Malay Apple

Syzygium malaccense

Herbs gallery - Malay Apple

Common names

  • French Cashew
  • Jambu Bar
  • Jambu Bol
  • Jambu Melaka
  • Malay Apple
  • Malay Rose-Apple
  • Otaheite Apple
  • Otaheite Cashew

The Malay apple (botanical name Syzygium malaccense) is a tropical tree native to Asia. As the name suggests, it is native to Malaysia as well as Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. The fruits are oblong-shaped and dark red but sometimes they can also be pink or white. The flesh is also white, with a sizeable seed inside. They require a lot of water and for best results the annual amount of rain should be over 152 cm. The tree doesn't tolerate frost at all.

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The Malay apple tree has a very fast rate of growth and reaches a maximum height of 12 to 18 m. It has a cylindrical or pyramidal-shaped crown, while the trunk radius is around 4.5 m. Malay apple tree is an evergreen species with opposite leaves that have a length of 15 to 45 cm and a width between 9 and 20 cm. The leaves are dark green in color, with a glossy top and a pale underside, they have a leathery texture and are opposite, elliptic-lanceolate or oblanceolate, with short petioles. The veins are very visible on the underside. Young shoots are vivid red initially, becoming pink later.

The Malay apple tree produces a large number of flowers on the upper part of the trunk and on the areas of branches that lack leaves. The flowers are not very fragrant and have a diameter of 5 to 7.5 cm. They are found in clusters and consist of a small base similar to a funnel, 5 green sepals, 4 petals that vary in color from white, yellow, orange or pink to dark red, as well as many 4 cm long stamens with yellow anthers on top. The flowers are hard to see in the thick leaves but eventually fall to the ground and cover it with a carpet of petals. The Malay apple fruit is about 5 to 10 cm long and 2.5 to 7.5 cm wide, with an oblong or bell-like shape. Their skin is covered with wax and can be white, rose or red, sometimes a mix of these colors. The flesh is crisp and moderately sweet. Inside the flesh there is either a large seed or two hemispherical ones, with a maximum diameter of about 2 cm. Their shell is brown but they are green inside. There are also trees that produce only fruits without any seeds.

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Parts used

Fruits, bark, seeds, roots.

Uses

The fruits are known to have many health benefits. Among others, they can restore skin health, increase blood circulation, prevent diabetes or stop its further development, improve vision health, strengthen and improve the quality of hair, increase the strength of bones, stop eye cataracts and even prevent a number of types of cancer.

The book Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value translated by Akana attests that the Malay apple tree bark was widely used in the traditional medicine of the islands. The bark was crushed after mixing with salt, using coconut fiber to filter the juice. The liquid was mainly used to treat deep wounds.

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In the Spice Islands of Indonesia, also known as the Moluccas, thrush is cured with a decoction prepared from the bark of Malay apple. In Malaysia, dried leaves are made into a powder used in the treatment of dry tongues. Itching can be relieved with a product made from the roots, which are also known to be diuretic and effective against edema. Other known effects of the bark root are as an emmenagogue and abortifacient, as well as a cure for dysentery. Fever is treated in Cambodia with a decoction made from the leaves, seeds or fruit, while crushing the leaves allows the extraction of a juice that can be applied on the skin as a cosmetic product. The plant is also employed in Brazil, against various diseases such as coughs, pulmonary catarrh, headache, constipation or diabetes. According to other accounts, several parts of the plant including the bark, leaves, fruits and seeds can regulate blood pressure or respiration and have an antibiotic effect.

The most potent part of the Malay apple seems to be the roots. They have been used for a long time to start menstruation and to relieve itching and cure dysentery. They are also known to be diuretic, carminative, antiseptic and capable to reduce inflammation and high blood pressure. The herb also has strong antihyperglycaemic properties, while also being useful in the treatment of diabetes. It also reduces inflammation, due to the rich amount of polyphenols and antioxidants.

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Culinary uses

The Malay apple fruit can be eaten raw as soon as it becomes ripe but it's not very sweet and some people consider it tasteless. The usual way to consume Malay apple is by flavouring with cloves or other aromas, then stewing it and adding cream for a tasty dessert. In the Guyana cuisine, the skin is prepared separately into a syrup that is added later in order to boost the taste of the cooked fruit. Malayans might add hibiscus for a more vivid color. Because of their rather insipid taste, the Malay apples can be cooked with acid fruits in order to balance them. Unripe fruits can be prepared as jellies and pickles, while the ripe ones are tuned into preserve or sauce. The flesh can be prepared as a jam, combined with raw sugar and ginger.

It is also possible to make either red or white wine from the fruits, both types being very popular in Puerto Rico. The Malay apples must be harvested as soon as they ripe, before falling from the tree, and submerged in hot water in order to kill all of the fungi and bacteria on their skin. After removing the seeds, the fruits go through a meat grinder and the resulting pulp and juice is used to make red wine. Double the amount of water is added, as well as 680 g of white sugar in every gallon of liquid. The mixture is stored in barrels, with the mouth closed with some cloth, adding yeast for fermentation and a coil to keep water moving inside. After storage in a cold place for 6 to 12 months, the wine can be filtered and consumed. It is not actually red but faintly rose, the usual practice is to make it red by adding artificial colors. White wine is made from the peeled fruits, discarding the pulp and using only the juice. It requires a lower amount of sugar, 565 g per gallon. Since the fermentation period is only 3 to 6 months, the wine will have a lower alcohol content than the red one.

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Flowers are also edible and can be stored in syrup, while Indonesians add them to salads. Immature shoots and leaves can also be consumed as vegetables, either cooked or as a raw ingredient in rice dishes.

Constituents

The Malay apple fruit is very rich in vitamins, minerals and bioactive organic compounds, with both the edible skin and pulp providing important health benefits. Chemical analysis of Malay apples has identified a significant number of antioxidants, including some carotenoids, sequiterpenes, flavonols and phenolic compounds. In addition, they are rich in dietary fibers like all fruits and also provide some vegetal proteins.

Since the fruits are a major source of iron, phosphorous and calcium, they are especially useful for people who want to restore their mineral levels or suffer from a deficiency. The Malay apple is also very rich in vitamins and provides niacin, vitamin C and vitamin A.

Collection and harvesting

The skin of the fruit is sensitive and can be bruised with ease, so picking it by hand is advised. They are sometimes wrapped in plastic film as a protection against birds and insects. If the crop is thinned and the trees are given plenty of water, it is possible to produce fruits that are larger than normal.

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