I am a firm believer that what we eat directly affects our health, and so when I have the opportunity to eat a wide variety of fresh fruits I go for it. I am a massive fan of tropical fruits so imagine my joy when I recently visited a market in Cambodia and within the first 10 paces came across 4 of my favourites.
Actually my first one is a nut, not a fruit, still it’s staying on my list, it’s the coconut. Coconuts are abundant in Cambodia, you can find piles of them on most street corners. There are usually a few in the cool box and someone at hand to slice the top of and give you a straw to drink the liquid inside. Coconut water is so refreshing, I love it best when the coconuts are really young and sweet. Make sure you hang by the person with the knife so that when you have finished drinking they can slice it in half and you can scoop out the flesh. The younger the coconut the more slimy the flesh, it slides down your throat, mmm, yum! Of course they have incredible health benefits too, the water alone is full of electrolytes and so can help with rehydration in the steamy tropics.
Chilies were the next to catch my eye. Chilies are a fruit, not one that most people would bite into without caution, but one of my favourites nonetheless. They have great medicinal qualities which include helping to: expel intestinal parasites (when eaten raw), boost circulation, improve asthmatic conditions. In addition their high beta-carotene content may help guard against the development of cancer. I chop them raw into Asian style salads, and cook with them most days. The Cambodians seem a lot more shy about using them in their cuisine than their fiery Thai neighbours, but there were certainly plenty for sale at the market. [If you want to know more about chili’s medicinal properties look here.]
My next fruit is the amazing rambutan, a fruit that I have yet to see in the supermarkets of Europe, I guess it just doesn’t store or transport that well. Once you have peeled off the curious skin there is sweet white flesh inside with a large smooth seed in the middle. The flesh is not unlike, the better known, lychee. Perhaps I get so excited when I get to eat one because it is such a rare treat, only in the tropics and only when in season, unlike most fruits that can be obtained worldwide, year round. Unsurprisingly they too have health benefits and have been used as a traditional medicine in both Malaysia and Indonesia for hundreds of years to treat diabetes, hypertension and many other conditions.
The fourth and final fruit of my ten paces is another curious looking fellow, the durian. Durian gets a bad rap because it has a rather pungent odour. You will find signs on the window of buses and cabs, even hotel rooms, banning durian fruit from the vehicle/ premises. Actually it is another fruit that has yet to migrate to the supermarkets of Europe, I wonder why?! It is however well worth the pong. The creamy yellow flesh is so rich and delicious, it feels as indulgent as the finest chocolate dessert. You don’t need much to fill you, but whenever I get a chance I eat a section. The flesh is a great source of vitamin C, B vitamins, and minerals including manganese, copper, iron and magnesium. So once again beneficial to health.
Who needs junk food when nature provides so many amazing and varied flavours, colours, tastes and textures? I can’t wait for my next trip to a tropical market!