Learning about food is somehow more interesting when it’s done in a creative yet structured way. The only thing Achachas and Ahi tuna have in common is the first letter of their name, but that small commonality is enough to pair them together in this article.
If you’d like to expand your knowledge of unique and tasty ingredients, why not start with this list of 45 foods that start with A.
Everything on this list is edible, though that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find them all equally appetizing. You may be familiar with some of the more obvious items on this list, but there are sure to be a few unknowns that pique your interest, not to mention your tastebuds.
Foods That Start With A
Abalone is an edible mollusk that looks eerily similar to an ear. It’s considered the rarest and most therefore most valuable shellfish in the world. The creature feeds lives on ocean rocks, feeding off of algae. To protect itself from being swept out to sea by the waves, it develops a cement-like bond with its rock home, making it very difficult to harvest, adding to its high value. The meat is comparable to high-quality oysters.
Abiu is a bright, sunny yellow tropical fruit with pale, translucent pulpy flesh. It has a mild, sweet flavor that reminds many people of pineapple. The evergreen trees grow in South America and can produce hundreds if not thousands of the small fruits every year.
Abiyuch is the fruit of a tree by the same name, which is a member of the caper family. This fruit is also called garlic pear, probably because of the flavor of their pulp, which tends to burn like a raw clove of garlic. They have a hard green rind that’s round or oval, and they’re more commonly used as a spice than eaten as a fruit. The leaves, flowers, berries, and seeds of this plant are all edible and quite nutritious.
Açaí berries are from a specific type of palm tree and have become a very popular superfood in the past decade. The berries are mostly seed, but the flesh and skin is a deep purple color that is packed with powerful antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals. They’re also a surprisingly rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which is very rare in plants. (They are also great in smoothies.)
Acerola is a shrub-like tree native to Central and South America, as well as Mexico and the Caribbean. It grows small red berries that are very similar to cherries and extremely rich sources of Vitamin C. They’re sweet and beautifully fragrant, and just as delicious eaten raw as a snack as cooked into a rich sauce.
Achachas, or the achachairú, are tropical fruits originally from Bolivia and are now also commonly cultivated in Australia. They have a mild sweet and sour flavor that is unmistakably tropical. The pulpy flesh surrounding inedible seeds reminds many of lychee fruit, though the outer shell is smooth and yellow-orange rather than red and bumpy. Achachas are actually more closely related to the mangosteen.
Acorns are the nuts that grow on oak trees around the world. They are edible, but they’re no longer one of the most popular nuts to eat. They’re low in calories, especially for a nut, but high in a number of other vital nutrients, such as Vitamins A and E and iron. Unfortunately, they’re also high in tannins, which are antinutrients, so acorns should be boiled or soaked before being eaten.
8. Acorn Squash
Acorn squash is a type of winter squash, closely related to pumpkins and butternut squash. They’ve got a dark green, hard outer skin or rind and a bright yellow, sweet flesh that can deepen to orange. They have an almost nutty flavor to them and they are a great low-carb, high fiber, and nutrient-dense starchy vegetable. They’re generally harvested in the late fall, just prior to the first major frost of the season. They can be safely and easily stored for up to a month so they’re a great winter seasonal food choice.
The ackee, or achee, fruit is a tropical fruit native to West Africa and Jamaica and closely related to the lychee fruit. It has a buttery texture and mild flavor, often eaten more like a vegetable, paired with salty food or stored in saltwater to enhance the flavor. It is one of the rare plants that are high in fat, having about 15 grams of healthy fat in a half-cup serving size. They do need to be eaten with care, however, because the seeds are highly toxic.
10. Adzuki Beans
Also sometimes called azuki or aduki beans, adzuki beans are small red beans primarily grown in East Asia. While they can grow in a variety of colors, they’re most commonly red. Adzuki beans are popular in Asian foods such as the Japanese dish, Natto, and the sweetened red bean paste used in a variety of Asian desserts. As with most legumes, they’re a good source of fiber and protein and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.
11. Agar Agar
Agar agar, or simply agar, is a thickening agent made from algae that is increasingly common in a lot of vegan and gluten-free baked foods. It’s often used as a plant-based alternative to gelatin and is sold in sheets, flakes, or a powder form.
Agave is a type of giant succulent that is cultivated for its nectar, which is turned into a syrup and sold as an alternative to refined white sugar. It’s often considered a healthier choice because it has a low glycemic load, and therefore doesn’t cause as much of a spike to blood sugar levels as white sugar. Agave is also a key ingredient in both Mezcal and Tequila.
13. Ahi Tuna
Ahi is also known as Yellowfin tuna and it’s one of the most popular types of fish to be eaten as sashimi or served seared and very rare. This type of tuna lives in tropical and subtropical oceans and, though it’s one of the larger species of tuna, it’s small in comparison to both Atlantic and Pacific tuna.
