Apples growing on trees is a foreign concept to me. Logically, I know they grow on trees (!!!), but I had never imagined what its tree looks like nor how they grow on it (individually? In bunches? In stalks?). Until I lived and worked on the farm in northern China. The same with common fruits like oranges, watermelons. I didn’t know watermelons grow on the ground, but it makes absolute sense since they are so heavy. That’s the lovely part about farming work, we see what we eat. Sometimes we even feel them.
My family usually has the common ones stocked in the fridge: apples, oranges, watermelons, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, papaya, banana, dragonfruits, so our fridge is like our “tree” in a sad sad way. It is unimaginable that we do grow some fruits up on the 18th floor of the concrete jungle. Lucky babyboo still has his fun of picking fresh fruits for our meals. The lime tree has run out of steam, so I have no lime tree to take pic of for now, but here’s our chili plant! We usually cut the chili padi into small pieces, squeeze the lime on them, and it makes a great dip for steamed fish.
The other edible one is chiku. When I was little, it was a big deal whenever my mom bought chiku for us from the market. There would be a whole lot of fuss and excitement about it, and I probably only had it less than five times in my life. Now that we grow it ourselves, the only big fuss is when the hummingbird gets it before my mom does. So we are in a race with the hummingbirds, yet requiring the sharp eyes (or smell) to know when the clock starts ticking.
We also have a very fertile pomegranate plant that flowers and fruits one after another. It is intriguing to watch. This mini plant is not exactly meant for eating. Hmm. Or at least I have yet to physically taste it. It functions more as a therapeutic tool – I observe its growth like it’s my mirror – when I am doing well, they grow really well. When I am doing not so well, they rest as well. Interesting, right? Superstition is how much power we give to objects / nature. 😉 For this plant, I don’t mind giving it energy and power.
Alright, here are some other exotic fruits that you may or may not have seen / heard / tried, but I’ll share them since they are so foreign to me.
Durian is the stinky thorny fruit that I steered clear of for much of my life, until when I had epoisses (stinky cheese) in France. I told myself, if I can like this foreign cheese after overcoming its smell, I am sure I can do durian. So I came back to Singapore and joined my friends for durian one evening. Oh gosh, seriously, after crossing the psychological threshold of that which smell like gas, this thing is a delight to eat – sweet and creamy, with some undertones of bitterness to balance the sweetness. I also learnt that if we wash our hands with the water that has run through its husk, it rids our hands of that pungent smell that usually lingers.
Coconut is common. So many people drink coconut water these days. But we get to enjoy this in its natural packaging! The pulp is yummy, when it is a young coconut. I eat it like a snack when it is an older coconut. The really old ones are what are grind to make coconut flakes and squeeze to make coconut milk. We used to have our own coconut trees when we lived in the kampung (village in Singapore), and even had monkeys to help us pluck them.
Custard apple in its foreign language is called leng khim. My dad actually squealed when he saw it in Melbourne as we don’t see much of this in Singapore. This one on my lap is freshly plucked from the tree during one of my site visits to a potential farm in southern China. The other fruits native to Teochew (my mom’s dialect, where her family line came from) are lychees, longans, and yangmei. Yangmei is bayberries, and available in the market only once a year, and for a very short period. It is difficult to export them because they are so tender and so perishable.
After working on farms, my SOP now is to eat local fruits from local markets as much as possible, whichever country I go to. The taste, the experience, the value, or even the availability, is incomparable to what we get in Singapore (limited variety and taste!). Same concept applies to vegetables and meats too, but with fruits, one can really taste the difference. More importantly, I love fruits.