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Fruits That Aren't Too Sweet

lamb_da_calculus Jul 21, 2012 08:55 AM

I'm looking for some new fruits to try. But my tastes run toward the less-sweet side of the spectrum: I like grapefruit, granny-smith apples, blackberries, slightly-underripe peaches and strawberries, etc. In other words I enjoy the distinctive flavor and texture of each fruit more than the pure sweetness that comes with it, although a little sweetness is nice.

So what are some other fruits I might be overlooking that are similarly only mildly sweet?

  1. Bill Hunt Aug 10, 2012 09:42 PM

    "Cooking pears."


    1. s
      seamunky Aug 2, 2012 10:26 PM

      If you don't want the acidity or tartness but still "not too sweet", consider jicama and fresh water chestnuts. They may not be fruit but can be eaten out of hand in the same manner. Crisp and juicy they both are.

      1. cazort Aug 2, 2012 02:01 PM

        My favorite fruit is the black raspberry and my runner-up is the blood orange. Incidentally, they have some of the same chemical components, which I found fascinating when I learned it long after I had developed a love of both fruit.

        I'd explore plums. Plums are extremely diverse, and many varieties are sweet (sometimes sickeningly so) but they can also be very subdued. I've had plums that were fresh and clean tasting with very little sweetness, and other plums that were intensely sour and pungent, also with very little sweetness.

        Most types of fruit come in both sweet and less-sweet varieties. Rather than thinking of a broad type of fruit, try exploring new varieties of each familiar type of fruit. Even fruit we think of as being very sweet, like mangoes, have varieties that are less sweet. And, with fruit that are not overly astringent when unripe, unripe or less ripe fruit can often be less sweet.

        1. lamb_da_calculus Jul 30, 2012 06:22 PM

          Thanks for all of the recommendations! Now I've got a list of stuff for which to keep an eye out.

          1 Reply
          1. re: lamb_da_calculus
            Veggo Jul 31, 2012 04:50 AM

            "for which to keep an eye out" - nicely non-dangled participle...

          2. Ruthie789 Jul 27, 2012 03:12 PM

            Kiwis both yellow and green are tangy and if you eat underripe they are quite tart. Cherries as well.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ruthie789
              Ruthie789 Jul 29, 2012 02:11 PM

              And blackberries are tart. I also agree with the Asian pear, apples of all sorts, bananas just as they are turning yellow are not too sweet. Cantelopes if they are just repining are mild in flavour. So I think my point if you buy some fruit and serve it just as it is beginning to ripen will not be too sweet.

            2. shanagain Jul 27, 2012 03:07 PM

              My motto: whatever you've yet to try in the produce section. It might be sweet, it might be tart, it might be inedible to your tastes, but you'll only know if you try for yourself.

              1. s
                StringerBell Jul 26, 2012 12:47 PM

                How about paw paws? They are my favorite fruit, not very sweet, but rich and custard-like. I have a strong disdain for sweet food. I also really like figs, blackberries, prickly pears, che, mulberries (red or black, not the invasive white mulberries that you see every 10 feet in the eastern US), blueberries, under ripe bananas, plantains, sour cherries, raspberries, persimmons (Asian kinds especially), and star fruit. Asian pears are good too.

                5 Replies
                1. re: StringerBell
                  cazort Aug 2, 2012 02:02 PM

                  I love pawpaws but I've never seen them for sale...they're great if you are lucky enough to find a patch of them in the wild. But I know some people that dislike the custardy texture.

                  1. re: cazort
                    StringerBell Aug 10, 2012 12:24 AM

                    One of the grocery stores here sells them in the fall for a few weeks, but yeah other than that they're pretty rare in the grocery store. And I live in Indiana, of the states within their natural distribution. Fortunately I have 4 paw paw trees, my parents have 2 plus the wild ones in their woods, and I know about 4 or 5 other people with paw paw trees. They seem to be making a big comeback though, all the nurseries sell out of trees very quickly every winter/early spring. If you want one of the Peterson varieties especially you usually have to order in the winter. I wouldn't be surprised to see them become much more common in the grocery store in the next 5-10 years, especially with people wanting local produce instead of papayas shipped from 3,000 miles away.

                    1. re: StringerBell
                      lamb_da_calculus Aug 10, 2012 05:45 AM

                      4 paw paw trees! I'm happy to see B&B Enterprises is doing so well.

                      1. re: lamb_da_calculus
                        StringerBell Aug 10, 2012 09:20 AM

                        This here game is more than the rep you carry, the corner you hold. You gotta be fierce, I know that, but more than that, you gotta show some flex, give and take on both sides.

                  2. re: StringerBell
                    Kholvaitar Nov 23, 2013 07:09 AM

                    +1 for the Pawpaws !!

