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Mangosteenr

Don't be scared! Mangosteens are both delicious and good for you too!

3 Hidden Gems in the Produce Aisle

Apples, oranges, broccoli and carrots may all be good for you (they are!), but if these are your only go-to fruits and veggies, you may be missing out on discovering the tastes, textures, and health benefits of lesser known gems in the produce aisle.

Tickle your taste buds and give in to your fascination with food by getting to know mangosteen, pluots and fennel. Read more about them here, and then try them at home with quick and easy meal ideas.

Mangosteen
I love these pretty fruit as part of a centerpiece. They look almost too good to eat with their round, red to dark purple shells. But below their sturdy shells, you might be surprised to find delicate segments of snow-white juicy flesh. Inside, it looks a little like a tangerine. Tomi thinks it tastes more like a perfect balance of sweet and sour citrus, peach and exotic flavors.

Basic prep and storage: To open, make a shallow cut around the circumference or equator of the fruit, avoiding cutting into the soft interior and then the fruit can be twisted open along the cut. Store in the refrigerator.

Meal & snack ideas
• Enjoy it fresh! Wash, open, and enjoy as an elegant dessert that won’t wreck healthy eating goals.
• Add it to a shrimp salad. Marinate cooked shrimp, mangosteen segments, slivered onions, slivered red bell peppers and cilantro in your favorite dressing. Add a mix of fish sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, garlic, red chili, honey and pepper.
• Blend mangosteen alone or along with lychees and mangoes, fill an ice cube tray and allow to freeze. Use the tropical ice cubes for an exotic flare in your summer’s iced tea, or blend them up for a crushed ice dessert.

Fun facts: When you eat a mangosteen, appreciate that it takes just the right climate and elevation to cultivate; plus the trees take their sweet time to mature. The mangosteen is a delicate fruit that will only thrive in ultra-tropical temperatures between 40-100 degrees Fahrenheit on a slow-growing tree that grows up to 20-82 feet tall. Attempts to grow mangosteen north of 200 latitude have all failed.

Plum and Apricot makes Pluot

Pluots are sweeter than its parents (plum and apricot)

Pluot (pronounced PLOO-aught)
A child of the ‘80s, this plum-apricot hybrid has been enjoyed since it was introduced in 1989. Sweeter than either plums or apricots alone, this hybrid takes after its plum parent. That’s why you’ll get the smooth skin of a plum. If you find plums or apricots just a tad too tart, give pluots a try.

Basic prep & storage: Simply wash and enjoy. Fruit should be washed well and dried before enjoying. If you’d like to remove the pit, cut the fruit in half and scoop out the center stone. Ripen pluots in a brown paper bag at room temperature, then refrigerate.

Meal & snack ideas
• Enjoy pluots fresh! Wash and enjoy at home or on the go. Pack them in lunch boxes, and keep them in easily accessible areas of the refrigerator to make healthy snacking a no-brainer.
• Add them to salsa. For a fresh twist on your favorite tomato-salsa recipe, use chopped pluots in place of tomatoes, and mix with lime juice, chilies, onions and cilantro. Use as a dip with whole grain chips, as a fresh tapenade for appetizers or on top of grilled fish.
• Toss pluots with salad. Try a salad of baby greens, pluots, fresh goat cheese and walnuts drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

Fun facts: There are about 20 varieties of pluots with different mixtures of plum and apricot. They come in a variety of sizes, skin color and flesh color. The skin can be solid, striped or speckled and skin colors range from yellow-green to black. The flesh ranges from white to red in color.

Fennel recipes

Fennel can brighten up your salads, soups and fish!

Fennel
According to the Herb Society of America, fennel has a history of medicinal, magical and culinary uses. For example, they cite that the ancient Egyptians used it as a food and medicine; it was considered a snake bite remedy in ancient China; and in the Middle Ages, it was hung over doorways to drive away evil spirits.

Today, it’s appreciated in the kitchen for its deep yet soft flavor. Already well-known and loved in Italy, we might recognize it because it looks like a cross between celery and bok choy, with feathery dill-like fronds. It’s crisp and tastes like sweet, mild licorice. If you’ve stopped reading because you know you don’t like those black licorice jelly beans – please give fennel a chance. In fennel, the licorice (or anise) flavor is mildly aromatic and pleasant, and it combines particularly well with other flavors and brings out their fullness.

Meal & snack ideas
• I recently took my mandoline (vegetable slicer) off the shelf and made a shaved fennel salad in a matter of minutes. I topped it with freshly chopped parley, peas and a light Italian dressing. The leftovers were marinated overnight and were used the next day to top a lovely piece of fish.
• Use those pretty, feathery fronds as a garnish, or chop them and use as you would other herbs, like dill or parsley.
• For later in the year, keep fennel stalks in mind for soups and stews, where they can take the place of celery as an aromatic vegetable. Fennel also works well in a mix of roasted vegetables or as the bed for roasted meats.

Fun facts: Fennel is associated with the origin of the marathon. Ancient Athenian Pheidippides carried a fennel stalk on his 150 mile, 2 day run to Sparta to gather soldiers for the battle of Marathon with Persia in 490 B.C. The battle itself was also reportedly waged on a field of fennel.

Bottom line
Just about all fruits and vegetables are naturally nutrient-rich (AKA more nutrition per calorie) foods, full of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that support optimal health and help prevent chronic diseases. Get the most bang for your buck out of each and every calorie you eat by enjoying more fruits and vegetables. Eating more matters!

What new fruit or vegetable are you going to try this week? Let us know at Twitter (@FreshDirect) or post your thoughts on the FreshDirect Facebook page!  For more of my food tips (all with great savings!), check out my Healthy Living for Less section.

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