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Gowok fruit are small round fruits that grow in clusters directly on the branches and trunk. The small, round fruits measure 2 to 3 centimeters in diameter and mature from green to red to a dark maroon and then a dark purple when ripe. Each fruit has a small permanent calyx, the remnants of its flower, at the end opposite the stem. The flesh is whitish-pink to red and juicy when fully ripe, offering a sweet and sour flavor.
Gowok fruits are available year-round with a peak season in the spring and through the summer months.
Gowok fruit, known as Kupa in Indonesia, are botanically classified as Syzygium polycephalum and are related to wax apples and cloves. The fruits are rare outside of Southeast Asia where they were especially popular at markets throughout the region in the 1980s and 1990s. Gowok fruit are often confused for another very similar looking tropical berry, lipote, which is indigenous to a small area of the Philippines. Gowok fruit have a very similar appearance and grow in the same manner but are larger and have paler flesh.
Gowok fruits are a source of carbohydrates, vitamin C, fiber, and calcium. They have small amounts of phosphorus, iron, beta-carotene, vitamin A, and B-complex vitamins. They also contain gallic acid, a powerful antioxidant, and other beneficial flavonoids. In addition to antioxidant benefits, the fruits have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antibacterial properties.
Gowok fruits are most often eaten raw as is or tossed in a combination of salt and sugar to lightly macerate. Over ripe or very ripe fruits are macerated and deseeded and used to top granola or yogurt, for jams or jellies or added to baked goods. Firmer, less ripe fruits are used to make a traditional Indonesian rujak, or rojak, a sweet and spicy fruit salad. Gowok fruit will keep for a few days at room temperature and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Throughout Indonesia, the wood of the Gowok tree is used for making furniture. The bark, leaves and fruits have been used medicinally by locals for centuries. Before May of 2018, the chemical components of Gowok bark had never been reported or published in a scholarly journal. Researchers at the Universitas Negeri Surabaya in Java, Indonesia were able to isolate two different phenolic compounds, gallic acid and a derivative of ellagic acid, both of which are beneficial antioxidants.
Gowok is native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia, namely the Indonesian islands of Java and Kalimantan (Borneo), and can be found throughout Malaysia, Singapore, and the Indonesian archipelago. The fruits were first catalogued by Dutch botanist Friedrich Anton Wilhelm Miguel during the mid-1800s. Once popular in markets throughout Indonesia and Malaysia, Gowok fruit are becoming harder to find. They can be spotted at local markets in Java, Bali and Kalimantan.