Digest May Tropical

tropical treats

Our intrepid correspondent, nutritionist Sarah Ley, attends a fruit tasting in Far North Queensland. With an afternoon to spare at Cape Tribulation in Far North Queensland, our travels were more than rewarded when we happened upon a tropical fruit tasting.

Inspired by their travels in Asia during the 1970s, Colin & Dawn Gray established Cape Trib Farm in the hopes of propagating some of the exotic fruit that wasn’t available in Australia. Attending the tasting session at Cape Trib Farm was our small group, which tasted 13 fruits in season over a 90-minute session, followed by a walk around the orchard to see for ourselves the diverse range of trees and fruit growing on the former cattle ranch.

We started with breadfruit, which they send to markets in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. It cooks like a potato – we tasted it as baked chips lightly flavoured with Cajun spice. It is picked early in May and the starchy unripe fruit is then frozen as chips. Rich in dietary fibre, breadfruit is also a good source of iron, calcium, potassium and riboflavin, and contains linoleic and linolenic acids at the highest concentration. It was definitely a great starter!

Black Sapote

Picked when firm and green with a black speckled exterior, this fruit goes very squishy when ripe and ready to eat. A flavour treat – you could be eating chocolate mousse. Black sapotes are antioxidant-rich and contain similar levels of vitamin E to avocados.


Delicious and juicy, they are larger than ours – without losing flavour.


They look and taste a bit like loquat or guava with an acidic, sweet flavour. Originating from Southeast Asia, rambai are grown on long stalks packed with fruit.


Cape Trib Farm grows the yellow and purple varieties. We tasted the yellow, which has a big stone, is tart and palate-cleansing. The xanthones found in mangosteen are said to possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Custard apple

Very sweet and fresh to eat, known to us here in New Zealand.

Larger, related to custard apple but the smell is different. Called “cotton wool fruit” because it’s stringy to eat.

Dragon fruit

We tasted a red-fleshed variety with small black edible seeds. The fruit grows on a cactus-like plant but the flavour was disappointingly bland and mildly sweet.


Also grows on a cactus-like plant and similar to dragon fruit with black seeds on white flesh with yellow skin. They are spiny to pick but spines brush off and the flesh is mildly sweet.

Star fruit or carambola
Easy to slice, they look particularly good as a garnish for food or drink. We tried them as perfect sliced-star shapes. They are particularly high in potassium and vitamin C and have a fresh, slightly sweet taste. Sour carambola juice is used in traditional Chinese remedies for treating sore throats and the common cold. (Though, unusually, the toxin caramboxin can cause a reaction that includes mental confusion and seizures for those suffering from kidney failure.)

Sapodilla or checko

From Guatemala, this fruit has an earthy skin with a caramel-like, sweet flavour and the flesh has the texture of peaches. It is a good source of vitamin C and fibre.


Or dragon eye. Similar to a lychee, has a brown coating with sweet, juicy flesh around a large shiny black seed. We needed to peel them to pop out the edible translucent flesh and seed. A good source of vitamin C.

Mamey sapote

Has a thick brown skin with an attractive orange flesh, a texture similar to avocados or butternut but tastes sweet. It is a good source of vitamin C and antioxidant compounds. Compared to other tropical fruit such as papaya, it has a higher level of carotenoids.

Miracle fruit

This fruit comes from Africa and was discovered by Europeans in 1500s. It works on your taste buds so that sour food tastes sweet: the effect lasts three or four hours and doesn’t apparently change the actual food, but literally tricks the brain into thinking sour food is sweet. The taste-modifying compound is miraculin: a research study with chemotherapy patients has shown positive taste changes after eating the fruit. We sucked on lime segments before and after we tasted it – I swear my dinner that night tasted better than it would have!

Then, it was time to get out to the orchard with our host Jeremy Blockey and see some of the trees from which these marvellous fruits were harvested. I definitely recommend the tasting to anyone who finds themselves in this rather wonderful part of Far North Queensland.

Since returning to New Zealand, we’ve researched a lot of the nutritional values of these fruits – Asian supermarkets and online stores sometimes sell them. Watch out for your favourites and ask about availability!