What Are The Rarest Fruit In The World? Here Are The Top 15

Fruits come in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors. Most are readily available at your local supermarket. But some are incredibly rare, found only in remote corners of the world. These exotic and unusual fruits offer unique tastes and textures that are hard to imagine.

Just how rare are some of these fruits? Some have yearly worldwide harvests that can be counted on one hand. Others are so sensitive they will only grow under precise conditions. And a few unfortunate fruits even teeter on the brink of extinction, struggling to survive in their native habitats.

Curious to know about the world’s rarest, most exotic and mysterious fruits? Let’s take a virtual trip around the globe and explore the top 15 rarest fruits known to humankind.

1. Rambutan

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This colorful fruit is covered in soft spikes that resemble hair, giving rise to its evocative name.

Hidden beneath the hairy exterior is a translucent flesh that tastes akin to grapes. Inside that, a large inedible seed awaits.

Native to Southeast Asia, rambutan is closely related to the lychee. Today it is cultivated across tropical regions, but production remains low. Less than 200,000 tons are harvested annually worldwide.

In the U.S. and Europe, fresh rambutan is virtually unheard of. If you want to try this fruit, your best bet may be to book a flight to Thailand or Indonesia.

2. Ackee

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With its tough, red leathery skin, ackee looks like no fruit you’ve seen before. Inside, large black seeds are nestled in soft, creamy yellow flesh with a nutty flavor.

The ackee hails from tropical West Africa, but it has become a cultural icon in Jamaica. It plays a starring role in the national dish: ackee and saltfish.

Unripe ackee contains the toxin hypoglycin A. Eat it before it’s ready and you risk vomiting and even death. Hence why ackee is carefully cultivated and harvested only after ripening.

About 500 tons are grown in Jamaica annually. Ackee remains rare outside the Caribbean, though it is starting to gain attention from exotic fruit lovers.

3. Cupuaçu

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Found throughout the Amazon rainforest, cupuaçu looks like a stubby, melon-sized cacao pod. Give that hard, woody shell a knock and inside you’ll uncover a sweet, fragrant, citrus-y pulp.

Brazilians use cupuaçu pulp to make juice, sweets, liqueurs and cosmetics. In the rainforest, animals like capybaras feast upon the juicy flesh and tough seeds.

The combination of sensitive growing needs and manual cultivation methods keep cupuaçu production low. Annual worldwide harvests are shy of 1,000 tons.

Prized for its unique tropical flavor, cupuaçu is beginning to gain international fans. You might just find cupuaçu treats at your local health food shop.

4. African horned cucumber

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At a glance, this fruit looks like it was pulled from a mutated pumpkin patch. But don’t judge a fruit by its looks.

The African horned cucumber tastes like a burst of tangy lime, with just a hint of banana. What’s more, it boasts a nutritional powerhouse hidden within its spiky exterior.

This ornamental fruit requires very specific growing conditions found only in sub-Saharan Africa. Horned cucumbers are labor intensive to harvest. And they have a short shelf life of just one to three weeks.

Less than 500 tons are cultivated annually. But air freight is making small quantities of this fruit increasingly available outside Africa. Keep an eye out for it at your grocery store.

5. Mangosteen

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Of all the rare fruits, mangosteen is perhaps the most legendary. That’s because it’s nearly impossible to get fresh outside of Southeast Asia.

Mangosteen is a small purple fruit with a leathery outer rind. Crack it open to find glistening white segments that look like garlic cloves. This so-called “Queen of Fruits” tastes super sweet and slightly tart.

Why the royal treatment? Mangosteen is maddeningly tricky to cultivate. There are only two harvests per year and the trees take at least a decade to fruit. Annual worldwide production hovers around 600,000 tons.

Due to import regulations, fresh mangosteen in the U.S. and Europe is essentially nonexistent. Your best option is juicing the fruit or, if you’re lucky, sampling canned segments.

6. Miracle Fruit

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This West African berry looks ordinary. But it contains miraculin, a molecule that bonds to your taste buds, twisting sour into sweet.

Suddenly, lemons taste like lemon candy. Vinegar briefly transforms into vinaigrette. It’s an amazing, taste-bending phenomenon.

Here’s the catch: miraculin only lasts about an hour. And miracle fruit itself doesn’t have much flavor. It exists mainly to mess with your perception of taste.

Growing miracle fruit takes meticulous attention in tropical environments. Because most people only want a few berries at a time, annual production is tiny – around 130 tons globally.

Thanks to specialty growers you can try miracle fruit at home. It’s also served after meals in some restaurants as a natural dessert.

7. Durian

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Durian is considered a delicacy across Southeast Asia. But it’s famed for being the smelliest fruit on the planet.

This cantaloupe-sized fruit has a thorny husk that cracks open to reveal buttery yellow flesh and large seeds. Durian requires tropical forests and finicky pollination habits that frustrate mass production. Around 2.6 million tons are grown annually, mostly in Malaysia and Thailand.

8. Monstera Deliciosa Fruit

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This fruit comes from everyone’s favorite houseplant. But did you know monsteras produce edible fruit in the wild?

The monstera deliciosa fruit takes one year to fully ripen into a sweet-tart taste reminiscent of pineapple and banana.

