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About Ambarella


(Spondias cytherea, S.dulcis)  Other names for this fruit and close relatives are Otaheite apple, Tahitian quince, Jamaica plum, golden apple and wi. The general consensus is that it is indigenous to Polynesia, but it grows in Asia's tropical zones too. Foreigners living where this fruit grows refer to it by its local name, whatever that happens to be.

The tree grows tall, reaching almost 20 m (60 ft). The fruit, which is popular in Asia, is plum shaped, sweet-sour and eaten at all stages of ripeness. Its distinguishing feature is a spiny seed. The spines toughen as the fruit matures, so that when eating conserve made from the almost-ripe fruit the sweet flesh should be carefully sucked from the seed to avoid an unsolicited lip-piercing or a tough fiber stuck between the teeth.

In the unripe stages the green skin is peeled with a knife and slices of the firm, pale flesh dipped in chili powder and salt before being relished by street-side snackers or school children. Unripe fruit is also cooked in chutneys. As the fruit ripens it becomes yellow to range in color and more fragrant and sweet, though still with a good percentage of acidity. It has been described as having a flavor like pineapple. Ambarellas are sometimes simmered in curries, but are more commonly cooked with sugar and a stick of cinnamon and are popular with home cooks for jams, jellies and cordials. Being high in pectin, it is sometimes added to other low-pectin fruit to obtain a good set when making jams and jellies.

A member of the same botanical family, S mombin, is referred to as hog plum or hog apple, but there are differences. Another member of the Spondias clan is S.pinnata which is grown in Thailand for its leaves (served raw with nam prik), its fruit (added to green papaya salad) and its bark.

When purchasing, buy hard, greenish fruit if you wish to make chutneys or eat them as a sour snack. Look for yellowing skin for half-ripe fruit and a deep-yellow skin if you want them ripe. Being a hard fruit, they keep well. Besides, it also has medicinal uses. The bark of the tree can be used to cure diarrhea.

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