One of my childhood memories was of savoring the milky, custardy sweetness of star apples. We used to live where there was a pair of extremely prolific star apple trees standing nearby. Unfortunately however (or maybe fortunately), the trees were located just beside a public toilet where people who played bowling in a nearby bowling alley (which my mom rented and managed) were wont to relieve themselves.
The whole neighborhood took part in the daily harvest of the luscious fruits, their source of fertilizer notwithstanding, lol. You see, to this day, those star apples that were nourished so well were simply the sweetest and juiciest I could find. I kid you not when I tell you that I have yet to find star apples that would equal their lusciousness.
That pair of star apple trees were slightly bent over by the weight of their fruits and by the weight of their many harvesters — nimble little boys who showed off their climbing prowess as they drop down star apples to the many catchers below. I was one of those who wait on the climbers to do their daily picking and with me were an assortment of the whole neighborhood — fathers and mothers with kids in tow.
The trees did not follow seasons but instead bore fruits all year round. Always, there would be jocular references to the trees’ source of nourishment. Yet always, those jests never kept us from feasting on the trees’ bounty. Lesson: Plant your star apple trees beside your toilet. 🙂
Star apples go by the local name of caimito here and come in two varieties — lime green and purple. The leaves are used by mom to treat diarrhea. She would boil together the young leaves of ABC’s — avocado, bayabas (guava) and caimito — and use the dark bitter syrup to stop diarrhea. She would mask the bitter taste by mixing in Coke so the little ones (me included) could be fooled into taking it.
As for the fallen trunk of a star apple, mothers use it as points of attachment for epiphytes and orchids. I’m not sure why, but they always say there’s something about the trunk of a star apple tree which suits orchids.
The simplest way to eat star apples is to just forcibly break the round fruit open and bite on the flesh, spitting out the seeds. That is also the surest way to get star apple mustache. Every kid in our block sported that gummy mustache which turns gray as the day wore on. That’s how we ate star apples back then.
At home however, we were taught to have finer manners and to slice the fruit in half and spoon out the sweet, milky flesh. Nowadays we’re going even finer and fancier — scooping out the flesh into a bowl and mixing in condensed milk and ice cubes for a refreshingly cool dessert.
Oh, star apples, how you play a part in my happy childhood!
Here are other drool-worthy tropical fruits — atis or sugar apple, guyabano or graviola, mangosteen.