“The Power of Fruit” takes you on a seed to table journey of nature’s candy.
Every holiday season follows the same routine: You eat all the cookies and cakes, you drink all the cocoa, cocktails, and bubbly, and each night you say, “The diet starts January 1st!” But diets don’t have to be about just counting calories and eating joyless and bland chicken breasts.
Add some color to your New Year’s resolution with these 24 types of fruits that carry vitamins and nutrients, and help with your skin, gut health, and general well-being. It’s not just apples that keep the doctor away…
With 7,500 different varieties — more than 100 of which grow in the United States — apples are as versatile as they are delicious. Whether red, green, or yellow, apples can be used in sweet and savory dishes. They're a good source of nutrient fiber, with about 4 grams per serving. The juice of an apple was one of the earliest prescribed antidepressants, and although there's no scientific data to back it up, you can't go wrong with a tall, cold glass of apple juice.
Originally from Russia and China, the apricot found its way to Europe via the Silk Road in 3000 B.C., but it wasn't until the 1700s that apricots were introduced to the United States. Today, 94% of apricots grown in the U.S. come from California, while Turkey produces 21% of the world's supply. These delicious yellow-orange fruits are a great source of vitamin A and can be enjoyed fresh, dried, or cooked.
Whether you call them brambleberries, bramble, dewberry, or thimbleberry, blackberries are well-known across the globe for their ability to grow pretty much anywhere. Rich in bioflavonoids and vitamin C and very low in sodium, blackberries contain just 62 calories per cup. These tasty berries have one of the highest levels of antioxidants of all fruits, meaning that eating them can lower your risk of cancer.
The two most common types of blueberries are highbush (the most commonly cultivated variety in the U.S.) and lowbush or "wild" blueberries (usually smaller and richer in some antioxidants). Blueberries are among the most nutrient-dense berries; they are packed with large amounts of vitamins C and K, and are believed to have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all common fruits and vegetables. But their health benefits don't end there. Blueberries also are good for your heart, may lower blood pressure, improve memory and maintain brain function, and improve insulin sensitivity.
More than 1,000 varieties of cherries grow in the wild, but fewer than 10 are grown commercially to produce fruit. Two main types grow in the U.S.: sweet cherries and tart or "sour" cherries. In ancient Greek mythology, cherry trees contained the "elixir" that gave gods their immortality, while ancient Chinese lore said the magical Phoenix slept on a bed of cherry blossoms to attain everlasting life. Cherry trees are thought to have originated in Turkey and southwest Asia before spreading around the globe.
A beloved tradition around the holidays, cranberries have been used in dishes by Native Americans for centuries. Long before European colonists arrived, Native Americans harvested cranberries from marshes and bogs, and used them to make a dish called pemmican, a mixture of pulverized dried fish or meat, cranberries, and melted tallow that was formed into cakes and baked by the sun. The original power food, pemmican provided energy while having a long shelf life. The cranberry is one of only a handful of fruits native to North America.
There are no blossoms on fig branches. Rather, the flowers are inside the fig itself and make up those crunchy seeds that give figs their unique texture. How they get pollinated is fascinating: Nearly every species of fig tree is pollinated by its own distinct species of fig wasp! If your diet prohibits you from consuming dairy, try eating figs. A half-cup of this fruit has as much calcium as an 8-ounce glass of milk. Figs are delicious raw or dried, and can add texture and sweetness to any dish.
Kiwis are actually large berries that grow on woody vines. Famously cultivated in New Zealand, the kiwi — which is also a flightless bird native to the Pacific island and a name used to refer to the native people — actually originated in eastern China. Why the name "kiwi"? New Zealand was the first country to cultivate this fruit outside of China and called them "Chinese gooseberries." When the U.S. began receiving shipments of said gooseberries, however, the name was changed to kiwifruit because of its resemblance to the fuzzy, brown kiwi bird. Full of vitamin C (twice as much as an orange), fiber, and antioxidants, kiwis provide essential health benefits and help stimulate regular and healthy digestion.
Thought to have originated in northwestern India, the true origin of lemons is unknown. I'd like to say my grandpappy invented them; however, this famously sour fruit was introduced to southern Italy around 200 AD — way before his time — and has been cultivated in Iran and Egypt since 700 AD. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spaniard colonizers planted lemons and other fruits in Florida and California, where they continue to flourish to this day. Lemons carry lots of vitamin C: The juice of a single one provides more than half your recommended daily intake. They also helped fight scurvy in sailors who were traveling from Europe to North America. In 17th century France, during the reign of King Louis XIV, women used lemons to redden their lips.
There are two main types of limes: Tahitian and Mexican. The Mexican lime is known as the "true" lime and also referred to as the "West Indian lime," or, more commonly, "the Key lime." Native to Malaysia, limes were unknown in Europe until the Crusades, when soldiers brought the lime back to Europe.
Mangoes are considered the most popular fruit in the world because of their incredible reach and vast cultural significance. Experts estimate that more than 20 million tons of mangoes are grown and consumed around the world each year. Mangoes are the national fruit of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines; India considers them a symbol of love and friendship. Mangoes carry a large amount of vitamin A, which helps keep your skin looking young and healthy. Watch out for the trees, though. Sap from mango trees contains urushiol, an oily allergenic chemical that is the same oil found in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.
