Hello boys and girls!

My name is Jared Rydelek, I make my living as a professional contortionist and sideshow performer but have a completely unrelated hobby documenting rare fruit from around the world. I have been vlogging about my findings on my Youtube channel Weird Explorer for about five years now and have traveled to 18 countries so far doing so. More recently I have been writing more in depth about the history and cultural significance of some of the bizarre fruit I have found on travel site Atlas Obscura's new Food section, Gastro Obscura.

You can see more about me here:

Proof: https://twitter.com/atlasobscura/status/984552015010451456

EDIT: Thanks everyone for all your amazing questions! I hope you enjoyed hearing about my adventures with tracking down fruit. If you want to follow along my fruit adventures check out the channel Weirdexplorer on youtube. I also just created a subreddit /r/weirdexplorer in case any one has any questions that didn’t get answered here. Also special thank you to Atlasobscura for this opportunity. They are an incredible site that I use all the time when I travel, so check them out too if you haven’t heard of them already. Thanks again! - Jared

Comments: 1674 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

undoubtedlynotaNazi1955 karma

Have you ever died from eating a rare fruit?

atlasobscura1248 karma

So far I'm still breathing. I have eaten a few fruits that can kill you though. One that comes to mind is the very common ornamental plant Yew Berries. Your parents probably told you not to eat them at some point. The fruit itself is sweet, but if you eat a few of the seeds it can kill you.

MaesterMagoo388 karma

Can you remove the seeds and still eat the fruit?

atlasobscura1152 karma

Yep. When I tried it I just squeezed them and the seeds pop out. Some people put whole ones in their mouth and spit out the seeds… but if you hiccup or something and accidentally swallow a few of those.. Its bad news. By the way I should probably put a disclaimer here saying: Don’t try this at home.

aka_zkra1269 karma

What's the name of that Chinese fruit about the size of a plum, that looks and tastes like a blackberry, a plum and cherry had a wild threesome? It has a stone, lots of individual spiky segments like a raspberry and tastes amazing.

atlasobscura1713 karma

That would be Myrica rubra Not sure what they call it in China, but in English its Strawberry tree fruit or Yumberry. I had one for the first time last month in Beijing and they are seriously delicious. Like a tart strawberry mixed with a raspberry.

samjamtimtam920 karma

Durian: love it or hate it? (I am from Malaysia, and I will take no offense at your answer)

atlasobscura1447 karma

I HATED it the first time I had it. But the thing was that I had one that I got here in the US, which are usually sold frozen and then defrosted. So of course it tasted terrible, imagine freezing a banana, then defrosting it and then eating the sludge that is left. When I tried a fresh durian in Malaysia, I liked it. I didn’t love it, its definitely a fruit that takes a bit of getting used to. But its not bad. I think a lot of people from the west hate durian because they are having the same experience I had the first time I tried it. You gotta have it fresh!

KarmicPJJunior901 karma

What are your honest thoughts about common fruits (apple, orange, pear)?

atlasobscura2165 karma

I’ll occasionally buy some bananas at the supermarket, but after traveling the world eating all this amazing fruit, I usually end up being disappointed. Not because of them being common necessarily, but the quality of the fruit at supermarkets in the US tastes like hot garbage compared to the fruit you get in other parts of the world. The choices we get are based on what lasts longest and ships well rather than flavor. However if I go to a farmers market, I’ll pick up some more common fruit and be perfectly happy.

Chtorrr676 karma

What is the most disgusting fruit you've tried?

atlasobscura2219 karma

Noni fruit.. It’s absolutely revolting yet a highly touted health food. It looks like a diseased kidney and tastes like if you ate a brick of cheddar cheese, vomited it on a lemon and then ate the lemon.

milkandgin583 karma

What’s your dream fruit? Like a chimera of fruit and have you found it yet?

atlasobscura1186 karma

I’ve got two white whales. One is a fruit called the kesusu. Its crazy looking. Like a bunch of pears shoved together into a ball. I actually found the tree once in Borneo, but it has a bizarre growing season, so there weren’t any fruits on it. The another one is called Coco de Mer. Its a coconut relative that looks like the pelvic region of a woman, front and back. The flesh is supposed to be like a slimy coconut with mint. Its endangered and highly controlled though, so I don’t know if I’ll ever get to try that one…

LuthaMG555 karma

Which ordinary fruit do you like the most?

atlasobscura1200 karma

A good soft peach from a farmers market.

proofwishbone5ever371 karma

What's the story of how you became interested in weird fruit exploration, and when/how did it turn from a general interest into a full-blown hobby that involved traveling the entire world?

atlasobscura681 karma

Ooh thats a big question. In a nutshell. I was raised vegetarian and have always has a very jaded palate. My parents didn’t let me have junk food, so I gravitated to the produce section and was always on whatever new thing i could find. Flash forward about 20 years and I’m making my living as a contortionist and traveling in Malaysia for that. There I found myself in fruit heaven. I started documenting my findings and now 5 years later and its become an addiction that requires me to go all around the world. I couldn’t be happier.

