Tropical Taste of Hawaii: The Mouthwatering Mountain Apple

GregMontani / Pixabay
GregMontani / Pixabay

Mountain apple (botanical name Syzygium malaccense) is a lovely fruit tree that grows in lots of farms and gardens in Hawaii, especially on the rainy east side of the Big Island. It has a Hawaiian name Ohi’a ‘ai (oh-hee AH eye) and a number of other common names including Malay apple, increased apple, or water apple. Regardless of its name, it is not related to the mainland apple varieties that you see in the supermarket! The mountain apple fruit does have a waxy and shiny red skin (possibly that’s why it has “apple” in its name), but its bell-shaped body and unique taste have no similarity to any apples of the western world.

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Mountain apple is not a native types of Hawaii. It stemmed from Malaysia and has been widely cultivated throughout Southeast Asia, India, Central America, the Caribbean, and numerous tropical island nations in the South Pacific. The Polynesian voyagers were credited for presenting mountain apples to Hawaii when they first found the islands centuries back.

Mountain apple is a fast growing tree and could reach 50-60 feet when mature. It can be grown quickly from seeds (they sprout nearly immediately in humus rich soil) and cuttings or air layering. On the Big Island, it flourishes in locations that have abundant rains and humidity, such as Hilo and Pahoa towns or the rich Waipio valley. It can be seen growing in the wild wherever birds and animals have spread its seeds: in the middle of a rainforest, at the bottom of a gorge, or together with the numerous waterfall streams around the island. In Hilo, it is common to see a large mountain apple tree covered with numerous fruits in somebody’s backyard and extremely typically a whole branch will snap off because of the fruits’ weight!

Free-Photos / Pixabay
manseok / Pixabay

Mountain Apple Blossoms.

It is a magnificent sight to see a mountain apple tree in flower. The flowers have a deep magenta-crimson color, with tiny gold specks cleaning the ideas of the stamens. They look like clusters of mini blowing up fireworks! The lightly aromatic flowers sprout generously along the woody branches (or perhaps on the main trunk) and when falling, they transform the ground below the tree into a remarkable pink carpet! After flowering, the tree flourishes which are light green when young and turn brilliant to dark red when they are ripe. If left on the tree, the ripe fruits will ultimately become a dark burgundy color and then drop to the ground. This creates a messy problem as the smashed fruits ferment and draw in crowds of fruit flies! There is also a less typical white variety of mountain apple growing in Hawaii, in which the trees bear beautiful white blossoms (with a stronger fragrance) and fragile white fruits.

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Eating Mountain Apples.

A ripe mountain apple fruit tastes sweet and really juicy. It also has an unique rose flavor. The flesh is soft and a little crispy. Each fruit usually has one (sometimes 2) little round seeds inside. You do not need to peel the skin, just bite into the fruit as if you are consuming a. well, apple!

Mountain apple is a significant business fruit crop in numerous Southeast Asian nations (e.g. Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines) where farmers stack the bright red fruits into big stacks and sell them at open air markets and fruit stands along the roadside, or transfer them on little sampans heading to the drifting markets. Visitors to Hawaii can discover mountain apples at farmers markets between August and September when the fruits are in season. They are hardly ever offered in supermarkets since they tend to bruise and deteriorate quickly even in refrigerated temperature level. In Hawaii, mountain apples are typically eaten fresh or made into jams and pickles. Regional people likewise like to make a syrupy sweet wine out of the over mature fruits. When cooked with fresh ginger, lemon juice, cinnamon and after that efficiently processed in a mixer, they make a delicious mountain applesauce. The vibrant mountain apple blossoms are also edible and they include a wonderful touch to soups or salads when used as a garnish.

eloneo / Pixabay

How to Make Pickled Mountain Apple.

10 mountain apples.
1-2 Thai chili peppers coarsely chopped (can replace jalapeƱo peppers).
3-4 cloves of garlic carefully sliced.
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (can substitute rice vinegar).
1 tps salt.
1/2 tps sugar.
Wash the mountain apples and pat them dry with a paper towel. Cut each fruit into half lengthwise, discard the seeds and cut both ends. Cut across each half into thin (about 1/8″ thick) slides. In a bowl, toss mountain apple slices with lemon juice, garlic, chili pepper, salt and sugar. Spoon whatever into a sanitized glass container and close the lid firmly. Refrigerate for at least 2 days and take pleasure in! Pickled mountain apple is outstanding with grilled fish or meat. It can be served by itself as a sweet and spicy appetizer or a side meal to accompany curry or sushi.


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