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samedi 15 octobre 2016

Kythira plum

A Polynesian fruit... so few marketed?

Picked up, ripe or green, Kythira plum or Ambarella delights the kids of Society Islands. Although this fast-growing tree, sprout up haphazard, it’s not a staple in its native range of Polynesia.

Commonly referred as vī tahiti, that applies specifically to Cythera apple, it’s distinguished by its size and its nucleus. Contrary to what one might think Ambarella or Spondias dulcis (or Spondias cytherea) doesn’t belong to the same family of plum but the family of mangoes.

A compound pennate leaf
Among the many fruits of these island tropics, Kythira plum appears rarely on Polynesian markets. However it's ensuring the full participation in the sociocultural way of life, because, ripe, it's widely shared among neighbors.

In the seaculture of the South Pacific islands, usability is a perennial value: no individualist harvest in the valleys. The gift of earthy foods is trading without expected return, just for a smile. O ye blissful people!

A native variety
Native to Tahiti (and Melanesia) with the implantation of the mā'ohi population, Kythira plum spreads in the 18th century: first to Reunion Island as évi, then into other tropics, especially the Caribbean. One of the few deciduous tree species in dry season, the tree can reach 20 meters high (66 ft) but is productive from three years.

Flowers in panicles
Together, flowering in white panicles from April to August, it loses its pinnate, composed and alternate leaves, turning from green to yellow. Fruiting from September to March, in principle, it can overlap the floral stage.

The fruits, oval, about 6 to 9 cm (2.4–3.5 in) long, are borne in bunches on a long stalk and hang as they get heavier. With a diameter of 3 to 6 cm, Kythira plum is pulpy. For ripeness, slightly acidic, its flavor becomes juicy and musky. The core is fibrous, bristling and spicy.

A fruit "for nothing"?
Tahitians say "for nothing" when the plants grow on their own. Hidden in an unsuspected garden or the lush forest edge, reproducing by spontaneous seeding, the small thousand-year-old fruit currently doesn't achieve a meteoric fame, except as medicines. French Polynesia doesn’t cultivate Ambarella.

Despite calls for tender at all latitudes, Europe in particular, into puree or juice, Kythira plum isn't even enrolled in 80% of the local fruit production. Society Islands provides most of vī tahiti harvesting, with pineapple, citrus and its watermelon. But the Dominican Republic operates internationally with its cultivars.

Fruits bunches
Yet ritually, it was part of these Pacific browsers' life for its tree trunk and its adhesive sap in the construction of outrigger canoes. As for green drupes, young leaves, astringent bark, the roots and young shoots, they still are used into the traditional medicinal compositions: as diuretic, gargle (tonsillitis) and as part of the everyday diet for vitamins and minerals they provide.

After the CEP and therefore openness to globalization, Kythira plum has almost disappeared from cheap candy, "Chinese candy", rivaled by Western chemical sweets.

...to a very haphazard ripening
However it’s still common within families: sliced with salt, finely tasty, I confirm. It's also used in making salads when it's firm and green and deliciously complements desserts. As for tender and tiny leaves of the forelock, they aromatize entries. What flavorings! In Polynesia, eat doesn't depart from olfactory charm.

"Caribbean Fever"
On the other front of the American continent, the Caribbean side, the Prin cite, in Creole, hits the headlines of industrial or domestic gourmet formulas. Kythira plum juice, granites, mosses and marmalades are a feast for the senses. Firm, crunchy, marinated in vinegar, fruit becomes a condiment like a pickle in Asia, where it can be used raw, as a vegetable.

Barely ripe, cooked with sugar, the whole fruit is preserved in its syrup. Peeled, chopped, host your friends for a jam making party. Nice ripe, dried, it's acquiring the virtues of prune. A wide variety of pastries, pies, cupcakes distributes the palatability of Kythira plum.

A bristling pit
The list would be incomplete if aren't evoked its maceration and bottling under the designation of Fruité des Îles, a mellow and dry fruit wine from Martinique. Perfume alcohols such as rum is to your discretion, of course with vanilla pods. Over here, in Polynesia, I heard about a Kythira plums cider. But ssh! That’s a closely guarded family secret. For homemade acidy waters, let four peeled plums infusing with a touch of sugar e.g., overnight.

A plum, a myth?
Mother Nature Polynesian style, being blossomed, there are still many clandestine and enigmatic fruits to scare up to the far end of the remote valleys. The return to nature, but also the ecological craze continue to drive recipes-bio from these explorations. But not only. The myth of plant fertility derives also from this climate rhythm which no season makes hibernate.

So, the term of Kythira for a plum is it confirmed? Bougainville in 1768 baptized Tahiti with the name of New Cythera in his Voyage autour du Monde (Travel around the World). Referring to Cythera, voluptuous paradise of ancient Greece, which would have sheltered the birth of Aphrodite, goddess of love...

Young shoots that put the bouquet
But that's another story... of forbidden fruit. And I wouldn't do me "shake my plum-tree," even for a manzana de oro, a golden apple... another name for Kythira plum, in other times and places.


An article of Monak


Copyright Monak. Ask for the author’s agreement before any reproduction of the text or the images on Internet or traditional press.

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