Velvet Apple

Diospyros discolor or Diospyros blancoi

Herbs gallery - Velvet Apple

Common names

  • Mabola Tree
  • Velvet Apple
  • Velvet Persimmon

The velvet apple (scientific name Diospyros discolor or Diospyros blancoi) is a tree part of the Diospyros family, which also includes persimmons and ebony trees. It has an edible fruit, which is quite particular. The fruits have a very nasty smell, resembling rotten cheese or cat dung, which gave them the name "Caca de Chat" in the French island of Reunion. However, the taste of the fruit is pleasant, similar to fruit cream cheese. The fruits are covered in a velvet fur that explains their name, with a red or brown color. The flesh is pink, with a creamy texture. The tree is native to the Philippines. Natives use the names mabolo or tálang for the fruit and kamagong for the actual plant. It is rarely found in Sri Lanka as well.

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The plant is also known as the mabola tree but not in the native Philippines, where the name kamagong is used. Fresh leaves are light green and covered with hair, while the mature ones become dark green. Fruits are usually found in clusters of three. Their skin is brown or maroon and their surface is covered with hair of a golden or brown color.

The extremely unpleasant rotten cheese smell of the fruit is actually caused by its skin. Discarding the skin removes it completely, since the pulp actually has a nice flavour. There are two types of fruits, with seeds or without them, the ones lacking seeds being flatter.

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The tree can grow to a large size, reaching 50 or even 100 feet. The flowers are white and consist of four petals, covered with a waxy layer. They are small even after they open, with a maximum diameter of about 1 cm. For pollination and reproduction, both male and female flowers are needed, which are located on different trees. During the summer, the flowers transform into fruits, which mature two to four months after the bloom. Propagation is commonly done by seeds. The fruit is comparable to a normal apple in size and has a beautiful red or velvet aspect. Their moderately sweet flesh is delicious and the fruits can be consumed raw or included in dessert dishes or salads. The fruit is popular in its native range but largely unknown in most of the world.

Parts used

Bark, leaves, fruits.

Uses

The plant's leaves and bark can be prepared as a decoction in order to treat skin diseases. The liquid can be added in the bath water or drank as such. It is also a traditional cure for cough.

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The fruit is known for the unusually high content of iron. This essential mineral is vital in the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen to every cell, tissue and muscle of the body. It also increases the rate of healing of cells, boosts the speed of hair growth, makes circulation more effective and optimizes metabolism.

Like many fruits, velvet apples are a great source of dietary fibers. These are great for digestion because they increase the speed of the intestinal transit, avoiding constipation and other blockages. In the Philippines, the fruits were used in traditional medicine as a treatment for diarrhea or dysentery. Even today, this is the how the fruit is normally employed.

However, traditional medicine has identified several other uses of the fruit. It is known as a treatment for chest congestion, and asthma, as well as a cure for cough and a booster of the immune system. These benefits are probably due to the powerful mix of vitamins and minerals in the velvet apple.

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The fruits are a major source of potassium. This mineral is extremely important for heart health, since it relaxes and dilates blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure and prevents damage to the system. Since consuming the fruits also lowers cholesterol due to the fiber content, velvet apples are a great diet choice for vascular health. They can greatly decrease the risk of stroke, heart attack, atherosclerosis or blood clots.

Modern alternative medicine greatly prizes the pulp of the fruit as a treatment for burns and skin diseases. Its effects are strong when eaten or applied externally on the affected areas. It can quickly reduce inflammation and relive irritation at skin level. Both the pulp and the juice are also considered to be an antidote for snake poison and toxins in general. If applied on the wound, they are thought to neutralize the effect of these toxins.

Velvet apples are very rich in the powerful antioxidant vitamins A and C. These can counter the destructive effects of free radicals, which can damage tissues and mutate cells. The action of the two vitamins boosts the body's immune response. They can also cure chronic diseases, improve the health of the skin, boost cellular development and growth, while reducing the effects of aging.

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Velvet apple juice is used all across Southeast Asia as a treatment for diabetes, cough, diarrhea, dysentery, insect bites and stomach problems. In Bangladesh, locals apply the bark and the leaves on snake bites and also as an eye cleaner. In Guyana, the fruit is employed against spider bites, diabetes, eczema, stomach pain, colds, diarrhea, heart diseases and high blood pressure.

Decoctions prepared from velvet apple bark are useful as a relief of gastric pain. A decoction from velvet apple leaves can cure various skin problems, as well as reduce high fever. Since the plant is effective against dysentery, diabetes and diarrhea, it is included as an ingredient in formulas that treat these diseases.

Unripe fruit juice is applied externally on wounds in some countries of Southeast Asia. Aphthous stomatitis can be treated by gargling a velvet apple fruit infusion. Both the bark and the crushed leaves are a snake poison antidote in Bangladesh, where they are applied directly on the bite. Usage as eyewash has been reported as well.

Culinary uses

The fruit can be consumed fresh, in its raw form, or prepared as a drink or dessert. Usually, the pulp is cut and assorted with lemon juice or lime and presented as a dessert. It can also be combined with other fruits in salads and other dishes. In order to completely remove the unpleasant smell, keep the fruit in the fridge for a few hours before consuming it.

Habitat and cultivation

The velvet apple is a dioecious tree that can be found in tropical areas. It tolerates a wide range of soil types and can grow from sea shores to a maximum altitude of around 2400 feet. In cultivation, seed trees are normally spaced 25 to 30 feet from one another. The tree requires constant moisture, evenly distributed during the year. Velvet apple produces a lot of fruits and needs 6 or 7 years if propagated by seeds, or a shorter period of 3 to 4 years when planted using cuttings.

The plant exhibits a considerable genetic variety, judging by the significant differences between fruits, which have various sizes, shapes, color or even tastes. Varieties without seeds are the most popular in cultivation, since their fruits will have a lot more pulp.

Constituents

Chemical analysis of the velvet apple leaves has identified a number of bioactive compounds such as fatty esters of α- and β-amyrin and cylindrin (or the isoarborinol methyl ether). All of them have been found to have a strong actions against the bacteria Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Candida albicans. The amyrin mixture found in the leaves is also an effective analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent.

The fruits are packed with nutrients, minerals, vitamins and other useful organic compounds. These include vitamin A, vitamin C, the B-family vitamins complex, potassium, iron, calcium, dietary fiber and protein.

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