Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ambarella / Golden Apple (Spondias dulcis)

The Ambarella also known as the Hog plum or Golden apple is one of the newer fruits on the ever expanding list of exotics quickly gaining in popularity. This highly ornamental tree is a rapid-grower reaching a height of 12-to18 m with upright growth. Deciduous in habit, its leaves turn bright yellow before falling in the cool season. The small white flowers are borne in large bunches with male, female and perfect flowers within each cluster. The long-stalked fruits dangle in bunches of a dozen or more.

While green the fruit will fall to the ground over a period of several weeks. As they mature the skin turns golden-yellow with an orange-yellow pulp surrounding a single large spiny seed. When ripe they have a pleasant pineapple-like fragrance. This pleasant tasting acidic fruit has a pineapple-mango flavour and a crunchy texture. The part nearer to the peel is quite sour getting sweeter near the seed. The ripe fruit is also much sweeter than the less mature green fruit.

How to grow
The tree thrives in humid tropical and subtropical areas growing up to 2 metres in a single growing season. It grows on all types of soil, as long as they are well drained. It has been noted that some trees can suffer from some nutritional disorders if the soil is too alkaline.

Trees are cold sensitive when small and should be protected from serious frost and strong wind. Trees do best in full sun, but will produce some fruit in light shade. As a large and vigorous tree they prefer not be planted underneath other large trees and unlike some mango varieties they are not too fussed on salt spray.

The tree is easily propagated by seeds, which germinate in about 4 weeks. Seedlings may fruit when only 4 years old.

Unripe fruits can be made into jelly, pickles or relishes, or used for flavoring sauces, soups and stews. Young ambarella leaves are appealingly acid and consumed raw in southeast Asia. In Indonesia, they are steamed and eaten as a vegetable with salted fish and rice, and also used as seasoning for various dishes. They are sometimes cooked with meat to tenderize it.

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