                  3. Cheese Boy Jul 26, 2012 10:53 AM

                    Don't overlook asian pears, quince, cucumbers (they're in the melon family), green tomatoes, figs, and pomegranates.

                    1. weezieduzzit Jul 23, 2012 09:37 PM

                      What about persimmons? How sweet or tart they are depends on how ripe you allow them to get.

                      1. r
                        redfish62 Jul 23, 2012 03:04 PM

                        Lemons and limes.

                        1. m
                          mwk Jul 23, 2012 03:03 PM

                          Rhubarb? Cranberries? The nice thing about these is that you can make them as sweet or tart as you wish, controlling the sugar. I made a rhubarb crisp a few weeks ago, and I was looking over recipes. For the same two pounds of rhubarb, recipes called for anything from 1/2 cup to 2 cups of sugar. I went with 1/3 cup to see how it would taste, and it was delicious. Very tart, but certainly tasty. As for cranberries, make a relish with ginger and orange, but cut back a bit on the sugar.
                          Unless you are really good at picking a very ripe one, pineapples can be quite tart and acidic, which maybe you'd like?

                          1. eclecticsynergy Jul 23, 2012 02:59 PM

                            Pears are generally not too sweet, because they're nearly always underripe. I know the Asian pears have been suggested, but even your regular Bartletts and Anjous are seldom fully mature.

                            Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat." Most pears I get are quite far removed indeed from that golden ten minutes...

                            I often buy organic pear nectar because it's far less cloying than the plum or apricot nectars from the same brand.

                            1. g
                              gator28 Jul 23, 2012 12:31 PM

                              No one has mentioned kumquats...I love them but they are pretty sour. Nectarines are good suggestion too.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: gator28
                                EWSflash Jul 27, 2012 05:48 PM

                                Good catch- I love kumquats. The skin is sweet, and then you get that blast of extreme tartness from the flesh. Wonderful stuff.

                                1. re: EWSflash
                                  Sandwich_Sister Jul 30, 2012 05:58 AM

                                  I just came here to post Kumquats.

                                  When I was a kid our neighbors had a tree, but the first time I tried one, I peeled the skin off. LOL It was so tart , I didn't know you ate the skin.

                              2. AmyH Jul 23, 2012 08:46 AM

                                I find greengage plums to be rather tart.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: AmyH
                                  jumpingmonk Jul 30, 2012 04:13 PM

                                  Depends on the type. Unlike in Britain, the term "greengage" is a little ambiguos here, in that some people will call virtually ANY green fleshed plum a green gage. Some are tart some are not. The original true golf ball sized english green gage is actually quite sweet fleshed, though it has a very tough sour skin (which basically means that whether you find them sweet or sour depends a lot on how you eat them). Some of the others are sweet all the way through. On the flip side a lot of the green fleshed Japanese type (heart shaped) plums are so tart they verge on the stomach twisting.

                                  1. re: jumpingmonk
                                    AmyH Jul 30, 2012 05:26 PM

                                    Interesting! Thank you for the green plum lesson. I only know that the ones I got at the farmers market, I believe labled greengage but maybe not, were quite sour.

                                    1. re: AmyH
                                      jumpingmonk Jul 31, 2012 04:32 AM

                                      NP. And count yourself lucky. This year the FM near me was selling "greengages" that I strongly suspect were simply whatever Italian plums (i.e. the oval kind people dry to make prunes) they had that had fallen off the tree before fully ripeneng on the grounds that 1. the ripe ones were sitting in the stall right next to them (proving they wewre growing them) looking more or less identical. and 2. The "greengages" were in fact mostly purple.
                                      Speaking of plums, the French Mirabelle (very small, yellow to apricot orange) is also quite tart, which is why it is very rarely eaten out of hand (most are either cooked or dried and then rehydrated in eau de vie (which may itself be made from mirabelles).

                                2. f
                                  FoodPopulist Jul 22, 2012 10:31 PM

                                  Tamarind is a fruit which is used in savory dishes as a souring agent, but gets sweeter as it matures.

                                  Guyabano/guanabana/soursop is a relative of the cherimoya/custard apple which has both sweet and sour notes.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: FoodPopulist
                                    pippimac Jul 23, 2012 06:19 AM

                                    Sour's my favourite taste.
                                    Feijoa. Generally called pineapple guava in the US. Get them a bit underripe, before the flesh goes translucent, and for an extra kick, eat the skin.
                                    Lemonades. Yum!
                                    Find yourself a sturmer apple
                                    Underripe green grapes
                                    The ultimate sour is a gooseberry

                                    1. re: pippimac
                                      Bacardi1 Jul 23, 2012 08:34 AM

                                      Gooseberries! Thanks for a blast from the past!! My parents used to have several Gooseberry bushes & my mom made a fabulous Gooseberry Pie. That's assuming she had enough to use after us kids perused the bushes & ate them out of hand. The best ones were those that were green with the slightest blush of pink. Both sweet & tart at the same time.

