After my first trip to Hawaii, the thing that most stuck with me wasn’t the 7/11 Spam musubi, the cotton candy sunsets, or even my trip to Volcanoes National Park—It was the papaya I bought from a roadside fruit stand near Kona.
I always thought I hated papaya, but this was something entirely different from the butternut squash-sized ones I could buy at fruit stands in Brooklyn. This was a sunrise papaya, a smaller, sweeter variety native to Hawaii that tasted like a strawberry peach smoothie. I sat on the hood of my rental car and ate it with a spoon. For the rest of my trip, any time I saw fruit for sale, I pulled over.
That trip was the beginning of my obsession with trying new fruits. Once I got home, it spiraled. I found myself shelling out twenty bucks for a plastic box of eight Oishii strawberries, trolling markets in Chinatown for mangosteens and hawthorns. But it turns out I’m not alone in this perpetual side quest: Scroll TikTok or Instagram for long enough and you’ll probably land on a video posted by someone who’s made fruit a big part of their online persona.
Zoya Biglary went viral for peeling an apple in a single go after her girlfriend (former Buzzfeed Tasty producer Alix Earle) lamented the lack of an apple peeler in their kitchen. In the video, she talks candidly to her audience while showing off some serious skill with a paring knife. To date, the video has over 15 million views, and it sparked thousands of requests for her to peel other fruits on camera.
“I think the video took off because I was speaking into the camera, telling a story about how I can peel any fruit because I’m Persian and Persians traditionally eat more than the average amount of fruit,” says Biglary, “I ended the video by jokingly saying that fruit peelers were tools developed to keep us from using our brains.”
Like another infamous apple, this one really started something. Since making her first TikTok, Biglary has built a global community around her fruit-focused videos, which often involve personal stories centered around her identity as a queer Persian woman. “My audience loves weighing in with their own opinions on specific fruit, especially with the way I cut and prepare them,” she explains. “As with anything online, some commenters are heavily pro- or anti- specific foods. Some have suggested new ones for me to try and I love when social media feels interactive.”
Because fruit is something almost everyone is familiar with, it’s an easy way for influencers to form strong connections with their viewers. For Suzy Farmar, who runs the TikTok account soozythefoodie, the interactive component is what keeps her interested. “The best part about posting fruit content is connecting with people from different cultures and getting to learn how they enjoy the fruits too!” she explains, “I have learned so much from everyone interacting with my videos.”
At the beginning of Farmar’s videos, she usually asks, “Have you ever tried?” before launching into a description of whatever fruit she’s cracking open. As a viewer, you’re immediately drawn in by the question. Her delivery is casual and the videos aren’t heavily produced, so when you watch her taste a new fruit, you feel like you’re standing in her kitchen trying your first bayberry or abiu, too.
Both Farmar and Biglary have traveled to seek out new fruits; Biglary landed a brand deal with Sunkist that led to a citrus-centric trip to California, and Farmar’s interest in fruit actually started when she was a kid traveling with her family. “I vividly remember having exotic fruit in Golden Gate, South Africa over a decade ago,” she recalls, “The fruit that sparked my interest when I was there was a soft pink guava. I remember always going to the store looking for anything with guava flavor after that as a kid and now I get that same excitement.”
That sense of shared excitement is a huge part of what makes fruit content so much fun to watch. It’s easy to lose yourself in the thrill of vicarious discovery. Even though she’s made countless fruit videos, Biglary gets the same delight from every experience. “Trying new fruit is genuinely one of my favorite things,” she says, “You have no idea what the taste of texture will be, and some types look like literal aliens in fruit form.”
And while many fruit influencers can and do travel to feed their obsession—Biglary went as far as Bali to try Indonesian jackfruit—it’s easier than ever to get exotic fruits delivered just about anywhere. Companies like Miami Fruit will ship boxes of everything from cacao fruit to the notoriously hard to find sugar apple right to your door.
“Rane and Edelle, our founders, traveled extensively to sample fruits from around the globe,” explains a representative from Miami Fruit, “notably Ecuador, Grenada, and Japan.” After traveling both internationally and domestically to build relationships with farmers and learn more about exotic fruits, they purchased a 7.5-acre farm in South Florida where they grow everything Mirami Fruit sells.
Part of what makes FruitTok so appealing is the fact that it’s participatory in a way that few other corners of the internet can be. Trying local fruit is the primary reason I stop at the local farmer’s market no matter where in the world I travel, but even if you’ll never visit a breadfruit farm or post a video in which you peel a dragonfruit, you can probably get those things shipped to your home, a little taste of a far-off place.