Known as the "cabernet of blackberries" because of its complex and rich earthy flavor, marionberries were originally developed in Corvallis, Oregon, by the USDA-ARS in collaboration with Oregon State University. The berries were named after Oregon's own Marion County, and the state produces 28 to 32 million pounds of marionberries annually. They're high in vitamin C and other antioxidants that may protect against circulatory and heart diseases, as well as cancer. So, next time you dig into a marionberry pie, don't shame yourself too much — you could be doing it for your health (at least that's what you can tell your doctor).
Coming from the word "nectar," meaning "food of the gods," nectarines are a member of the rose family and originated in China nearly 2,000 years ago. The Spanish brought them to the United States, where they were planted in California and continue to grow today. In fact, over 95% of nectarines in the U.S. are grown in the Golden State. They developed from a peach by natural mutation and are actually identical to peaches, minus the fuzzy exterior. However, nectarines are more delicate than peaches and bruise more easily.
Oranges are one of the most popular berries (yes, they're actually a berry) around the world, with over 600 varieties. This delightful citrus fruit found its origins in Southeast Asia in 4000 B.C. before making its way to Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Rome, and ancient Greece. Oranges were very popular with Europeans in the 6th and 7th centuries. This wasn't because of their fruit (which was quite bitter) but rather their fragrant blossoms that were planted in royal gardens. Thanks to the Portuguese, we have the sweet oranges we know and love today.
Peaches are arguably one of the most nutritious fruits overall, containing large amounts of vitamins A, C, E, K, B, calcium, potassium, and zinc. Peaches originated in China and have been cultivated since at least 1000 B.C. No one type of peach is dominant in the U.S., where they are either labeled as white-fleshed or yellow-fleshed when sold. Peaches are a favorite summer fruit and, just like apples, make for an excellent pie filling.
China began growing pears as far back as 1134 B.C., but they didn't take off in Europe until the 17th and 18th centuries, when they became an obsession for the wealthy. The U.S. has become the dominant grower in the world today, growing 84% of all pears, 12 varieties in all. Harry & David alone grows and harvests 13,000 tons of pears each year and is one of the world's largest producers of the Comice varietal. This deliciously buttery pear is better known as the Royal Riviera Pear. They're one of the most fragile commercially grown fruits in the world, requiring extra care during the picking and shipping process.
Native to China, persimmons have been cultivated for centuries, with over 2,000 cultivars around today. The most widely cultivated persimmon is the Asian and Japanese variety, the Diospyros kaki. Persimmons can be eaten fresh, dried, or cooked. They are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and B, and are rich in iron, manganese, and potassium. Should you want them delivered to your door, simply wait until November.
Although we associate pineapples with Hawaii, just over 10% of the pineapple consumed in the U.S. comes from the 50th state. The average American eats around eight pounds of fresh pineapple each year, plus two pounds of canned pineapple. It can take up to three years for a pineapple plant to fully mature before it begins bearing fruit. Each individual pineapple can take an additional year to grow from a blossom to something that's ripe and edible.
Plums have a greater appeal than just being delicious, as they are good for your eyes as well as your digestive and immune systems. These small stone fruits have only 30 calories, making them one of the lowest-calorie fruits. Plums are a good source of vitamins A and C, and each one contain nearly 1 gram of fiber — meaning they will fill you up more than most other fruits while also supporting healthy digestion.
The perhaps less-appreciated version of the plum is the prune. These are plums that have been dehydrated for preservation, which keeps them edible for up to a year when kept in the fridge. Although all prunes are plums, not all plums can be prunes, as there are specific varieties of plums that can be dried into prunes, such as the French plum, La Petite D'Agen. Prunes are a great source of vitamin K and manganese, which help with bone health. Today, California is the world's largest prune producer, with more than 40,000 acres of prune orchards in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys.
This gourd-geous fruit — yes, fruit, not vegetable — is believed to have originated in Central America over 7,500 years ago. Pumpkins are related to cucumbers, squash, and watermelons, the latter of which makes sense since the word "pumpkin" comes from the Greek word "peopon," meaning "large melon." More than 70 different pumpkin varieties are grown in the U.S., including Baby Boos, We Be Littles, Jack Be Littles, Cinderellas, Fairytales, and Long Island Cheeses.
The cultivation of grapes began around 6000 BC in what is now the area of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The drying of fruit became popular, as many people were discovering that dried fruits offered a more intense flavor and sweetness than their fresh counterparts. The early Egyptians and Phoenicians are responsible for expanding the popularity of raisins throughout the western world because of their long shelf life and ease of transport. Jump ahead to the early 15th century and raisins pop up across Europe in traditional Christmas breads, such as the German stollen and Italian panettone. Today, raisins are still a beloved snack that are an excellent source of antioxidants, iron, and fiber.
Originally from Turkey, raspberries spread throughout Mediterranean Europe before the Romans took them to England. It wasn't until the 16th century that England began cultivating raspberries. When colonizers landed in North America, they found a black raspberry (different from blackberries) that was less sweet than its red counterpart and held more seeds. Raspberries can come in red, purple, golden, and black, with over 200 species grown around the globe. Their prickly bushes can live up to 10 years. Raspberries are one of the most delicate berries because of their hollow core.
The U.S. produces the most strawberries in the world, at more than 1.5 billion pounds a year. Why are they called "strawberries?" Historians debate the etymology of the word. Some believe it comes from the pickers who carried the berries on straw or the fact that they look like they have pieces of straw embedded in them. During ancient times, strawberries were treasured for their medicinal properties. Today, they're considered a popular aphrodisiac, especially around Valentine's Day, and pair well with chocolate and wine (cue romantic music and dimmed lights).