- Associated Press - Friday, March 14, 2014

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. (AP) - Marcy McCue’s first-graders were handed a small plastic bag with a piece of juicy, exotic fruit inside.

This particular morning it was star fruit, native to Asia, that slices into pale green, five-pointed stars. Each child got a star.

“Why do you think they might call it star fruit?” McCue asked.

They guessed right away.

“Is it sour?” one asked.

“You have to taste it,” McCue said.

“It’s good,” said Conrad Salcedo, 6. “It’s sour like an apple.”

“It tastes good,” Cierah Mendez, 6, said.

“I throwed it away,” said Ezekel Hill, 6. “It’s nasty!”

Ethan Perez, 6, said, “It looks like SpongeBob, if you bite the arms off.”

Children at Palo Verde and Saguaro elementary schools can sample a different kind of fresh fruit or vegetable every school-day morning because of a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The children are familiar with some of the fruits and vegetables, like apples, oranges and cherry tomatoes. But others are exotic, like dragon fruit, edible flowers, mandarinquats and pluots.

McCue said she tells the children they don’t have to eat everything, but they have to try everything, “just a bite to see if they like it.” The day the edible orchids arrived, they insisted that she try it before they did.

The morning before the star fruit visit, cook and driver David Hale washed and chopped dozens of whole star fruits into individual servings at the Cottonwood Elementary School kitchen.

Kitchen Manager Pam Adams and Food Supervisor Stella Gates helped Hale bag and tie the individual servings for 950 students, count them into a bag for each classroom and place them in crates in the refrigerator. Hale dropped the crates off at the two schools the next morning.

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