The Water Apple (Syzigium samarangense) was introduced to the American Tropics from Southeast Asia years ago. Since then, it has thrived in this climate, and the trees are popular for their extremely rapid growth, bright pink flowers, and edible fruit.
The fruit itself has the consistency of a rather soft apple or pear with a single small pit. It’s kind of bland–somewhat disappointingly so considering how brilliant they are when ripe. The taste itself is floral, rosy, and has a nice tartness. However, the fruit also has an astringent property–eating one makes your mouth feel dry, sort of like an unripe banana or persimmon.
I know this well because I eat about six every day. I have to. I make myself do it as a civic duty. Because, you see, we are in peak water apple season, and we cannot eat the damn things fast enough.
Almost every cultivated crop has a specific fruiting season. In the tropics, though, it’s even more pronounced. A single species can all simultaneously fruit within a single week, drawing in seed dispersers by the droves and carpeting the ground below with dropped fruit. The phenomenon is called “masting,” and it’s a strategy plants adopt to get an edge on their diverse competition.
Think of it as the sensory overload, billboard-type of advertising within the plant kingdom. With so many fruits available, how to make sure your seeds are gathered and moved? By specializing temporally–picking a narrow range of time and pouring everything into it, focusing all your energy into inundating the field and flooding the market with your product.
What does this mean for us? Plenty of birds, for starters. Happy, wellfed birds, and possibly some iguanas, kinkajous, and opossums as well. Monkeys too, of course. Why not? Plenty of food to go around. And we might as well get in on the action too. After all, chalky or no, water apples aren’t bad.
But I’m just so tired of eating them. Isn’t there at least something to do with them besides chowing down raw? Water apple pie? Water apple cobbler? Water applesauce? I tried cooking them and they just dissolved into mush. Water apple smoothies? Help me out!
And the cleanup. The hours and hours of cleanup. Not even the animals can keep up with a mast crop. Not even guavas up in the highlands were this bad. I’m told it should end soon though, around late May, just in time for mango season.