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Tropical Fruit Installment 16: The Saga of the Wood Apple

One of the first things I do when visiting a new country is go to the market and check out the fruit. Sri Lanka was no different and it was on the first day of our trip that I spotted a green, round fellow with an incredibly hard outer shell. Meet, wood apple, also known as elephant apple, monkey fruit or curd apple. The story of the wood apple and I is one full of hope, then despair, and then hope again, followed by a final sweet conclusion.

I decided I should just buy one right off the bat during my first day in Sri Lanka.

The one I bought was gray-ish and I asked the vendor if it was a good one. He said, “yes,” so I thought I was good to go. Later in the day we returned to our guest house and I ask the live-in maid to help me with the fruit (because I had no clue how to eat it, or which parts you could eat). All of a sudden she pulled out a machete (because who doesn’t have one in their kitchen?) and gave the hard outer shell a few good whacks. The shell cracked revealing the inside of the fruit. It was brown and then the girl started waving her hand at me and moving her head back and forth. She wasn’t smiling. All of a sudden I understood. It was not a good apple. It was, in fact, a bad apple. I thanked her and retreated sullenly. Chloe reassured me we’d find another, but, I was a bit downtrodden and wondering if this fruit that required a machete was worth it? The wood apple would haunt me for the next 8 days of our vacation.

After a curry dinner, I was in better spirits and I knew the wood apple and I were not finished. So about a week later in the city of Galle, we walked by a fruit market and I had to stop. This time I settled on a wood apple with a green outer shell. The group of young vendors assured me and reassured me that I’d made a good selection in my choice of fruit. When we returned to our hotel in Galle, the woman who ran the place took us back to the kitchen. Again a long bladed knife appeared and a few strong whacks later the fruit was open. Inside was a creamy yellow-orange center. She quickly grabbed some sugar and sprinkled it on top of the fruit. Speaking with authority, she said the fruit is quite sour and that she prefers to eat it with some sugar on top. The fruit had a custard-like consistency and while it was a bit sour, it wasn’t unpleasantly so. Both Chloe and I detected a flavor similar to apricots. All in all, I liked the fruit.

Jams and chutneys are made from wood apples and we spotted a bus with an advertisement:

So, was it worth it? Yes. But I don’t plan on swinging a machete anywhere near my hand holding a fruit anytime soon.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Chloe #

    i have such distinct memories of you taking that picture of the wood apple in kandy while we sneakily drank our beers and warily watched the monkeys…

    October 23, 2012
  2. Anna #

    I think we also have that fruit back here in Indonesia. but the color is a bit darker inside.
    It’s called Kawista (west Java) or Kinco (east java), we have to add sugar cause it’s just too sour, but I swear God, the smell is so heavenly. many syrup products based on that.

    May 29, 2013
  3. sali #

    hay, the fruit that you’ve eat isn’t wood apple. it’s called ‘Beli’ in (sinhala) Sri Lanka. the one with gray color is the Wood apple(Wood apple is called diwul in sinhala).

    December 1, 2014

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