As I walked underneath a large tree in my back yard yesterday, a bright fuchsia colored fluff caught my eye. I looked up to see dozens of these beautiful blossoms spread throughout the inside branches of my Mountain Apple tree. Growing up in Hawaii, we would often go hiking to find these delicious fruits that we called Mountain Apple. They grow all over the world in warm tropical climates and have a different name wherever they are found.
In Panama, this fruit is known as Marañon de Curacao.
The scientific name is actually Syzygium Malaccense. The origin is considered to be Malaysia. It is believed that the Portuguese were responsible for its introduction into Brazil, Surinam and Panama in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. Dr. David Fairchild, a well-known botanist in the day, sent seeds from Panama to the United States Department of Agriculture in 1921. I have heard a few Panamanians refer to the Marañon de Curacau fruit by the nickname ‘Rose Apple’ also. There is a different fruit called simply ‘marañon’, which is a cashew that we will discover in a future article.
The flowering season is 2 months and I just started to see them, which means we should be seeing the blossoms throughout January and February. The blossoms are hidden by leaves on the inside branches of the tree so not readily visible. When the blossoms drop, there is a carpet of bright pink or red on the ground under the trees. Fruit takes 60 days to ripen, putting harvest season around March and April. When I first moved into my house last April, there were a few fruits still on the tree. In some places the trees will produce a second crop, as they did on my tree in the fall. The tree is loaded with fruit that’s ready to harvest again in October/November. Good thing it has plenty to share with the birds & bees :)
The fruits are about 2 to 4 inches long and sort of bell shaped. They are white and pinkish-red on the outside with white flesh on the inside. The texture is soft, similar to a pear but not gritty. Most Water Apples have a mild and slightly sweet flavor and are very juicy when ripe. I like to eat them raw or made into something like an apple sauce. There are also recipes for making jams and cutting the fruit up and adding to stews. I’ll be experimenting with some recipes from my harvest this season!
In Asia, people eat the new growth leaves either raw or stir-fried. It is always nice to have another variety of greens to include in our tropical diets. The colorful flowers can also be added to salads and eaten raw. There are numerous medicinal uses as well, including as an antiseptic and antibiotic, using the fruits, seeds, bark, and leaves of the tree.
Marañon de Curacau trees can easily be grown from seeds and are fast growing. They reach a height of about 40 to 60 feet (12-18 m) and are an attractive evergreen tree, giving good shade. One tree will produce between 45 and 175 pounds of fruit so you really only need one, unless you plan to share with friends and neighbors. If you’d like to plant a Maranon de Curacao tree in your yard in Panama, watch for the fruits to appear in March and April. Eat the fruit, plant the seed, and watch your little tree grow.