Britons learn to pass the pitahaya

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The Independent Online

Sun-dried tomatoes are passe. Kiwis are too Eighties. The supermarkets' fight for the nation's palate has moved on, hoping to tempt us to part with our money by offering granadillas, tamarillos and pitahayas.

Exotic fruit is the latest niche market which multiple retailers hope to make the success of the 1990s. Consumption of exotic fruit has grown 19 per cent in the last four years, according to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Information Bureau. We currently eat 100,000 tonnes of it (compared with 1.4m tonnes of all fresh produce) and spend pounds 74 per person per year.

But the most exotic fruits have only really reached in Britain in the last 18 months. Granadilla, also known as the Lover's Fruit, is a cousin of the passion fruit but with a more intense taste, although even its kindest friend would not deny that its insides look like frogspawn.

Tamarillo is a large sweet tomato-like fruit, physallis, a sweet gooseberry and pitahaya, a crunchy form of a kiwi. Their prices vary between 69p and pounds 1.79, making them more expensive than the kiwi, which retails at about 18p per fruit.

Tesco is claiming to be "six months ahead" of the other stores in exotic fruits and is currently cashing in by launching Valentine's Day gifts (including "Blind Dates" - Medjool dates with a blindfold on and a lover's basket including prickly pears and mangoes), claiming such fruits have well-known aphrodisiac qualities.

But Sainsbury claims to have 22 lines of exotic fruit and hopes to push ahead by launching new varieties including the golden pawpaw - a sweeter pawpaw from Brazil - and in two to three months' time a "premium mango".

The fruits are currently aimed at the middle and upper classes, although the supermarkets hope that eventually the fruits will move down the socio-economic scale.