A package arrived from Bangalore this morning, sent by my lovely mother-in-law, who knows that a secret chamber of each of our hearts is reserved for the inimitably delicate little rose apple.
We had discovered these fruits last year at about this time, most peculiarly named “paneer pandu” (paneer or fresh cheese fruit, in Telugu). We decided that must be a misnomer. But the name was nonetheless a clue: there is no way to describe this fruit except by analogy. Paneer just wasn’t the right one.
If there ever was a fruit whose fragrance intoxicated even more than its taste, or that made me wish that the internet could convey smells as well as it conveys words and sounds–it would be the rose apple. There is really nothing else quite like it: apple in its crunch, delicate rose in its scent.
A little rattle-like hollow shell holding felt-wrapped brown seeds with bits of bright green pushing out through its warm coat.
The boys found versions of our Syzygium jambos on the Prambanan temple grounds in Yogyakarta (Central Java)–far less enthralled by the architectural and artistic feat that was set out before them than by the successes of their accidental foragings.
There were baskets more at the traditional market in central Ubud. But in Indonesia, these fruits are jambu bol “ball guavas”–a completely different shape, form, color, and analogy (guava, not apple).
All attar and Arabian nights in its evocations, its rarity and easy perishability (the fruits barely last a few days in the refrigerator) made us dream rose apple dreams. When our little stash of rose apples was gone, we sat up and realized our loss. An act of desperation more than deliberation, we stuck a few salvaged seeds in a pot. And hoped.
And found one day four little rose apple babies reaching to answer our rose apple dreams.
But babies are too easily born, and not so easily nourished in salty climes that are either too windy or too hot or too salty. So we continue to water and hope and dream rose apple dreams, satisfying ourselves with the once-a-year deliveries from Bangalore, and being just happy that such rare delights exist in this world.