Chtorrr370 karma

What are your feelings on pineapple as a pizza topping?

atlasobscura569 karma

I think there is a lot of potential using fruit in more savory applications, so I'm all for it. Personally though I usually go for a plain slice.

aka_zkra316 karma

Have you been to Colombia to try all their crazy fruit? What did you think of the one that comes in a long pod, like stones covered in damp cotton wool (the cotton wool being that part you actually eat)?

atlasobscura517 karma

I was in Bogota just for a layover and found something like 20 fruits I never had. I really need to go back! The fruit you’re talking about is called Ice Cream Bean in English, over there they call is Guama I think (might be spelling that wrong). I found four different varieties throughout my travels the worst of them tasted like a mealy pear, the best one actually tasted like vanilla ice cream. Really an underutilized fruit. I think people in the US would love them if they were more common.

Kiu_98247 karma

Hello and thank you for doing this Jared, out of all the fruits that you've tried, which one is the rarest one that you love the most and which one's the most common one that you like the least?

P.s: To add a little bit to what I asked, has your contorsionism abilities helped you to accomplish something during your fruit hunting (e.g. reaching a hard to get fruit from a narrow or steep place)?

atlasobscura374 karma

Haha great questions. My favorite fruit is also one of the rarest that I’ve had. Its a durian relative called “Lukak” and is only available in Borneo (I think); it looks crazy, has a great texture and a flavor that is like a very fruity tasting durian without the funky parts that you have to get used to. Common fruit that I like the least is probably a fig… there are good ones out there I’m sure, but the ones you get at the supermarkets have a terrible texture and boring flavor in my opinion. About the contortion, I actually had to bring those skills into use last month. While I was out in India, I had to maneuver myself down the side of a steep hill to get some rattan fruits I found without sliding down. It involved throwing a leg up onto a branch in a contortionist kind of way.

KarmicPJJunior246 karma

Is there any fruit that is close to extinction?

atlasobscura686 karma

Yes... I don't have numbers, but I'm fairly certain we are losing species every year due to deforestation. I've spent a lot of time fruit hunting in Malaysia. And if you look out the window as you are flying in, you just see hundreds of miles of palm oil plantations stretching out into the distance. A lot of rare fruit trees are just mowed down, it's unbelievably disturbing.

thylacine_pouch181 karma

Are there good markets or websites in the US I can buy rare fruit from? What should I try first, that I can't find at my regular grocery store?

atlasobscura347 karma

Sure, check out miamifruit.org or robertishere.com It can be a bit pricey to get fruit in the mail, but I have used both of them and it was a good experience. Miamifruit has a bunch of weird stuff Yellow dragon fruits are delicious and crazy looking. Robert is here carrys Black Sapotes, which look like green tomatoes filled with chocolate pudding.

schultjh174 karma

How do you define "weird"? I could imagine a ton of regional difference on what is "weird" or not. Americans, for example, might find durian weird, where someone from Malaysia or Thailand might not.

atlasobscura280 karma

Weird is definitely a relative term. I use it based on what is different or interesting for me personally. I’ll review a lot of stuff in the US also like the pawpaw, which is everywhere in some states but impossible to find where I live in NYC. people will comment “What are you talking about, these are taking over my backyard!” so it’s really meant to be my personal exploration on what is new to me.

Threeknucklesdeeper153 karma

How would you rate other fruits compared to say, a coconut, for extra curricular activities?

atlasobscura340 karma

I don’t know what you are doing to those poor coconuts. But look up “coco de mer” I think it may be your match made in heaven.

kittykrispies97 karma

As a South Floridian obsessed with mangoes, I’m curious what is your favorite mango variety? And where did you try it?

atlasobscura158 karma

The egg of the sun mango is probably my favorite. The one I bought cost $80 and tasted like the sweetest, juiciest and most flavorful mango in the world. It wasn’t especially unique tasting but the best for typical mango flavor. My favorite mango with a bit more character I found in New Delhi India called the Hamam, it was extremely musky tasting with a flavor unlike anything I’ve had before. A lot of people say the best indian mango is the Alphonso, but the Hamam blows those away as far as I’m concerned.

Firefly_0784 karma

I really liked that article about the Egg of the Sun, didn't know those even existed. We love mangoes, do you know if it's possible to get them shipped? (These particular ones) I may just have to put this on my bucket list to go to Japan to get one.