Ajwain, or ajowan, is technically a fruit, though it’s usually referred to and used as a seed, sometimes also called “bishop’s weed.” It’s in the same family as caraway, cumin, and fennel, though the flavor is more bitter and pungent. Some compare it to anise or oregano in taste, but it smells almost exactly like thyme.
15. Albacore Tuna
Albacore, or longfin tuna, lives in both temperate and tropical oceans across the globe and is the most commercially fished stock of tuna globally. It is the main variety found in canned tuna, especially in the USA. They’re a unique species of tuna in that their main source of food is cephalopods such as squid and octopus, rather than smaller fish.
Alewife is a type of herring common in North America. They average about 10 inches in length and most commonly smoked, canned, or pickled. They’re considered a sweet fish, rich in flavor and aroma, and comparable to sardines. Fresh herring like alewife is becoming more of a specialty, becoming known as a gourmet ingredient in fine dining establishments.
Alfalfa is an herb that is also part of the legume family. It’s been used as feed for livestock for generations and is most commonly eaten by humans in sprout form. The leaves and seeds of the plant are also often dried and prepared as a supplement thanks to the abundance of vitamins, especially Vitamin K. Alfalfa sprouts are mild in flavor and very thin and leggy. They’re available at most grocery stores but can also easily be sprouted at home within just a few days.
Almonds are one of the most universally popular nuts, enjoyed not only for their flavor and crunch but also for their healthy fats and great nutritional content. You can find almonds in a variety of preparations in just about every store you shop at. They’re popular raw, roasted, and even candy-coated. Almond milk is one of the most common dairy-alternatives and almond flour is a popular gluten-free baking option.
Alligator is considered exotic game meat and is popular in Cajun dishes like jambalayas and stews. The tail is the prime meat, comparable to veal in texture, though the flavor is somewhere between chicken and rabbit. The body meat is darker, slightly tougher, and gamier in flavor.
Allspice is the berries from the Jamaican pepper or pimento. The berries are usually harvested before they ripen, dried and ground into a powder to be used as a spice. The flavor is popular in Caribbean cuisine and is compared to a blend of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, hence the name.
Amanatus is a Japanese citrus hybrid fruit. It has a bright yellow-orange rind and it grows to about the same size as a grapefruit. As with other citrus fruits, it is divided into segments and has up to 30 seeds in each fruit. It’s commonly made into marmalade but it can also be eaten freshly picked from the tree or even used to flavor cocktails.
Amaranth is an ancient grain that has been consumed throughout history but has recently risen in popularity as a health food, mainly because it’s naturally gluten-free. It has been a staple grain in Central and Southern American since the time of ancient civilizations like the Inca, Mayans, and Aztecs. In our modern society, it’s becoming more popular as an alternative to rice, or a plant-based meaty addition to stew, soup, and/or chili. Many people even make it into porridge in place of oats.
23. Amarelle Cherries
Amarelle cherries are a type of suitably named sour cherries that grow throughout Europe and most of Asia. They’re closely related to sweet cherries but notably more sour and acidic. The cherries are a bright, light red and very popular with birds. They’re most commonly dried and used in cooking, both sweet and savory dishes, or made into a syrup to be used in drinks and liqueurs.
24. American Cheddar Cheese
American cheddar should not be confused with the semi-hard white cheese with a sharp flavor that is popular in Europe. American cheddar, or American cheese, is a type of processed cheese with cheddar cheese as it’s base. It’s processed to make it creamier, softer, saltier, and easier to melt, making it perfect for cheese-burgers. It’s also artificially colored so that it’s an orange-yellow color. You’ll usually find it pressed into individually plastic-wrapped slices.
25. American Groundnut
American groundnuts, also called hopniss, is not actually a nut, but rather a tuber. It grows from a bean plant, of which the beans, shoots, and flowers are also edible. Unless you or someone you know grow them, or you’re an avid forager, you’re not likely to have tried or even heard of them. They’re not common in grocery stores because it can take up to 2 years to grow the root to a size worth selling.
Annatto is the very brightly pigmented seed of the achiote plant, native to tropical regions ranging from Mexico down to Brazil. The orange-red seeds are often used as food coloring, offering a lot of color to a dish with only a small amount of peppery, nutty sweetness. It’s becoming more common in North America as synthetically created food coloring is linked to a variety of food allergies and other health conditions that this natural colorant is not.
Anchovies are small marine forage fish, or bait fish, that can be found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. In South America, they can even live in completely freshwater. Anchovies are a popular oily fish. Because they have such a strong, signature flavor, their oil is often used as a flavoring in many different dishes. They’re most commonly consumed after being preserved in a salty brine.
28. Anchovy Pear
The anchovy pear is a fruit from a tree that grows in Jamaica, Central America, and Colombia. They’re not at all related to the common pear popular in North America, nor do they taste alike. The brown fruits are commonly pickled and taste more like mangos. The trees also have nuts that grow in clusters, encased in extremely hard seed pods that grow to the size of grapefruits.
