When I first came to this country I saw this fruit:
And I thought it was this fruit:
Ha! I was wrong. Fruit No. 2 is actually the chikoo, also known as sapodilla, also known as — bear with me while I blind you with science — Manilkara zapota. It is native to Central America but grows in great quantities in India. It looks like this inside:
and the flesh tastes like a dryish banana. To eat it, you peel off the thin brown skin and eat the brown flesh. Not bad to taste, but my mom made me eat them a lot and I still recoil from the poor chickoo for that reason. Don’t let me dissuade you from trying this excellent fruit, though; it will lower your cholesterol and blood sugar while being the cause of some yumminess. Do yourself a favor and buy some if you see them being sold anywhere, but I do have to warn you, the seeds look suspiciously like cockroaches.
OK. On we go.
The other day I saw this berry-like fruit being sold at farmer’s market:
I thought it was an unripe version of this berry. Naturally I bought it:
Ha! Wrong again. Berry No. 2 is Jamun. I know jamun well. It terrorized my tongue many a time with its tingly astringency. I never thought I would ever crave that nasty fellow, but I do now — now that I can’t have it. Jamun’s correct name is Syzigium cumini. It is native to India but has become a weed in various places such as Hawaii and Florida. Apparently it has also spread around Brazil, and Brazilian birds have developed a taste for it; I think it is because they don’t have much of a tongue to terrorize.
That leaves Fruit No. 1 and Berry No. 1. First clue — they are cousins.
Clearly Fruit No. 1 is no mystery. It is the kiwi. We usually identify it with Australia (perhaps the name has something to do with it?) but the kiwi is actually native to China. It is rather new to the wider world, having just become known around the twentieth century; since then it had a rash of branding and re-branding — a problem that only a modern fruit could have. It went from being known as yang tao, to Chinese Gooseberry, to Melonette, to Kiwi.
Kiwifruit has brown fuzzy skin and looks, yes, quite melony inside, like this:
So what the heck is Berry No. 1? Inside, it looks like this:
That’s right! Berry No. 2 is a kiwi berry. Fruit No. 1 and Berry No. 1 are close cousins. Both belong to the Actinidia genus. This is closer than belonging to the same family; in other words, the kiwi and the kiwi berry are about as closely related as the lion and the tiger to each other (both belong to the Panthera genus).
Eating the kiwi berry was a satisfyingly schizophrenic experience. Tastes just like a kiwi inside, but there is no need to peel it, the skin is edible and remains so when it ripens fully. A wash-and-wear kiwi! Excellent.
3 thoughts on “A case of two mistaken identities and some yumminess”
I grew up in Kenya and recognised the chikoo and the jamun straight away – I’ve not eaten either for a great many years but I still remember their tastes – one mellow, a little gritty but comforting in flavour, the other sharp, bursting with juice and quite astringent..thanks for the trip down memory lane! Never seen the kiwi berry but will look out for it now that I know it exists!
Wow I had no idea these had made it to Kenya. I need to visit someday and discover all the fruits available there.
Oh, you will see so many familiar ones Aneela that I am sure you will feel very much at home!! When I was growing up my grandparents lived in a huge house with their brothers and wives. The gardens were amazing – I remember chikoo, custard apples, loquats, avocados bananas, limes,mangoes, papaya, pineapples, peaches…all coming from the gardens. Didn’t know how lucky we were!!