Origin of Java Apple
Java apples originate in the forests from Malaya to the Nicobar Islands. As long ago as the pre-historic times, the fruit spread to the Philippines and other parts of Asia. Today, it’s a common fruit throughout Thailand, Cambodia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos and India. Around 1903, the fruit was introduced to Jamaica and other regions in South America.
The fruit is widely recognized in Southeast Asia folk tales. Several Filipino tales feature the tree as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune. In fact, one myth recounts how a coastal city preserved a beautiful bell from usurpation of marauders by burying it. From the burial site grew a tree that bore lovely bell-shaped fruits, today known as the macopa, or, java apple fruit.
Availability of Java Apple in India
Java apples grow well in the fertile soils of India. It is an extra tropical fruit and thrives at elevations less than 4,000 ft and requires a long dry season. Java apple growing states are Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and the Western Ghats.
Java apples are a summer fruit, ripening from May through June. They are prolific bearers, as a single tree may yield 700 fruits per season.
|Flowers from the java apple tree|
Where to find Java Apple in India
When in season, java apples are easy to find in the regions in which they grow. Otherwise, their delicate skin and high perishability inhibits transport to distant markets. Some markets in large cities, however, receive imported red varieties from Thailand. The cultivars grown in India tend to be much smaller; approximately the size of lemons.
Checking for Ripeness in Java Apple
When ripe, java apples are waxy, glossy and possess a distinct bell shape. Smell the bottom of the fruit: if it has a nice floral aroma, it’s ripe. Java apple’s color should be bright and enticing with a light sheen; not dull, gray, or browning.
Some prefer the unripe, greenish white fruits. These are best in cooking, in sauces, and perhaps eaten raw with a pinch of salt sprinkled on the taut flesh.
Taste of Java Apple
Despite what the name implies, java apple does not taste like an apple. The fruit bears greater resemblance to an Asian pear with its mild, watery sweetness. Some java apples can be a bit sour. Not everyone who tries the fruit is pleased with its taste: Several claim its flavor is insipid and tasteless, not unlike other watery fruits such as carambola and bilimbi.
The sweetest java apples are the darkest or lightest in color. Thus, dark purple and white java apples have the strongest flavors (and cost the most, as well). These colors are uncommon in the India market, as they are generally cultivated in Taiwan and seldom reach India. The Taiwanese expats have especially fond memories of what they deem a colorful hydrating fruit.
The texture of java apple varies throughout the fruit. The flesh near the skin is the most watery and crisp, and grows fibrous near the core. At the center of the java apple is a fine-strand pulp resembling cotton candy. Though this portion is edible, the taste is unimpressive.
Here’s a video of someone tasting a wax apple:
Java apple’s close cousin, the Malay apple, has a better reputation for taste.
Nutritional Value of Java Apple
The nutritional value for 100g of edible java apple as per a nutritional analysis published by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand:
.7g Protein (negligible)
.2g Fat (negligible)
8mg Vitamin C
Health Benefits of Java Apple
Countries around the world use Malay apple to alleviate various health problems. In Taiwan, locals use java apple flowers to combat diarrhea and fever. In Malaysia, the dried leaves treat a cracked tongue and a bark decoction remedies thrush, itching, and edema. According to the book, “Fruits of Warm Climates,” Cambodians mix the fruit, leaves, or seeds as a fever reducer, and crushed leaves double as a skin softening lotion. Brazilians value java apples for their ability to alleviate headaches, cough, diabetes, catarrh, and constipation.
Several studies point to java apple’s health benefits:
--A 2013 study published in Food Chemistry found that vescalagin, a compound in wax apple, has anti-hypertriglyceridemic and anti-hyperglycemic effects, thus showing promise as an anti-diabetic.
--According to a 2012 study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, wax apples have anti-inflammatory compounds.
--A 2008 study published in Food Chemistry isolated four cytotoxic compounds in java apple fruit when tested on colon cancer cell lines.
--A 2008 study published in Advances in Biological Research also indicates that the fruit’s phytochemicals have mild antibiotic and antifungal properties against staphylococcus aureus, candida, and mycobacterium smegmatis.
--A 2004 study published in Planta Medica shows that leaf extracts have immunomodulatory effects.
How to Open/Cut:
Java apples eaten out of hand do not require peeling, and can be enjoyed like a pear. The only inedible portion is the core near the bottom, wider part of the fruit.
For use in recipes, vertically cut the fruit in half and remove the cotton candy-like center. From there, slice and cut pieces as desired.
Note: carefully inspect the bottom of the fruit for holes. Worms (and their eggs) often reside in the fruit’s core, where they enjoy the flesh as much as humans.
Java apple’s waxy skin will not withstand much heat and humidity once picked. As such, place them in the refrigerator: like watermelon, they taste best when chilled.
Java Apple Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Make a fruit salad with java apples. Their flavor would go well with similar ingredients as a Waldorf salad: Grapes, walnut, apple, and chicken/firm tofu. However, keep in mind the watery nature of the fruit. If adding to salads, add the fruit last to prevent the salad from getting watered down and diluting the dressing.
--Blend the fruit with water, lemon and sugar. Strain and chill for a refreshing juice. Add to lemonades, or include other tropical fruits.
--Pickle the fruit by chopping into pieces and heating it with traditional Indian spices such as chilly powder, fenugreek, mustard seed, asafetida, red chilly, and mustard seeds.
--Make a spicy salad by coating chopped pieces in a dressing of chili flakes, cilantro, lime, and salt.
--Stew in sugar with apples for a dessert
--Add chunks of the fruit into stir fries for a crunchy, sweet flavor
--A common Malaysian salad is penang rojak, made by mixing cucumber, jicama, tofu, pineapple, cuttlefish, and wax apple with a dark prawn paste.
--Eat slices of the fruit with a dip made from chili, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, lemon, or limejuice. Sprinkle peanuts or cashews into the dip if desired.
|Wax apple salad and amaranth from|
Fruits: Malay apple, rose apple, cucumber, celery, apple (especially green), jicama, starfruit, cashew apple, strawberry, watermelon, bell pepper, green mango, raw papaya, pineapple, pear, Asian pear
Herbs, spices, and oil: Cinnamon, orange or lemon zest, salt, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, lemongrass, olive oil, coconut oil, coconut oil, chili, lemon, garlic, mint, cilantro, limejuice, walnut, cashew, peanut, cumin, turmeric, mustard seed
If on hand, pair with a strong (vegan) cheese, like mock feta.
Taiwan takes its java apples very seriously and takes great pride in its sweet cultivar known as “black pears.”
The Filipinos believe that planting a java apple tree is lucky. This derives from the fact that the fruit is never sour, even while it ripens; rather, it tastes bland as it first buds, then becomes sweet.
Jamrul, amrool (Hindi)
Paninir champa, chambekka (Malayalam)
Gulaabijaamichettu, kammari kayalu (Telegu)