Monstera fruiting is exceptionally rare as the plant requires exacting amounts of light, heat and humidity. Cultivating monsteras for fruit production is challenging and not economically viable.

That said, fruiting monsteras are popping up at specialty greenhouses. Some restaurants even feature the curiosity fruit on seasonal menus. Keep your eyes peeled for this plant-to-plate oddity.

9. Red Bayberry

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Red bayberry looks like a crimson raspberry, but with an apple-like crunch. This juicy fruit pops in your mouth with sweet-tart flavors.

The catchberry plant produces the bayberry in select mountain regions of China. Output is tiny at around 70 tons annually.

In China, bayberry is revered for health benefits like boosting immune function. It’s also used in jams, wines and herbal remedies. The ultra-perishable fruit rarely makes it out of the country.

Export limitations make fresh bayberry almost impossible to find in western countries. But should you find yourself in southern China during summer, be sure to sample this ruby-hued delicacy.

10. Cherimoya

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Mark Twain once referred to cherimoya as “the most delicious fruit known to men.” Its soft, creamy flesh tastes like a mashup of pineapple, banana and strawberry. Yum!

Despite its tasty reputation, this heart-shaped fruit remains unfamiliar to most. Cherimoya thrives only in moderate coastal and highland tropical regions 500 meters above sea level.

While cherimoya is now grown throughout South America, South Asia and in parts of California, worldwide production is small – about 500,000 tons annually. Exports are limited.

If you come across fresh cherimoya at a specialty market, scoop it up and enjoy its delectable custard-like flesh. Just be sure to remove the toxic seeds before eating.

11. Sapodilla

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Sapodilla looks unremarkable on the outside – like a small, rust-colored potato. But inside, its flesh has a sweet malty flavor reminiscent of brown sugar.

Native to Central America, sapodilla is now grown across parts of Asia and Africa. However, production remains small scale at around 126,000 tons per year.

Fresh sapodilla is hard to find outside its tropical comfort zone. Luckily its texture and taste make it ideal for bottling, so juices, jams and pulps can transport that sweet flavor.

Keep an eye out for sapodilla products at your natural grocery store. If you’re lucky, you may even spot the whole fruit fresh from Mexico or Florida.

12. Purple Mangosteen

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No, it’s not a typo. This is a different fruit than regular mangosteen. Purple mangosteen is often called “Queen of Fruits” in Thailand and prized for its sweet, tart juice.

The grape-sized purple mangosteen bears no relation to the larger, white-fleshed standard mangosteen. It has delicate, mustard flower-shaped segments within a purple shell.

Cultivation is limited to Thailand and parts of Southeast Asia. Less than 10,000 tons are grown annually. That accounts for its low availability worldwide, especially in the western hemisphere.

But specialty produce companies are beginning to import purple mangosteen juice and pulp. You may get lucky and find these products, letting you sample a regal nectar.

13. Jabuticaba

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This Brazilian berry tree produces fruits that look like shiny purple grapes. Jabuticaba’s thin skin gives way to sweet, gelatinous flesh and seeds.

Here’s the odd part. The jabuticaba produces fruit directly on the bark of its trunk and branches. No dangling from branches required!

Jabuticaba trees are notoriously high maintenance and vulnerable to fungus. Commercial cultivation in Brazil remains under 20 tons annually. Availability elsewhere is essentially zero.

Should you encounter fresh jabuticaba, expect flavors reminiscent of sweet Port wine garnished with notes of red grape. Just be ready to spit out the seeds as you enjoy this curious treat.

14. Salak

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Also called snake fruit, salak hails from Indonesia and resembles a scaly snake skin. Underneath lies sweet, tangy flesh that breaks apart into delicate, garlic-like segments.

Salak requires exacting environmental conditions only found in the mountains of Indonesia. About 66,000 tons are grown annually, almost exclusively on one island. Export is virtually nonexistent.

This obscure fruit has a small but passionate fan club, thanks to its complex, almost savory sweetness. If a specialty grocery near you happens to stock it, salak certainly warrants a taste.

15. Cloudberry

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This golden berry of the Arctic looks like a plump raspberry. But cloudberries offer a more delicate, refreshing taste that mingles floral sweetness with tart apple cider.

Cloudberries thrive in cold, damp climates found across Northern Europe, Asia, and North America. They only grow wild, resisting cultivation attempts.

Annual worldwide harvests are exceedingly small, around 3,000-6,000 tons. Gathering the fragile berries is tedious work. Due to minimal supply, fresh cloudberries are an impossible find outside their native habitats.

For most, sampling cloudberries means splurging on preserves, liquors, syrups and other products that attempt to capture their precious, evasive flavor. But for intrepid foodies, foraging cloudberries au naturel in remote northern forests presents the ultimate challenge.

Wrapping Up

Have your taste buds been tantalized? Do you now dream of sampling these rare and exclusive fruits?

For many of us, that long list of prohibitive growing conditions and minuscule production amounts are surefire barriers to first-hand experience. Our curiosity will remain unfulfilled.

But then, maybe that’s part of the mystique. The rarest fruits retain an aura of mystery and piqued fascination precisely because they remain elusive global secrets.

Perhaps someday, advances in air freight and cultivation will let us finally indulge in these most curious of forbidden fruits. Until then, we can admire them from afar and daydream of their exotic secrets.

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