Fruit salad is a dish comprised primarily of fruit and typically served as a dessert, although some may be offered as appetizers. There are a number of different styles, ranging from simple blends of mixed fruit to complex constructions enshrined in gelatin. Some markets and delis carry packaged salads for people to purchase, and this dish can also be made at home with ease.
The star attraction of fruit salad is, of course, fruit. Typically, the fruit is peeled or otherwise prepared and cut into bite-sized pieces to make it easier to eat. Any number of fruits and berries can be used, including apples, bananas, kiwis, pineapples, tangerines, and many others. Some cooks simply present it plain, but others have a theme and use tropical or Mediterranean fruits, for example.
In other instances, a salad may be prepared with a simple acidic dressing that is designed to keep the fruit from browning. Lime juice, for example, may be used on a tropical salad, or saba may be mixed in with a Mediterranean fruits. Vinaigrettes may also be used, or the fruit may simply be dipped in acidulated water to prevent browning. Other fruit salads are made with cream dressings, ranging from tangy dressings with blue cheese or sour cream to sweet dressings with whipped cream or mascarpone cheese.
Salads can get quite complex, with additions like grilled fruit or savory dressings. In the 1950s and 1960s, gelatin salads made with sweet flavored gelatin and fruit inclusions were very popular. Sometimes vegetables may be added, giving the salad a more savory bent, and one may also be paired with greens, nuts, bread, and other savory ingredients. Any number of ingredients can be added to dressings, including yogurt, honey, sesame oil, soy sauce, and so forth, with cooks preparing a dressing that best blends with the ingredients in the salad.
The nutritional value of fruit salad varies widely, depending on the fruits and dressings used. Many fruits are high in fiber and an assortment of vitamins, especially if their peels are left on, as in the case of apples, grapes, kumquats, and other fruits with edible rinds or peels. The dish typically tastes best when fresh fruit is used, although it can be refrigerated for up to a day, and if tossed with an acidic dressing, the risk of bacterial contamination is typically fairly low.