5 rare products to try this spring, according to an expert international food buyer

While potentially it doesn’t feel like it in your part of the country (I write looking at the slowly melting sleet outside my window), spring is truly upon us. The change of seasons marks something different for everyone: the planning of outdoor festivals, the start of baseball season, the return of chilled wine to the patio.

But for Shayn Prapaisilp, the international grocery shopper at Global Foods Market in St. Louis, the return of spring means he can share the rare produce he and his team bought over the winter with consumers in their stores. According to Prapaisilp, while he and his team maintain relationships with wholesalers in every major port city in the United States, buying rare goods “works more like an auction than a long-term plan.”

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“It would be great to say that every February we will have an abundance of Pineberries – those highly sought after pink strawberries – but the reality is that we don’t know how many we can get our hands on, so we always plan for the rarest items for the season and hopefully we can get as much out of it as possible,” he said.

For those looking to expand the types of produce they keep in their kitchen, Prapaisilp said the best place to start is your local international markets.

“Whether your city offers Latin, Asian, or African markets, research them and don’t be afraid to ask questions of employees while you’re there,” he said. “These people have a wealth of knowledge and are eager to share their insights, especially if it’s a market that fits their own culture. If you don’t know how to find an international grocery store in your own city , start with areas where various populations have settled like Chinatown.”

Usually, he said, markets will highlight unique offerings in stalls near the entrance, so start there and check back often.

“What’s available today could be completely different two days later,” he said. “I would suggest asking where rare and specialty goods are kept to head straight for rare items.”

What are the rare pieces to look out for this spring? Here are five of Prapaisilp’s picks:

Black sapote

According to Prapaisilp, black sapote is also known as “chocolate pudding fruit,” due to its brown color and soft, creamy interior. The fruit is native to Mexico, Central America and Colombia. There are also hints of other dessert flavors, such as caramel, vanilla and banana.

green almond

Okay, unlike everything else on this list, green almonds aren’t a fruit, although they do have some definite fruity undertones. Only available for a short time in the spring, green almonds, as their name suggests, are unripe almonds. They have a fuzzy peach-like exterior, a jelly-like interior, and a delicate nutty flavor with peach and herbal notes.

“As the almonds mature, the green fluff fades and the inner seed hardens into what we imagine to be a traditional almond,” Prapaisilp said. “Green almonds have a narrow harvest window and must be picked by hand, which is why they are a seasonal delicacy.”

Mamey Sapote

“Mamey is like an avocado in the way it’s sliced ​​and eaten. It has the same creamy, rich consistency, but is versatile and adds tropical flavors to smoothies, juices, baked goods and as a dessert. ‘great meat substitute,’ says Prapaisilp.

Popular in southern Mexico and other tropical regions, sapote mamey is an orange-fleshed fruit with aromatic notes such as apricot, sweet potato, nuts and spice.

green plum

Greengages, or green plums, were first popularized in Iran before gaining traction in more temperate European countries. Although they do require a bit of maintenance – they are unstable when it comes to temperature and should be picked by hand because they are so delicate – green plums are considered “the best dessert plums”.

“Green plums are the first of our rare products to sell due to their rarity and unique flavor that can only be described as a syrupy sweetness balanced by a slight acidity,” Prapaislip said. “Many of our customers like to eat raw green plums with salt.”

cherimoya

Native to the Andes, cherimoya is a green, scaly fruit with flavor notes similar to banana, pineapple, mango, peach, and strawberry.

“This fruit really offers a taste of the subjects,” Prapaislip said. “It’s commonly called the ‘cinnamon apple’ because of all its sweetness. Try a cherimoya and you’ll see why Mark Twain called it the ‘most delicious fruit known to man’.

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