Also, I'm loving reading your AMA

atlasobscura108 karma

I’m not sure if you can get them shipped from Japan, maybe from the shop Sembikaya (it's like a jewelry store for expensive fruit). If you did manage to get one, I would expect to spend hundreds of dollars for one… so it might be cheaper to fly to Japan and get one from a super market. If you are in the US, you can probably get an Irwin mango shipped from Florida. They are the same exact species, just without all the pampering that they do in Japan. It might not be AS good, but it would be close. And I’m so glad you liked the atlasobscura article!

Ggungabyfish76 karma

Hello, Jared! Where have you encountered the weirdest fruit?

atlasobscura214 karma

The highest concentration of weird fruit I found was in Borneo. There is just so much diversity there. I had Belimbing hutan which look like little chinese lanterns and taste a little like paper. I had ginger fruit that tasted like pickles and cinnamon. I had a giant potato-looking mango that tasted savory and had a sap that causes horrible skin irritation. Every market I went to was just such an eye-opener, even with all the years of fruit hunting, I’d still come across things I never knew existed.

Mdiasrodrigu76 karma

Is there something weird from my country, Portugal?

atlasobscura100 karma

I honestly have never been, so I don’t know specifics. But with all the species of fruit out there (something like 80,000 I’ve heard) I’m sure there are some in Portugal that you can’t find elsewhere. Do some googling about native fruits from your country there are probably a bunch that locals don’t even know are there. I’ve been finding that a lot with my finds here in the USA.

ParadoxWithinMe66 karma

What is you most Favorite rare fruit to eat?

atlasobscura109 karma

Best flavor as I said somewhere else here is the Lukak. But most fun is probably the Kadsura heteroclita. I found one in Laos. It looks like if you took a bunch of baby bananas and shoved them together into a ball. You pull one out and peel it before you eat it. There is another one I had in Mexico called the Pinguin, which is similar but they burn your mouth if you eat too much.

Waja_Wabit55 karma

Have you had a Gros Michel banana? Did it taste much different? Is it worth seeking out and trying if I really like the taste of bananas?

atlasobscura79 karma

Hello! Jared signed off for today BUT our staff actually tried them recently so I thought I'd leave this link here if you're interested :)


ScienceLion27 karma

Hi Jared! Have you tried "weird" fruit flavored candies? If so, which is the best and most accurate?

atlasobscura51 karma

I haven’t had a ton, but Mangosteen candy is tasty. The fruit has a very unique flavor that’s hard to describe, so its interesting to get it in candy form. The cheaper ones aren’t accurate and just taste like artificial grape, but good ones are pretty legit.

jetsdude21 karma

Most under rated fruits in terms of:



Health benefits


atlasobscura140 karma

It’s amazing to me to go to another country and see an entirely different selection of fruits that are eaten every day and used in cooking. It’s hard to imagine fruit that is so highly valued one place but in my home country most people don’t even know what they are. I have had hundreds of fruits that make me think about how much people back home would love it.

Here are a couple examples though: One of my favorite fruits, the pawpaw (tastes like a tropical pudding) is actually native to the US but outside of a few states few people know about it. Its underrated for taste and price (you can forage them). Another is the mangosteen, they are available in the US at asian supermarkets, and considered to be one of the tastiest fruits in SE asia. For health, there is a number of fruits that would be incredibly beneficial for people with dietary restrictions: Enkala tastes like sour cream and would be a perfect replacement for a vegan. Langsat tastes like grapefruit and would be great for people on medications that have grapefruit as a restricted food. Peanut butter fruit actually tastes like peanuts and would mean a PB&J for kids with peanut allergies… There is a lot.

tit_wrangler17 karma

Why fruit?

atlasobscura96 karma

Huge question and I’m running out of time. But one reason is the collection aspect. There is an incredibly huge variety of fruit out there in the world and every time I look for one thing, I find another 10 that I’ve never heard about. Its inexhaustible and fascinating. I could have tried every regional soda or street food or something, but beyond being bigger than those things, fruit is also straight from the ground. It’s not made in a factory (though there are created varieties too, but that's another story) they are grown out of the damn ground. So I have gotten to learn so much about nature, about the communities that utilize these fruits, the countries they grow in. And beyond all of that fruit is above just an excuse to travel out to places and discover parts of the world I otherwise would not have gone to. It gets me off the beaten path and gives me a mission to create experiences for myself that few other things can do for me in the same way.

MaesterMagoo16 karma

Where do you live? When I lived in Queens I used to love combing the markets in Woodside/Flushing/Jamaica for cool looking fruits.

atlasobscura20 karma

I’m in Elmhurst Queens and absolutely love this boro. With so many communities living in one place, Its the perfect place for me. I can walk 10 min in any direction and find markets with fruit from China, India, South America, SE asia, etc…