                                      I wanted to grow some here on my farm, but we have several large stands of mature White Pines, & Gooseberries are one of several hosts to "White Pine Blister Rust" a disease that infects & kills White Pines. In fact, several states (I think it's around 14) have banned the introduction of Gooseberries (and Currants) entirely.

                                      Apparently there are now some new Gooseberry varieties that are supposed to be resistant as carriers, but I'm not willing to take a chance. I love my trees to much. :)

                                  2. Delucacheesemonger Jul 22, 2012 09:58 AM

                                    Trained by a mother who did not like sweet fruits, she gave me very, very tart cranberries and rhubarb, on my own would add passion fruit

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                      Delucacheesemonger Jul 23, 2012 01:22 PM

                                      Forgot winesap and arkansas black apples

                                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                        eclecticsynergy Jul 23, 2012 02:50 PM

                                        I love those Black Arkansas apples! Don't think I ever had a crisper apple, ever. Haven't been able to t get them around Albany in recent years.

                                    2. t
                                      tastesgoodwhatisit Jul 22, 2012 01:56 AM

                                      Passion fruit is delicious but pretty sour.

                                      I find that in season, ripe starfruit is actually reasonably sweet, with a delicate flavour and almost floral aroma. But any starfruit I've had that was imported was fairly astringent. Same with lychees - in season they are very sweet and very juicy.

                                      Pomelo is refreshing without being sweet - it's a little like grapefruit, but milder and drier. Guava is another tropical fruit that's not too sweet, particularly if you eat it when it's still crunch and firm, rather than soft and squishy.

                                      1. greygarious Jul 21, 2012 08:04 PM

                                        Since most supermarket fruit (other than citrus, bananas, and apples) is picked and sold woefully underripe, you should be all set as long as you select pieces that are hard and have no aroma.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: greygarious
                                          Cheese Boy Jul 22, 2012 12:16 AM


                                          1. re: Cheese Boy
                                            visciole Jul 22, 2012 09:25 AM

                                            I disagree, only because the supermarket varieties are usually selected precisely for their bland sweetness; and therefore even under-ripe they tend to be insipid rather than tart. I think you'll do much better looking for local farms that grow older varieties.

                                        2. visciole Jul 21, 2012 06:26 PM

                                          If you know anyone with an apple tree or live near an orchard, slightly under-ripe apples are nice and tart.

                                          Also I second the suggestion of sour cherries. This is like a morello-type cherry, brighter red than sweet cherries, and sometimes referred to as "pie cherries."

                                          If you can find any Hawaiian pineapples these tend to be much tarter than the golden ones you see everywhere nowadays. I miss those Hawaiian pineapples!

                                          And, there's always the tactic of squeezing on a little bit of lemon juice.

                                          1. lamb_da_calculus Jul 21, 2012 04:52 PM

                                            Looking at the replies so far:

                                            @Veggo: I will watch for crabapples. It sounds like I should at least attempt a raw one.

                                            @thimes: Same for star fruit. Wikipedia says these are tart, not overwhelmingly sweet, and juicy. That sounds promising, thanks!

                                            @calliope: I've never even heard of these, but your description is intriguing. Where do you get them?

                                            @majordanby: Good call, I forgot to list raspberries up there (I like almost all berries, really). I have not had kiwi in a while since I remember them being very sweet when I had them as a kid. But I think my grandmother might have put sugar on them, so I'll pick one up the next time I get groceries.

                                            @pinehurst: Believe it or not I have found most pomegranates to be too sweet. I'm not sure how to pick tart ones.

                                            @chefathome: I'll keep watch for mangosteens. My grocery periodically gets weird stuff, maybe I'll see it one day.

                                            @small h: I'll watch for these, too!

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: lamb_da_calculus
                                              MDcooksfor2 Jul 21, 2012 05:35 PM

                                              Definitely all the asian fruits mentioned, like stair fruit, lychee, mangosteen.
                                              Also try dragon fruit (it's pink outside with green tufts and whitish inside with lots of black seeds)
                                              Asian grocery stores should have them. Also dragoneye (? that's the literally chinese translation). It's like a smaller smoother version of lychee.

                                              1. re: MDcooksfor2
                                                timpani_mimi Jul 26, 2012 09:02 AM

                                                i second dragonfruit. dramatic appearance but not somewhat bland (lets use the word "subtle") in taste. not too sweet. there are two kinds of dragonfruit, the kind with dark purple/pink inside, and the other kind with white insides.

