5 Feb 2015

The Malay Apple


Author: Jorge Ventocilla

The Malay apple tree blooms around this time of the year in Panama, where it is known as marañón curazao. Its scientific name is Syzygium malaccense and it is part of the Myrtaceae family; you could say it is related to the Plum rose or Pomarrosa (Syzygium jambos), which is a tree with a small fragrant fruit that smells and tastes like rose petals not so commonly found in Panama City. Actually, I know for a fact that Pomarrosa can be bought at the market in David, Chiriquí. 


Marañón curazao has a different name depending on the region; it is known as manzana de agua (Costa Rica), marañón japonés (El Salvador), pomarrosa malaya (Puerto Rico), pomarrosa de Malaca (Colombia), and pomagás (Venezuela). In English, it is known as Malay rose apple or Mountain apple; jambosier rouge or pomme de Tahiti, in French. 


It is native to the Malay Archipelago, where it is known as jambu merah or jambu bol.  “Curazao” may have been added to the name as a reference to its journey through the Antilles on its way to our country. On the other hand, the “marañón”, also known as cashew (how toasted do you like your peduncles?), is native to America. It, however, is not related in any way to the botanic family of the marañón curazao; it belongs to the Anacardiaceae family and its scientific name is Anacardium occidentale (cousins, then, with the jobo and the espavé).


The marañón curazao is a fast-growing tree that can reach a height of 15 meters or more. It only grows in tropical regions and thrives even in poor soil. Its seeds germinate easily, and it is one of those trees that can be easily grown at home, whether we have a large backyard or not.


It is grown in several tropical regions of the American continent, both for its fruit and ornamental value. There is written record to prove that some seedlings were taken from the old Canal Zone (perhaps from the Summit Botanical Garden), to Jardines Experimentales de Lancetilla, in Tela, Honduras, circa 1929.


Its pale purple flowers are clustered and grow directly from the trunk and branches, blooming mostly in November and December.  At the end of each year, you would be able to see how the floor around this tree is covered with colorful and beautiful pale blue stamens just for a few days. 


The fruit is ready to be picked two months after blooming.  It is red on the outside and white on the inside; sweet and juicy, but rather bland. I think marañón curazao has been sold in Panama City just for some years now; at least that is what I have noticed; it was not that common to find it here before.


Regarding its medicinal effects, it is mentioned that the roots are an effective cure for dysentery, and that they also have diuretic effects. In Brazil, it is used as a remedy for diabetes and constipation. Dr. Bach, on his writings about floral essences, states that marañón curazaohelps understanding tenderness”. Some of you may want to take note of this property attributed to this Full Moon’s main character.