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Ambrosia salad is made with fruit, sugar, and grated coconut. It is especially popular in the South but enjoyed all over the country. Ambrosia is a type of fruit salad and this healthy recipe can be served as a dessert or as part of a buffet or picnic.
The first ambrosia salad recipes started to appear in the late 1800s in American cookbooks. Before that, there were similar desserts but without the coconut. The addition of coconut is what transforms a humble fruit salad recipe into ambrosia salad.
Home cooks in American have been using dried coconut since 1830 and this ingredient was really popular in the early 1900s. There are lots of different recipes for ambrosia salad, many of which date back about two centuries.
A recipe from 1877 calls for six sliced oranges, a sliced pineapple, and some grated coconut. These ingredients would be layered and some sugar would be sprinkled over each layer. Another recipe dating back to 1904 called for bananas, nuts, dates, and grapes to be used in addition to the orange and pineapple. Strawberries or lemon featured in other recipes.
Marshmallows date back to Ancient Egypt. They were a honey candy flavored with sap from the marsh-mallow plant. Today gelatin is used to make marshmallows instead of sap and they form part of many ambrosia recipes.
The exact timeline history of ambrosia salad with marshmallows is not completely clear but you can assume that people started adding marshmallows to their ambrosia salads a few decades ago, often along with nuts, whipped cream and chocolate chips.
It is up to you what fruit you put into a fruit salad, although you could be influenced by what is in season, what your family prefers, or even the history of ambrosia salad with marshmallows and what goes into the original recipe. Some home cooks like to mix and match different colors, and fruit gives you a lot of options, since it comes in purple, pink, red, white, cream, yellow, green, orange, and blue, just to name a few shades. You can make your fruit salad recipe all the colors of the rainbow if you wish.
Another thing to think about is texture. Do you prefer crunchy fruit like apples and slightly under-ripe pears, soft ones like peach and cherries, or a combination of both? Third, are you using fruit that releases its own juice like oranges, or fruit which does not like bananas? You might need to add extra liquid to your fruit salad recipe because a good fruit salad is moist, not dry. For extra flavor and texture, do not forget the marshmallows!