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What Are Tropical Fruits?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Tropical fruit is any fruit produced by a tree native to the tropics. The tropics are generally defined as the region of the globe between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, and the environmental conditions there are unique, creating a habitat for incredibly diverse animals and plants. Many tropical fruits have been used by humans for centuries, and certain fruits are in high demand all over the world.

Several things about the growing conditions in the tropics are unique, setting the stage for trees, vines, and other plants which grow nowhere else in the world. The most obvious distinguishing feature of the tropics is the heat. The tropics are warm, year-round, and they are also very humid, with some areas receiving lots of rain every year. Plants in this area have adapted to this climate, and many tropical fruits are large, brightly colored, and very flavorful so that they appeal to the animals they rely on to distribute their seeds.

Some tropical fruits are pretty well known all over the world. Pomegranates, mangoes, papayas, avocados, bananas, pineapples, guavas, star fruits, kiwis, dates, and passion fruit are some well-known examples. In fact, the banana is one of the highest selling fruits around the world, thanks to the ease with which it can be grown, harvested, and transported. Many of these fruits are available in big markets year-round, thanks to a steady supply of fruit from the tropics.

Other tropical fruit cultivars are more obscure. While they may be popular in specific regions of the world, they are not familiar to people outside of these areas, and some of them are definitely an acquired taste. Some more obscure examples of tropical fruit include: soursops, cherimoyas, sugar apples, jackfruit, pawpaws, durian, acerolas, mamey, akee, breadfruit, lychees, rambutans, and mangosteens. Some of these fruits, like jackfruit and durian, are infamous for their strong odor and flavor, while others like mangosteens, lychees, and cherimoyas are, quite simply, delicious, but difficult to cultivate, making it hard to promote them.

Many people associate the tropics with exoticism, and as a result, tropical fruit often has an exotic flare. Some types are also very fragile, making transport challenging and adding to the excitement for consumers who can get them, since many people prize rarity. For people who live in the tropics, of course, there's nothing terribly exotic about fruits which grow as readily as weeds in the back yard, but the same fruits which plague homeowners in places like Hawaii fetch a high price at market in regions like Sweden. Many tropical fruits are particularly flavorful, sweet, juicy, and tender, making them appealing to people of all ages.

Tropical Fruits List for Your Next Grocery Trip

Colorful, delicious and nutritious fruit can be found throughout the world, but they are especially abundant in the tropics. Better food retailers know this and keep the tropical fruits in stock. These days, it's easy to gravitate towards processed and junk food; grocery stores pander to our tastes, often without concern for nutrition. There are many tropical fruits, however, that are both healthy and beautiful. Although these fruits can typically only grow in tropical climates, growers can export them throughout the world. So, next time you are heading to the grocery store, plan to spend time looking at all the flavorful fruit options. Here are a few of the tastiest.

  • Avocado - This fruit is unlike any other, with a rich texture of "good fat" and omega-3 fatty acids. It's also high in potassium, B-vitamins and vitamins C and E.
  • Jackfruit - Besides being delicious and tasting like a pineapple/banana combination, vitamins permeate this fruit.
  • Papaya - Its healthy fiber content helps digestion. It also holds antioxidant properties.
  • Starfruit - This fruit is crunchy and deliciously juicy, sweet and sour. It is rich in B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. You can also eat the skin.

Is Kiwi a Tropical Fruit That You Can Grow in a Pot?

How would you like to grow tropical fruit at your home? You may not think it's possible if you live anywhere outside of the tropics, but it is! Although growing a plant that will yield edible fruit can be challenging, with a little TLC, time, and patience, it's doable. You'll at least get a lovely ornamental kiwi plant. There are several types of kiwis; the common kiwifruit is the type you usually find in grocery stores with a thick skin that's fuzzy on the outside. Cut it open, and you'll find a green, seedy pulp. The easily removable seeds make it simple to begin the growing process.

1. Harvest the Seeds

First, slice your kiwi and then scoop out the seeds. Put the seeds in a small bowl, rinse them with water, and then strain the water from the seeds.

2. Germinate the Seeds

Next, it's time to germinate the seeds. The best method is to spread the seeds on a damp paper towel and put them in a resealable plastic sandwich bag. Seal the bag and then put it in a warm location. Check them daily for signs of sprouting. Also, make sure the paper towel stays damp. If it gets dry, it's helpful to spray it with water from a spray bottle.

3. Pot the Seedlings

Soon, you'll see your seedlings sprouting. Now it's time to place them in their initial pots, but first, you must prepare the pots. Put some seed-starting potting mix in a few small pots and moisten the soil. The seedlings will cling to the paper towel. Tear the paper towel into sections of three or four seedlings and then plant each section in its own pot.

4. Provide Significant Sunlight

Now your little potted seedlings will need a home that gets a lot of sunlight. Put the pots in their new location and watch them grow. It's usually best to keep your plants indoors for the first couple of years to avoid harsh temperatures.

5. Transfer the Plants

As your plants grow, you will periodically need to transfer them to bigger pots. When you do your first transfer, begin using a starter fertilizer to boost their nutrition.

Is Mango a Tropical Fruit That Offers Hidden Health Benefits?

Mangoes are jam-packed with nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, providing nearly 75% of the daily value in just one cup. With all the vitamins mangoes contain, it has extreme immune-boosting benefits, including lowering the risk of infection and boosting white blood cell production.

