I will therefore introduce here some tropical fruits which are not usually offered in supermarkets either because they are not commercially grown or because of handling and transporting difficulties they may involve. As I live on this remote tropical island of Reunion, I will emphasize on fruits which are to be found here and there in old gardens and orchards, a vanishing part of our heritage.
All right now, let us put a good straw-hat on and move on to the garden ; on the right we have this handsome shrub with lustrous dark leaves, bearing small black shiny fruits looking like cherries. Indeed, this is the ‘Brasilian cherry' or ‘grumichama', which berries have a juicy red or orange flesh, with a very delicate taste. Eugenia brasiliensis belongs to the large Myrtaceae family, just like this other plant on its right, Eugenia uniflora or ‘Surinam cherry'. Its fruits have a rather different look, ripening orange or red, with eight characteristic ribs, hence the French name of ‘cerise à côtes' (ribbed cherry). Note that both species can be easily grown from seed and make nice house plants, having a reasonable size for indoor use.
You will have to lift somewhat your head to appreciate next species as this one is a tree up to fifteen meters (forty-five feet) high, Syzygium jambos, from Indo-Malaysia, produces the ‘rose apple' which does taste like rose, a delicate fruit though a terrible invader which overtakes whole gullies in wet parts of the island. The rose apple is another member of the Myrtaceae.
Let us now switch to a different family, the Annonaceae, all of which are native to tropical America so that you may have enjoyed the fruit in Chichicastenango or in Cozumel...This strange looking one bristly with soft spines grows directly on the trunk or on main branches, a feature known as cauliflory, typical of tropical plants. Once open it will reveal a white juicy flesh with a sharp taste, often turned into drinks, this is the sour-sop or prickly custard apple, Annona muricata. The sugar apple stands right after the clump of Heliconias, on your left. Its fruits indeed are sweet and have to be eaten really ripe, once they start opening. The Annona squamosa is more adapted to dry areas than A. muricata and can also be grown as house plant.
Your nose has probably already warned you that over ripe fruits of Artocarpus heterophylus are scattered on the floor...The jackfruit has certainly a smell of its own, reminding of French cheese for the well travelled of you. It is the biggest fruit of all, it can be over two feet long and weight some forty pounds, don't set your hammock there for a nap ! Much grown and enjoyed in tropical countries it can either be used unripe, cooked with smoked meat or eaten raw and is highly nutritious.
No sir, this is not chocolate tree, those pods which do look somewhat like cocoa pods are in fact the fruits of Bombacopsis glabra (formerly Pachira aquatica) a member of the Bombacaeae, the baobab family. Those pods are full of red-brownish nuts which will be eaten raw or grilled, the American chestnut or pachira nut tastes like a mix of chestnut and hazelnut.
Aha ! Here is a rarity, much sough after amongst collectors. This small bush is the Synsepalum dulce, from the Sapotaceae family (a cousin of the chicle tree). It produces small red acidulous fruits which are not that good, so what is the point ? The trick is that it will saturate some taste receptors of your mouth making you taste sweet what is actually acid. So you can chew on a green lime and feel like it is cotton candy, a funny experience but your stomach might no appreciate too much...It is called ‘the miracle fruit'.
Well, we are reaching the end of this part of the garden, let us admire this very beautiful tree, Chrysophyllum caïnito, the star apple. It is prized for its ornamental value ; the leaves are glossy green on top and golden brown on the underside, hence its botanical name (Chryso is greek for gold and phyllum stands for leaves). Growing up to 15m (45 feet) this other member of the Sapotaceae also produces delicious fruits with a soft, sticky and sweet white flesh absolutely unique.
Seeing that today's visitors are real amateurs we will make a short detour to enjoy the famous king of the fruits and fruit of the kings, Garcinia mangostana, the mangosteen. A very slow grower native to Malaysia, this member of the Clusiaceae would justify a trip to Malaysia or Indonesia just to enjoy it (july-august is harvest period). The outside looks like a small cannonball, round and strong, a deep violet colour. Once you open the hard skin it will reveal a pure white flesh with the most delicious taste (sorry, it is absolutely impossible to describe, you have to taste it yourself).This is it for today, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you have enjoyed the tour and appreciated the fruits. Of course there is much more in other parts of the garden, other tours are scheduled, you are very welcome !