                                                1. re: timpani_mimi
                                                  buttertart Jul 30, 2012 05:02 PM

                                                  The kind that's white inside is usually quite tart.

                                              2. re: lamb_da_calculus
                                                calliope_nh Jul 22, 2012 10:18 AM

                                                The ground cherries I discovered at my farmers' market here in central NH the same year I discovered the tommitillos. I have not seen them in stores here and may try growing them next year. I hear you can grow them where you can grow tomatoes (obviously the farmer did) but they are more of a tropical plant, I think, and are probably easier to find in places with a longer growing season.

                                                The longans we have bought in Chinatown in Boston.

                                                1. re: calliope_nh
                                                  greygarious Jul 22, 2012 03:19 PM

                                                  There was an article about local ground cherries in Edible Boston magazine perhaps 5 years ago. If memory serves, they were grown on MA's southeast coast.

                                              3. s
                                                small h Jul 21, 2012 03:52 PM

                                                Asian pears don't taste that sweet to me. I find they have a more floral flavor.

                                                1. chefathome Jul 21, 2012 03:51 PM

                                                  Mangosteens when you can find them. They are sweet but not cloyingly so. One of my favourites is rock-hard nectarines.

                                                  1. pinehurst Jul 21, 2012 03:48 PM


                                                    1. majordanby Jul 21, 2012 03:37 PM

                                                      raspberries and kiwi come to mind.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: majordanby
                                                        Bacardi1 Jul 22, 2012 01:36 PM

                                                        While home-grown raspberries can be quite sweet, I second Kiwi. Have yet to come across even one that I'd call sweet.

                                                        1. re: Bacardi1
                                                          greygarious Jul 22, 2012 03:17 PM

                                                          For a delightful, sweet kiwi, choose ones whose skins are on the darker end of the brown skin range, and feel somewhat soft, like a ripe peach. The flesh of sweet, ripe kiwis is a deeper green than that of the tarter ones.

                                                          1. re: greygarious
                                                            Bacardi1 Jul 23, 2012 08:25 AM

                                                            Thanks. I seem to always miss the boat on Kiwis. Either they're way too tart, or the ones that feel soft when I buy them are long past their prime - nearly rotten inside. Do they have a "season" that I'm missing?

                                                      2. c
                                                        calliope_nh Jul 21, 2012 03:30 PM

                                                        Cape Gooseberries a/k/a Ground Cherries are delicious. They are the size and texture of small cherry tomatoes but are more closely related to tomatillos. I think they have a bit of a less sweet strawberry flavor. Sometimes I think a little like kiwi.

                                                        I also like longans which are similar to lychee.

                                                        1. t
                                                          thimes Jul 21, 2012 03:13 PM

                                                          Star fruit. They are ripe when the edges go brown but are much more tart than sweet but very juicy. I love them.

                                                          1. Sandwich_Sister Jul 21, 2012 02:19 PM

                                                            Lychees are not overly sweet to me it's flavor is almost like a pear and a grape smashed together.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Sandwich_Sister
                                                              lamb_da_calculus Jul 21, 2012 02:30 PM

                                                              Really? I've tried lychees and have found them very sweet. Maybe it's because they don't have a very distinctive flavor: it seems like there's only a mild floral note.

                                                              1. re: Sandwich_Sister
                                                                eclecticsynergy Jul 23, 2012 03:02 PM

                                                                I love lychees! And fresh ones are in season now.

                                                              2. p
                                                                piwakawaka Jul 21, 2012 09:27 AM


                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: piwakawaka
                                                                  lamb_da_calculus Jul 21, 2012 02:31 PM

                                                                  I don't think I've ever seen these, but I will keep an eye out for them, thanks.

                                                                  1. re: piwakawaka
                                                                    cazort Aug 2, 2012 01:59 PM

                                                                    I love blackcurrants, but I don't think they're suitable for eating raw. I think of them as being good for making jam and baked goods...they can be very pungent, sour, and astringent.

                                                                  2. Veggo Jul 21, 2012 08:59 AM

                                                                    Sour cherries and crabapples

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Veggo
                                                                      lamb_da_calculus Jul 21, 2012 02:32 PM

                                                                      Aren't crabapples not meant to be eaten raw? I'm looking for fruits that are edible out of hand but aren't very sweet. Thanks for the suggestion though.

                                                                      1. re: lamb_da_calculus
                                                                        Veggo Jul 21, 2012 02:43 PM

                                                                        From age 5 to 17 I ate hundreds of crabapples from our magnificent tree in Connecticut, and our mother made jelly. They were not sweet, and it took a real boy to eat them.

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