Many spiny fruits, also known as spiky fruits, are delicious and offer several nutritional benefits. However, many of them are less known, and thanks to their somewhat weird appearance, many people don’t actively seek them out. You’ve come to the right place if you’re curious about spiny or spiky fruits!
Here are 11 spiny fruits from different regions of the world:
- Kiwano (Horned Melon)
- Yellow Dragon Fruit
- Black Mulberry
- Prickly Pear (Cactus Fruit)
- Soursop (Graviola)
Let’s look at these spiny fruits to know their unique features, taste, and origin. You’ll also learn the nutritional and health benefits of these spiky fruits, too.
Yellow Spiny Fruits
Let’s kick things off with the world’s largest edible tree fruit, which also happens to be a spiny fruit. The jackfruit originates from the Indo-Malaysian region but now grows in many warm climates worldwide. It is a massive tropical fruit that can weigh up to 40 lbs (18 kg), yet it grows on trees.
The fruit has thick, jarring skin, but underneath all that roughness is a delicious pulpy flesh that you can eat raw or cooked. If you’re a vegan, you’ll probably enjoy jackfruit’s chewy texture, making it an excellent vegan substitute for meat.
On the nutritional side of things, 3.5 oz (100 g) of jackfruit has plenty of vitamins, including vitamin B2, B3, B9, B6, and vitamin C. It also has many minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium (source: Cleveland Clinic).
Jackfruit is a good source of fiber, so it can help with regular bowel movements and may prevent constipation. Other potential health benefits of the fruit include:
- Lowers high blood pressure.
- Protects the skin from sun damage.
- Controls blood sugar levels (minimizing the risk of diabetes).
- Prevents sores (ulcers) from forming in the stomach (source: International Journal of Food Science).
The durian is a unique tropical fruit from Southeast Asia. The large fruit is dubbed the “king of the fruits” in some regions and can weigh up to 8 lbs (3.6 kg).
It has a thorn-covered rind and is distinctive for its potent smell, which earns it a ban in many public places in Southeast Asia.
Regardless of its offensive odor, the durian is one of the most incredibly nutritious fruits worldwide. According to the USDA, one cup of the chopped or dried durian provides lots of nutrients, including:
- Carbohydrate: 2.3 oz (66 g)
- Protein: 0.1 oz (4 g)
- Fiber: 0.3 oz (9 g)
- Fat: 0.4 oz (13 g)
- Energy: 375 (source: U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Studies suggest that durian can reduce cancer risk, lower blood sugar levels, fight infections, and prevent heart diseases (source: Journal of Integrative Medicine).
3. Kiwano (Horned Melon)
The horned melon or kiwano melon is native to Africa’s southern and central regions, and it is distinctive for its small spiny horns or projections on its bright yellowish skin.
You can eat kiwano fresh or cooked, including its seeds. You can even use it as your granola topping or add the pulp to your favorite smoothie.
Kiwano contains many vitamins and minerals, which can be very beneficial. Most importantly, the fruit is low in calories, fat, and carbohydrates.
Eating kiwano can improve hydration, promote blood sugar control, boost the production of healthy red blood cells, and even improve mood (source: Nutrients).
4. Yellow Dragon Fruit
The dragon fruit is originally from the northern region of South America. It comes in three different varieties:
- Yellow skin with white flesh
- Red skin with red flesh
- Red skin with white flesh
The yellow dragon (yellow skin and white flesh) is the sweetest of all the varieties.
The fruit contains several nutrients in small amounts, including vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and carbohydrates.
While the dragon fruit is not particularly high in antioxidants, it is great at preventing skin damage by free radicals (source: BioMed Research International). Consider adding dragon fruit to your diet to slow down aging.
Red Spiny Fruits
5. Black Mulberry
Black mulberry is native to southwestern Asian countries of Afghanistan and Iran, where people grow the tree mostly to use the leaves as cattle fodder (source: Feedipedia).
The berry comes in black, white, and red colors and is popular for its sweet flavor, high nutrition, and remarkable health benefits.