  • It Could Help Prevent Diabetes

    Although mango has a high natural sugar content, it can actually help prevent the onset of diabetes. It may even work to level the blood sugar of people who already have diabetes. Like anything, though, it's best to consume this fruit in moderation.

  • It Increases Digestive Health

    If you experience digestive issues, mango could help several digestive issues by preventing diarrhea or constipation due to its dietary fiber and water content.

  • It Is Rich in Antioxidants

    Mango is rich in antioxidants, including mangiferin (aka a "super antioxidant"), all of which protect your cells against free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells leading to various types of chronic diseases.

  • It Promotes Heart Health

    The significant magnesium and potassium content in mango can improve and maintain blood flow by relaxing blood vessels. This combination can help lower blood pressure levels.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By golf07 — On Nov 04, 2012

If I am at a buffet where there is a huge variety of food being served, the first place I usually go is where the fresh fruit is. If there is a bowl of tropical fruit that has a combination of pineapple, bananas, kiwi and mangoes, that is what I love and will usually have seconds on.

I am not a vegetarian, but prefer a big bowl of tropical fruit over a steak any day. Pomegranates are one tropical fruit that seem to be getting more popular all the time. I have been drinking pomegranate juice for awhile, but recently I had my first piece of pomegranate fruit and I really enjoyed the sweet taste.

By John57 — On Nov 03, 2012

I have heard of mangosteen fruit only because I see this in a juice that has been advertised to offer a lot of health benefits. I am not surprised to find out that bananas are one of the highest selling tropical fruits.

You can find bananas at most every grocery store and they are pretty inexpensive. I have met very few people who don't like bananas, and this is one of the first fruits most toddlers are introduced to.

By honeybees — On Nov 02, 2012

@julies -- While a warm tropical climate does sound inviting, I think there are some disadvantages to it as well. Like the article said, there is usually a lot of humidity and rain that goes along with the tropical climate, not to mention lots of bugs. Since I don't like high humidity or rain, I don't know if I would like living in this type of climate all year long or not.

I do love to eat all kinds of tropical fruit though. I would love to try some of the rare kinds of fruit mentioned in this article, but have never even heard of most of them.

When we were in Hawaii we toured a Dole pineapple plantation. We got to try some samples and it was the sweetest pineapple I have ever had. The fruit tastes much better when you can eat it ripe from the tree. After it has been transported across the country, it isn't nearly as tasteful.

By julies — On Nov 02, 2012
@giddion -- I agree with you, and have always thought I would love to live in a place where it is warm all year long. How wonderful it would be to have so many kinds of tropical fruit growing in your own back yard. I can't plant any tropical fruit trees where I live because our climate is much too cold. I am thankful that I can purchase several varieties of tropical fruit at my grocery store all year long though.
By giddion — On Nov 01, 2012

It would be so awesome to live somewhere that produces fresh tropical fruit. My personal favorite is star fruit, because it tastes unlike anything I've ever tried. I love how you can slice into it and make star shapes.

By Kristee — On Oct 31, 2012

@DylanB – This reminds me of tropical fruit and nut granola bars. I take them with me when I travel sometimes, and they are like trail mix in bar form.

I have to say that I do prefer actual fruit to the dried version, though. Nothing tastes as good as a fresh pineapple.

I buy the whole pineapple from the grocery store and wait until the bottom smells ripe. Then, I slice off the top and sides and cut it into chunks by going around the core.

It tastes amazing and exotic. I also like grilling it after brushing it with brown sugar, honey, and soy sauce. It makes an excellent side dish for grilled chicken.

By DylanB — On Oct 30, 2012

I eat dried tropical fruit as a snack. There are bits of pineapple, mango, and orange in my favorite blend.

It won't do anything for your hydration, but it still gives you nutrients. I prefer to snack on this at my desk instead of eating a chocolate bar from the vending machine.

By Perdido — On Oct 30, 2012

I buy tropical fruits every week. It's so nice to be able to get them in my supermarket, even though I'm hundreds of miles away from the tropics.

I eat a banana every morning. It's full of potassium, and it prevents me from getting painful leg cramps.

I also make banana smoothies, once the fruit has gotten extremely ripe. I blend a banana with a few scoops of vanilla yogurt and some milk, and it makes a delicious smoothie. I don't even have to add sugar, because ripe bananas are very sweet, and the yogurt is also sweetened.

By WaterHopper — On Aug 27, 2010

@oceanswimmer: I am also a big fan of mangoes. My husband and I visited a quaint little restaurant in Kentucky and they served a dish called Mango Fool. I told the waitress that we were from out of town and asked her if there was any way she could get me the recipe. She got it for me and it is so wonderful!

You need ¼ cup heavy cream, 1 ¼ tsp. unflavored gelatin, 1 ½ Tbsp. lime juice, 3 large ripe mangoes with the flesh coarsely chopped to equal 4 cups OR a drained can of mangoes (1 lb. 14 oz.) and ¼ cup sugar.

In a small cup, sprinkle the gelatin over lime juice and let it stand for one minute. Puree the mangoes with the sugar in a blender until smooth. Melt the softened gelatin in a cup in a pan of simmering water. You can also do that in the microwave. Stir that into the puree.

Beat the cream with a mixer until it has a stiff peak and fold it into the puree. Chill it and serve.

By OceanSwimmer — On Aug 27, 2010

Are tropical fruits usually eaten by themselves or are there some recipes with tropical fruit in them? I especially like mangoes.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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