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Rose apples are small fruits, averaging 2 to 5 centimeters in diameter, and have a round to oval shape, slightly tapering to a point on the non-stem end and capped with a green calyx. The skin is smooth, waxy, thin, and taut, ripening from green to bright yellow with maturity. Underneath the surface, the flesh is white to pale yellow and has a crisp, spongy, and semi-dry consistency with a subtle, floral scent. The flesh also encases a hollow cavity filled with 1 to 4 rough, brown seeds that detach from the cavity when ripe, creating a rattling sound when the fruit is shaken. Rose apples are light and crunchy with an initially sweet, fruity flavor followed by floral notes of rose.
Rose apples are available in the summer through early fall.
Rose apples, botanically classified as Syzygium jambos, are small, tropical fruits belonging to the Myrtaceae or myrtle family. There are many different varieties of Rose apples that have naturalized throughout tropical and subtropical regions around the world, appearing in hues of yellow, green, and red, and the small fruits are also known as Malabar plums and Plum roses. Despite the fruit’s name, Rose apples are not related to roses or apples and earned their title from their faint rose-like taste and crisp, apple-like consistency. Rose apples grow on large, wide-spreading trees that are primarily considered ornamental, utilized for its shade and its thick-natured growth as property barriers. The fruits are not commercially cultivated due to their delicate, easily bruised skin and short storage life and are typically foraged from wild trees for use as flavoring in desserts, salads, and beverages.
Rose apples are a good source of vitamins A and C, which are antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation in the body and strengthen the immune system. The fruits also contain fiber, potassium, and iron and provide smaller amounts of calcium, iron, and magnesium. In traditional medicines throughout Asia, Rose apples are used as a digestive aid to cleanse the bowels and liver, which in turn leads to a cleansing of the body and mind.
Rose apples are best suited for both raw and cooked applications, such as simmering. When fresh, the fruits can be consumed straight, out-of-hand as a snack to showcase to delicate and sweet, rose-like flavor. The fruits can also be displayed on fruit platters, sliced and tossed into salads, or mixed with soy sauce, sugar, and chile peppers as a fresh side dish. In Southeast Asia, Rose apples are often sprinkled with spiced sugar to enhance the fruit’s natural flavor. In addition to fresh applications, Rose apples can also be simmered into jellies and jams, candied as a sweet, floral dessert, or used to flavor custards and puddings. The fruits impart a subtle rosewater-like taste and are sometimes used to flavor cocktails, lemonade, and water. Beyond sweet applications, Rose apples can be lightly stir-fried into rice-based dishes or stuffed with meat and baked in sauces for added flavor. Rose apples pair well with cinnamon, palm sugar, fruits such as mango, papaya, guava, and melon, tomatoes, tamarind, shrimp paste, garlic, chile peppers, and meats such as fish and poultry. Whole Rose apples should be used immediately for the best quality and flavor. The fruits bruise easily and will only keep for 2 to 4 days when stored in the refrigerator.
Rose apple trees were a prominent plant featured in the story of Siddhartha Gautama, the well-known spiritual teacher who founded Buddhism. In the story, the young prince was sitting under the shade of the Rose apple tree while his father was attending a nearby plowing festival. Despite the noises of the celebration, Siddhartha went into a tranquil, meditative state, which was the first documented meditation and was the first time others had witnessed Siddhartha in this state, which foreshadows his future as a spiritual leader and Buddha. The story also accounts that Siddhartha remained shaded by the Rose apple tree for hours, and the shade did not naturally move with the sun. Legend has it that the tree was embodied by a goddess who was protecting Siddhartha, and the act of shading him was meant to symbolize the feminine, nurturing elements of nature, a theme that is seen throughout the story of Buddhism.
Rose apples are native to the island regions of Southeast Asia, specifically the East Indies and Malaysia, and have been growing wild since ancient times. The large fruit trees were spread throughout Asia into India, and in 1762, they were introduced into Jamaica, where they later became naturalized throughout the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Mexico. Rose apples also spread through migrating peoples into Central and South America and were brought from Brazil to Hawaii in 1825 aboard a United States warship. The fruit trees were then planted in Florida and California sometime before 1877. Today Rose apples can be widely found in tropical to sub-tropical regions on almost every continent, including Asia, Australia, Africa, and North, South, and Central America. The fruits are not commercially cultivated, primarily seen as an ornamental element, but in some regions, they are gathered and sold through fresh local markets. In the United States, the fruits are cultivated by select specialty growers and sold at farmer’s markets. The Rose apples featured in the photograph above were grown at Murray Family Farms near Bakersfield, California.
Recipes that include Rose Apples. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Beyond Sweet and Savory||Hidden Rose Apple Tart|