Nature’s Candy

“Imposter” fruits take off

Many Americans consume an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. That’s not only indicative of some pretty frightening dental bills but also even more grave health problems. The new Dietary Guidelines, which are updated every 5 years, emphasize cutting down on sugar. As people look for dessert alternatives, a number of so-called imposter fruits that taste like particular desserts and candies are gaining in popularity.


Making “ice cream” out of bananas has become a common use for food processors and commercial-grade blenders, but ice cream bananas are a different treat altogether. While most people only know the Cavendish banana, there are actually more than a thousand different types of bananas, one of which, the Blue Java banana, is reputed to both taste like vanilla ice cream and have a similar mouthfeel. Unlike the starchier bananas that dominate Western grocery stores, ice cream bananas are creamier and fluffier. Overseas shipping makes importing them difficult, but they can be found in tropical environments, such as Hawaii, Central America, and Southeast Asia.


Rarely found in grocery stores, but an autumnal farmers market staple, concord grapes are beloved for their uncanny similarity to grape gummy candy. Lately, a lesser known grape variety is also attracting fans for a similarly sugary flavor profile that resembles a different juvenile treat. Cotton Candy grapes, which taste just like spun sugar, are not genetically modified to mimic the carnival treat; rather, they are the result of cross-pollination among several grape varieties. Grapery, the company responsible for them, has increased production of them by four to five times over the past couple years.


The flavor of Juicy Fruit is difficult to describe for most. The iconic chewing gum contains hints of banana, notes of pineapple, but it doesn’t really taste like a familiar fruit. However, it actually bears a startlingly close resemblance to the taste of jackfruit, a previously little known tropical fruit that’s been appearing on more menus in the US as of late. Interestingly, while it is often used in its native region for dessert items like ice cream, here it’s becoming better known as a meat substitute in tacos. Versatile and rich in fiber, jackfruit pulls apart when cooked, resulting in a texture akin to that of carnitas.