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Gandaria fruits are small in size, averaging 2-5 centimeters in diameter, and are round, oval, to egg-shaped. When young, the smooth, thin, and edible skin is light green and may have some dark brown spots, deepening to an orange-yellow, apricot hue when mature. Underneath the surface, the flesh is a vivid lime green when unripe, transforming to deep orange when ripe, and has a soft, jelly-like, and slightly fibrous texture. There is also an oblong, fibrous seed in the center of the flesh that ranges in color from bright pink to purple and is edible but has an extremely bitter flavor. When sliced open, Gandaria fruits release a fruity, lightly pine scented aroma that many liken to the smell of turpentine. The fruit has a crisp, juicy, and tender bite and depending on the variety, the flesh can be sour, sweet, or a mixture of sweet-tart flavors.
Gandaria has varying availability in select regions of Southeast Asia with a peak season in the late spring through summer.
Gandaria fruits, botanically classified as Bouea macrophylla, grow on dense-foliage trees that can reach over twenty-five meters in height and belong to the Anacardiaceae family along with cashews and mangoes. Also known as Maprang, Marian plums, and Plum mangoes, there are multiple varieties of Gandaria fruits in Southeast Asia that vary in levels of sweetness, sourness, and acidity. The Gandaria tree is also a popular home garden plant as its dense foliage provides ample amounts of shade and its vigorous fruit production allows for versatility in the kitchen to make sambals and rujak.
Gandaria is an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, and beta-carotene. The fruit also contains some calcium, iron, and phosphorous.
When young and unripe, Gandaria fruits can be consumed raw and are coated with salt, sugar, pepper, or lime juice to help balance out the fruit’s sour flavor. Gandaria can also be used in spicy fruit salads known as rujak, chopped and mixed into chutneys, sliced for pickled dishes such as asinan, mixed into sambal sauces, or used as a souring agent in cooked dishes like curries, where they are seen as a substitute for tamarind and sour lime. When ripe, Gandaria fruits are consumed fresh, out-of-hand, sliced and served with sticky rice, or are juiced. They can also be cooked with sugar into a preserve and served over desserts and ice cream. Gandaria fruits pair well with cashews, peanuts, macadamia nuts, raisins, coconut, berries, apples, melons, lime juice, chiles, and meats such as fish, poultry, and pork. The fruits will keep up to two weeks when stored loosely in a bag in the refrigerator.
In Indonesia, a seven-month ceremony known as tingkepan, tebus weteng, or mintoni is held to celebrate a pregnant woman’s passage to childbirth. This celebration has many different customs depending on the region and local cultural practices, but some of the ceremonies include a flower bathing ritual, prayer by elders for a safe birthing process, and the consumption of traditional foods. In West Java, rujak kanistren is a salad made up of seven different kinds of peeled fruit including Gandaria and is finely chopped with coconut and spices. Legend has it, that if the woman tastes sweetness when she eats the salad, the baby will be a girl, and if she tastes spiciness, the baby will be a boy.
Gandaria fruits are native to Southeast Asia, and while their exact origins are unknown, the trees have been growing wild in lowland, tropical regions since ancient times. The fruits are also being cultivated on a small scale in Thailand, Sumatra, Borneo, and West Java, and are found at local markets in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Borneo, Java, Sumatra, and Mauritius.