleshed berries are often processed into jams and syrups these days, but can still be found fresh at farm stands in Oregon and elsewhere on the West Coast. As with their relatives, they're delicious in almost any form of dessert.

Recipe: Boysenberry Hand Pies from Dessert for Two

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KIWI

New Zealand kiwi fruits are harvested in their winter months of June through September, so they're shipped to the Northern hemisphere in time for our summer. The green-fleshed fruit is delicious eaten out of hand and greatly enhances other fruit juices or beverages, but can also be used in spicy fruit salsas to compliment grilled poultry or seafood.

Recipe: Kiwi Mojito Popsicles from Gimme Some Oven

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PLUMS

Plums are less popular than other fruits, like peaches and apricots, within the drupe family of stone fruits, but they're also juicier and offer a host of unique health benefits to aid digestion and protect against high-blood pressure. With a long season lasting from May through October, they're a natural fit for compotes or baked sweets like cobbler, but also work well in sauces for Eastern-tinged savory dishes, like the Moo Shu Chicken wraps below.

Recipe: Moo Shu Chicken and Plum Sauce from Parsley Sage Sweet

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