Anise, sometimes also called aniseed, is a flowering plant whose seeds are used as a spice. The flavor is most commonly compared to black licorice though, ironically, black licorice candy is more likely to be flavored with anise than the licorice plant itself. Anise is used in a wide variety of herbal remedies, ranging from natural breath fresheners to tranquilizers or diuretics.
30. Anjou Pear
The d’Anjou pear is a European variety of the pear family that is now also cultivated in North America. The green Anjou remains green, even when it’s ripe, which is unlike common pears that turn yellow when they’re ready to be harvested and eaten. Because it’s more difficult to judge ripeness by color, you can test Anjou pears by how firm or soft the fruit is near the stem. It should have a little give to it when pressed, but not so soft that it feels mushy.
Antelope is a type of game meat found primarily in Africa and Eurasia. They can be imported to the US for exotic game hunting though many species of Antelope are listed as endangered. The meat is similar in flavor and texture to venison and is a low-calorie alternative to beef.
Aonori, also known as green laver, is a type of edible green algae most commonly cultivated in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. It’s used in many Asian soups and can also be made into sheets of nori used for rolling sushi.Green algae like aonori is known for being mineral-rich as well as being a good plant-based source of essential amino acids. It can be powdered and sold in capsules or tablets as supplements.
Apples are fruits cultivated worldwide, with more than 7500 different varieties bred for eating raw, cooking, or beverage production. Apple trees were thought to originate in Central Asia and China currently is responsible for approximately half of the worldwide production.
Apricots are small stone fruits similar to peaches. They can be yellow or orange, or even a combination or blend of the two colors. They are relatively firm fruits that range in flavor from sweet to tart, and they aren’t known for being overly juicy. The outer skin is edible, with a velvety texture and hint of bitter tang.
Asparagus is a perennial herb that is commonly considered to be a culinary vegetable. They grow in tall stalks with rose-like leaves clustering at the top. Medicinally, asparagus has been used traditionally as both a diuretic and an aphrodisiac, but most home cooks simply prepare it as a side dish or appetizer. It’s enjoyed seasonally worldwide and, during the off-season, becomes a premium ingredient.
36. Asparagus Bean
The asparagus bean is a unique member of the legume family. It’s also known as the yardlong bean because it can grow up to a yard long. It is a different genus from the common green bean, though it is eaten whole, including the green pod, in many South Asian countries. As the bean matures, the inner seeds can also be separated and dried.
Arame is a species of kelp, or brown algae, that is popular in Japanese cuisine. It’s usually sold after being dried and is reconstituted by soaking it in warm water. It is used in everything from appetizers to soups and casseroles and even muffins and other desserts. It has a semi-sweet flavor that isn’t overly potent making is a staple ingredient for use in any number of popular Asian recipes.
38. Arborio Rice
Arborio is a type of short-grain Italian rice that is now also cultivated in many American states. This species of rice has a higher starch content than standard white rice, making it ideal for dishes like risotto and rice pudding. It cooks up to be creamy and chewy while still maintaining a firmness to each small, rounded grain.
39. Armenian Cucumber
The Armenian cucumber is not actually a cucumber, but it’s closely related and tastes much the same. The inside of the fruit looks like a traditional cucumber, but the whole fruit is longer, thinner, and has a tendency to curl or snake. It’s usually eaten whole, with its skin intact, because there is little to no bitterness or bumpy texture.
Arracacha is a South American starchy root vegetable that resembles a combination of carrot and celery root. The taproot is shorter and fatter than a carrot, with an off-white skin and white, yellow or purple interior. The root shouldn’t be eaten raw and is most commonly made into a puree, similar to mashed potatoes, or formed into gnocchi or dumplings. The leaves are edible as well, and taste and look similar to parsley.
Arrowroot is a starch derived from tropical plants such as cassava and tapioca. It’s used as a thickening agent, considered by many a healthier alternative to cornstarch. It is also the base for certain biscuits, namely Arrowroot cookies, a popular teething cookie for babies, and after dinner digestive treat.
Artichokes are an edible species of thistle commonly cooked and prepared as a vegetable. The edible portion of the plant is restricted to the pre-blooming flower bud. Once it blooms, the leaves become coarse, stiff, and barely edible. The center of the flower is called the heart, which can be stuffed, marinated, baked, boiled, or roasted and used in several different appetizers or side dishes.
Arugula, called rocket in some parts of the world, is a peppery green leafy vegetable that is popular for spicing up standard salad greens. It can also be used as a substitute for many herbs, especially in dips and sauces like pesto. It’s a member of the Brassica family, along with kale and Brussels sprouts.
44. Aubergine (Eggplant)
Aubergine, also known as eggplant depending on where you live, is a member of the nightshade family, known for its deep purple skin. It’s usually eaten as a vegetable, though technically a fruit, and has a dense, meaty texture and mild flavor that makes it popular in many vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Avocado is one of the few fruits that have a high-fat content. It’s practically worshiped for his buttery texture and mild, creamy flavor. In addition to being loaded with health, mono-unsaturated fats that are good for your heart and brain, avocados are also rich sources of potassium and a wide variety of vitamins.