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Cermai fruits are small in size, averaging 1-3 centimeters in diameter, and are oblate in shape with a ribbed appearance, growing in dense bunches. The smooth skin is firm, waxy, and bears 6-8 ribs, ranging in color from light green to pale yellow when young and transforming to white when mature. Underneath the skin, the pale, translucent flesh is juicy and crisp with a central stone containing 4-6 seeds. Cermai fruits are compact and aqueous with a very sour, astringent, and tart flavor.
Cermai fruits are available year-round in tropical and subtropical climates.
Cermai, botanically classified as Phyllanthus acidus, are small fruits that grow on shrubs or trees that can reach up to nine meters in height and belong to the Phyllanthaceae family. Also known as the Malay gooseberry, Star gooseberry, West Indian gooseberry, Otaheite gooseberry, and Tahitian gooseberry, Cermai grows in tropical forests across the world and are easily harvested as they drop from tree branches when mature. Cermai trees are favored for their highly ornamental nature, especially in Southeast Asia, and the fruits are commonly preserved and cooked into sauces, syrups, and pastes for flavoring.
Cermai contains vitamin C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and fiber.
Cermai is best suited for cooked applications as their very sour flavor is often considered unpalatable. Some cultures do choose to consume the fruit raw, but sugar and honey are added to help counteract the tart flavor. Cermai is also commonly made into preserves, jams, chutney, syrup, or sauces and is served in curries, stews, rice dishes, with cooked meats, or noodle dishes. One notable paste that Cermai is sometimes mixed into is known as sambal, which is a popular flavoring that can be spread over cooked fish, rice, and vegetable dishes for added spice. The fruit can also be pickled, candied for a sweet treat, used to flavor vinegar, blended with sweeteners such as sugar to create sweet-tart drinks similar to lemonade, or dried and stored in a dark, airtight container for extended use. Cermai pairs well with spices such as cardamom, ginger, turmeric, cumin, saffron, and chile oil, fruits such as kiwis, pomelos, oranges, grapes, avocadoes, coconuts, kumquats, lemons, and limes, and meats such as fish, poultry, beef, and pork. The fruits will keep up to one week when stored at room temperature and up to one month when stored in the refrigerator. Cermai will also keep up to one year when stored in the freezer.
Cermai is not commercially cultivated as it is relatively unknown outside of tropical communities and the trees are slow-growing, taking over five years to bear fruit. Once established, the trees produce an abundant harvest, and in Southeast Asia, the fruits are used in Malay and Iban communities in sambal belacan, which is a paste of fermented shrimp and salt that is commonly mixed in with rice. In the Philippines, the fruits are soaked in a solution of vinegar and salt and are sold at local markets, or they are candied in syrup for a sweet-tart flavor. The fruits are also chopped and blended into rojak paste, which is a spicy sauce made out of soy sauce, shrimp, and chile and tossed into fruit salads. In addition to Southeast Asia, Cermai fruits are utilized medicinally in India as a tonic to help purify the body and reduce symptoms of coughs and headaches. The trees are also planted as ornamental backyard plants for shade, the leaves and fruits are used in cooking, while the bark is sometimes used as a tanning agent.
Cermai is believed to be native to Madagascar and was introduced to other tropical regions in Southeast Asia via immigrants and migrating peoples during ancient times. The fruit was then thought to have arrived in Jamaica in 1793 and spread throughout tropical forests in select regions in the New World. Today Cermai is found growing in the wild, planted in backyard gardens, and is harvested and sold at local markets in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Mauritius, Vietnam, Thailand, India, the Caribbean, in Hawaii, Texas, and Florida of the United States, and in regions throughout Central and South America.
Recipes that include Cermai Fruit. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Mummy I Can Cook||Baked Herring wit Gooseberries, Chili and Star Anise|