Studies show that black mulberry may lower cholesterol and reduce cancer risk (source: Journal of Food Science). However, this is one spiny fruit you want to avoid if you are sensitive to birch pollen. It can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people (source: Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research).
Native to the southern region of China, lychee is a smallish red fruit distinctive for its sweet and flowery flavor. However, the bumpy skin is rough and inedible, so remember to remove it before eating the white flesh.
Besides its sweet, aromatic taste, lychee is an excellent source of healthy antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
Although there are no current studies on the health benefits of lychee, the antioxidant content of the fruit may help prevent diabetes and heart disease (source: The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology).
Rambutan originates from Southeast Asia and grows in trees that can be as high as 80 ft (27 m). Although the reddish fruit has hairy-looking spikes all over its skin, they aren’t sharp, and the flesh is very supple, creamy, and tasty.
Rambutan is a rich source of vitamin C and many other trace elements, including iron, potassium, and calcium. It also contains high amounts of water, so adding it to your diet can promote healthy weight loss with time.
A large portion of the flesh is insoluble, meaning it can promote healthy digestion and reduce the chances of constipation (source: The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry).
Although you can eat the delicious rambutan fresh or cooked, you want to avoid eating the peel and seed. The single seed inside is inedible, and the rind may not be safe for human consumption (source: Indian Journal of Experimental Biology).
8. Prickly Pear (Cactus Fruit)
The prickly pear is the fruit that grows on the cactus plant, native to the Americas, particularly in the western and central regions of Mexico. The edible cactus fruit is delicious and offers many health benefits.
The fruit contains protein, potassium, calcium, carbohydrates, vitamin C, and several other vitamins and minerals.
Adding prickly pear to your diet can promote shiny hair and glowing skin due to its polyunsaturated fatty acid content (source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Also, people with type 2 diabetes can benefit from the blood sugar reduction capacity of the prickly pear fruit (source: Mayo Clinic).
Green Spiny Fruits
Breadfruit is common in Central and West Africa, but it has its origin in the South Pacific regions of Indo-Malaysia. The round fruit can weigh up to 11 lbs (5 kg) when mature, and you can eat the sweet, creamy flesh raw.
Like many other tropical fruits, breadfruit contains decent levels of essential vitamins and minerals (source: State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture). The pulp contains more fiber than the jackfruit, making it a good addition to your diet if you have digestive issues.
Also, the fruit can reduce muscle and joint pain, prevent bacterial infection and support eye health (source: Advances in Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences).
10. Soursop (Graviola)
Soursop is a tropical fruit native to the Caribbean and Americas and is widely popular for its wide range of health benefits and pineapple-like flavor.
The prickly green fruit is rich in nutrients, with 3.5 oz (100 g) containing high fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and other trace elements.
From the leaves to the stem, almost every part of soursop has medicinal use. In addition to eating the fruit raw or cooked, some people apply it to their skin.
Soursop is high in antioxidants, which can help in reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer (source: Journal of the American College of Nutrition). Studies also show that soursop can fight a variety of bacterium, including those that cause yeast infection (source: Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research).
You can enjoy soursop raw or add it to smoothies and teas. But whatever you do, avoid eating the seeds because they contain a neurotoxin that can be harmful (source: Official Journal of the Movement Disorder Society).
11. Cherimoya (Custard Apple)
The cone-shaped cherimoya is a tropical fruit from the Andes Mountains of South America. Its spiny, leathery skin covers a sweet, creamy flesh that tastes like pineapple.
Cherimoya is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You may want to add the fruit to your diet to reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and boost your immunity (source: Food Chemistry).
There’s one caveat to keep in mind: avoid eating cherimoya seeds in excess, as they contain harmful toxins that may hurt you if you eat too many of them (source: Indian Journal of Ophthalmology).
Now that you know a few more spiny fruits keep an eye out for them the next time you visit any tropical countries. You’ll probably want to have a bite and experience their unique tastes in the name of research, even if you’re not a big fruit eater!