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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Forgotten fruits of my childhood days

Forgotten fruits of my childhood days

By C S Wan

“ What are these?”

I paused to look in the direction of the voice.

A small group of excited customers was crowded round a box, staring and examining its content. Curious, I craned my neck to look at the cause of the excitement.

Fruits at a Supermarket

“Ah, just some pulasan,” I sighed, noticing the fruits that had aroused so much interest and curiosity.

Later, as I sat at a table in the food court of the supermarket, I thought about the morning’s incident and it dawned on me that even though I grew up in a kampung, I had not seen a pulasan tree since leaving the kampung .  The pulasan and  many other local fruits which were so common in my childhood days have become a rarity. 

My mind drifted back to my childhood days in Batu Berendam, Melaka,  when I used to follow my cousin, Eng Kim, to the nearby cemetery in Jelutong where sentol trees grew in abundance.  The trees grew to a height of about 100 feet, but somehow Eng Kim was able to bring down the fruits with just a short stick. The silence  of the morning would often be broken by the whistling of a stick slashing through the air followed by  loud thuds,  as the fruits hit the hard cement floor of the tombstone.
We would sit on the floor and let our strong, sharp teeth sink into the hard rind of the sentol.

Ripe sentol fruits

I also remember, just across a pond in front of our kimpoh’s house stood a stately binjai tree.  We, kids, were warned by the adults to stay away from  the tree as the binjai tree was reputed to be a favourite haunt of the pontianak ( female vampire ).  However, as we, kids gazed longingly at the luscious, irresistible  fruits all the warnings were soon forgotten.   Some kids would sneak home with their bodies covered with rashes.

“ Celaka betul budak-budak ini. Berapa kali gua dah  kata jangan pegi sana. Ni dah kena sembur bota!” 

The 'endearing admonishment' of an irate nyonya wafted from a neighbouring house.

The binjai  is a kind of mango with a distinctive heady fragrance. According to my sis there are two varieties: one is sourish sweet and usually eaten fresh, while the sour variety is often eaten with sambal belacan or made into jeruk binjai. (preserved binjai). 

A binjai 

There is also the buah lanjut which resembles a binjai , but with a darker brown skin . Whenever the binjai and buah lanjut were in season, the air would not only be filled with their strong fragrance, but also with the sound of laughter and shouts of

“Buah binjay, buah lanjut. Cabut misay, kelueh jangut”

As darkness crept across the village, flying foxes filled the darkening sky and we knew the fruit season had arrived.

Flying foxes filled the darkening sky

 For my cousins, siblings and I it was a welcome sight for it was a harbinger of a much-awaited trip _   a trip to grandpa’s  orchard in Machap. Grandpa’s  orchard was whimsically planted with a wide variety of local fruits. The more common fruits such as rambutans, durians, cempedak, jackfruits, and langsat grew side by side with the lesser known fruits such as pulasan and namnam.

The pulasan resembles the rambutan, but whereas the rambutan has leathery rind which is covered with soft, pliable spines the rind of the pulasan is covered with thick, straight, fleshy spines.  The rind of a ripe pulasan is dark red and the flesh is usually sweeter with a slight aroma.

A pulasan tree


One of my favourite fruits at the orchard was the namnam. The kidney –shaped fruits grow in cluster at the trunk and although the fruits with their uneven skins may not look appealing, their sweet-sourish, succulent pulp make up for their appearance. 

A namnam tree

As we trod through the dense undergrowth, we stopped to pick the langsat  that hung in strands from the branches of trees with dark green leaves.

A langsat tree

There were also rambai trees with fruits that resemble the langsat. Although the pulp of the rambai can be sweet, they tend to stick to the seeds and to enjoy the fruits one must be prepared to swallow the pulp together with the seeds.

A rambai tree

I remember the adults would tell us kids,

"Telan biji rambay . Kelueh pokok kat pusat baru tau!"

( Swallow the seeds. A tree will sprout from your navel, then you'll know!")

We knew they were empty threats, as we did not see any kid with tree sprouting from his navel and we did not suffer from constipation.

Today, years on, the sentol trees at the Jelutong cemetery are all dead and buried, the fruit trees in the kampung have been bulldozed to make way for a housing estate and our grandpa's orchard at Machap has been completely submerged beneath the water of a reservoir. 

"What are these?"

The next time I hear that question at a fruit stall , I shall pause and take a look. Perhaps, someone is fascinated by a fruit and maybe it is one of the forgotten fruits of my childhood days.

Notes: Photos of the pulasan and langsat were taken during a trip 
            to my sis place at Simpang Empat, Alor Gajah.   
             Photos of other fruits courtesy of Google bloggers.

Related article:
Click below link

Lost Orchard


1 comment:

  1. Great article on a juicy subject...our locality is truly blessed with an abundance of native fruit that has nourished the locals for centuries. A case could also be made for the diversity of fruit at the local supermarket in this era of globalisation, though.