Malay apples are often confused for java apples, and understandably so: their taste is similar, and they share ambiguous monikers including rose apple and water apple. Yet, there are subtle differences. This picture illustrates just a few:
Origin of Malay Apple
As its name suggests, Malay apple originates in the Indo-Malayan region throughout Southeast Asia’s lowlands and forests. Though not native to this area, it has ancient roots in Polynesia as well: In Hawaii, religious icons were carved from the wood, which the Polynesians and Fijans held as sacred. These groups also made gorgeous leis from blossoms and fruit. Indeed, Malay apple trees create a rich mauve carpet when shedding their pompom-like flowers. Other better-tasting and higher yielding crops—such as mango and papaya—have since crowded out Malay apple groves in these regions.
Today, the fruit grows throughout Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Surinam, and Panama. Hawaii is the only state in the US that can foster the growth of Malay apple, as neither California nor Florida is tropical enough. The fruit is also new to South Africa.
Availability of Malay Apple in India
Malay apples first came to the shores of Goa by way of the Portuguese. Today, the fruits grow in Bengal, Goa and throughout South India. As a tropical tree, it requires ample humidity, high rainfall, and no frost. Once these basic conditions have been met, the trees need little else to thrive.
Malay apples have two seasons: one from May to July, and the other from November to December.
Where to find Malay Apple in India
Malay apples have a short shelf life. The fruits have little commercial viability, despite the tree’s prolific production: Each fruit must be carefully plucked from the tree and maintained in cool storage shortly thereafter.
Some stores in the cities sell plastic wrapped Malay apples to consumers willing to pay a decent price. Pushcart vendors purvey the fruits only if they reside near the orchards that harvest them, as they’re too perishable to ship to distant markets.
Checking for Ripeness in Malay Apple
Raw Malay apples possess white, smooth skin. As they ripen, their skin becomes glossy, and their color deepens. Malay apples have a spectrum of colors: Some fruits become pinkish red, while others are fully dark. Some Malay apples are dark red or brownish purple; others have streaks of white or pink.
Like bignays, Malay apples do not ripen uniformly on the tree: A single branch houses both white, unripe fruits and luscious, ripe red fruits.
Taste of Malay Apple
The incredible diversity of Malay apples makes it difficult to describe a single, uniform profile. Generally, ripe fruits possess a lovely rose scent. Their taste is crisp, watery, earthy, and slightly sweet; but insipid and uninspiring on the whole. Some Malay apples have an astringent, slightly bitter aftertaste.
The texture of a ripe Malay apple is similar to pear: crisp and not overly juicy (unlike watery Java apples). Some fruits are spongier than others.
Nutritional Value of Malay Apple
As per a Purdue horticulture article, 100g of edible Malay apple contains the following nutritional value:
Vitamin A: 3-10IU
Ascorbic Acid: 6.5-17mg
Health Benefits of Malay Apple
Malay apples have several traditional medicinal applications. In the Moluka Islands off of Indonesia, locals use Malay apples to treat thrush. Hawaiians pound bark with salt and apply topically to treat cuts and wounds. The roots also treat dysentery, itching and provoke menstruation. Cambodians use the roots, leaves and seeds to allay fever. In Brazil, healers make plant remedies to allay cough, diabetes, headache, constipation and catarrh. Additionally, a study published in the Scientific World Journal mentions its traditional uses as treatment for high blood pressure, inflammation, and as an antimicrobial, diuretic, and carminative.
The scientific community has discovered the following health benefits:
--According to a study published in Food Chemistry, fruits in the Syzygium family (like Malay apple) have compounds with antidiabetic potential.
--A study conducted in Malaysia and published in Food Chemistry affirms Malay apple’s strong antihyperglycaemic properties.
--A 2008 study published in Food Chemistry found that Malay apples have high antioxidants and polyphenols known to combat inflammation
--The Puerto Rico Health Sciences Journal found that Malay apple has xanthine oxidase inhibitors, which may assist in the prevention of cataract formation.
How to Open/Cut:
To remove from the tree, simply twist the fruit’s stem. Malay apples can be eaten like a pear: with skin, and as-is. Most fruits have one or two round seeds in the bottom center of the apple, but other varieties are seedless. The size of the seed varies: some seeds encompass more than half of the fruit, while others are much smaller.
To use in recipes, prepare like an apple. Simply cut the fruit into quarters, and use a paring knife to cut away the “core” and seeds from each wedge.
Malay apples do not store well in the refrigerator, as they’re susceptible to cold. Keep the fruits on the counter, where they’ll keep for three to four days.
Malay Apple Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Stew the fruits with ginger and brown sugar
--Jamaicans make juice from the fruit by blending it with water, straining, and then adding ginger and lime to taste.
--Make wine from the fruits, as is common in Puerto Rico.
--Thai locals use the sour-tasting pollen from the tree for use in curries and salads. The pollen’s gorgeous fuchsia color brightens any dish, and it makes a nice garnish if nothing else. If desired, shake the pollen from tree: if plucked, it might taste too bitter and sour.
--Dip semi-ripe slices in a tamarind sauce, or a savory soy sauce as a snack
--Make pickles using unripe Malay apples. These pickles need not be puckering and sour, either: One recipe from The-Hroost.com recommends boiling apple cider vinegar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and sugar, then pouring the concoction over sliced fruit and covering.
--Stew into chutney by soaking the fruit in vinegar overnight, and then boiling the next day. Expect the fruit to become deep purple in the process.
--Create sweet jams and preserves from ripe Malay apples. Preserves will take hours to make based on the fruit’s high water content, but can be done with ample patience, sugar, cinnamon, and even a bit of rum. Pour the end product atop ice creams, on sweet breads, pancakes, and toast.
--Chop raw pieces of the fruit for use in salads. Use any of the fruit mentioned in the flavor complements section below.
--Chop into fine pieces and add to salsa recipes. Its crisp, slightly sweet flavors counterbalance tomatoes, onions and peppers beautifully.
--Instead of regular apples, make caramel Malay apples instead: Dip the fruit in sticky caramel and roll in chopped almonds. Or, drizzle chocolate sauce over the fruit.
|Malay apple preserve from|
Pineapple, strawberry, bell peppers, kiwi, raw papaya, raw mango, banana flower, pomegranate, carambola, bilimbi, coconut, watermelon, java apple
Herbs, spices, and oil: sugar, cinnamon, rum, clove, nutmeg, ginger, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, tamarind paste, limejuice, coriander
Natives in Fiji and Hawaii used to offer the tree’s flowers to the volcano goddess, Pele.
A New Guinea folk tale describes a wild girl born from a Malay apple fruit. When she stole food from a neighboring house, she met a boy and fell in love. Malay apple trees grow by the Uripa river as a tribute to her even today.
Some farmers grow the trees to entice birds to feast on Malay apples instead of their coffee crops.
Malay jamun (Hindi)
Malaka jamrul (Bengali)
Pani jamuk (Assamese)