Jungle Jewels: The Heavenly Fruits of Borneo

“When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.”
Vietnamese proverb

The other week, I had the chance to visit several cities in the western part of Borneo, the third largest island in the world. A friend said to me, “Lucky you. Kalimantan is a very big garden of Eden.” She, being a biologist, was referring it being the home of the lush thick jungle, one of the lungs of the earth.

I can’t agree more with her. I love the green view and the fact that the largely flat land is surprisingly very fertile. And this time, I had the chance to do wet market hopping and taste some exotic crops of the jungle:

1. Mentawa (mentawak, bintawakArtocarpus anisophyllus)

Thought I had known every Artocarpus until Ibu took me to the market and bought this mentawa. It looks like a terap only with bright orange sticky arils which are of mild aroma. At home, upon knowing it is already ripe, Ibu gave it to me and said, “It is best eaten when raw.” Nevertheless, I love it.

2. Terap (Artocarpus odoratissimus

A cousin of cempedak, nangka (jackfruit) and sukun (breadfruit), terap is small and roundish with white fleshy arils. It tastes delicious and sweet. Fragrant too. Pi gathered the seeds and roasted them. Taste good too!

 

3. Rambutan

Good Lord, this lychee’s cousin tastes so good. The crunchy slightly fragrant aril easily detaches from the seed and is less sweet. My ideal rambutan.

 


And as I was sucking the fleshy and luscious arils of terap, I felt so blessed for having the opportunity to taste those fruits. And then I recalled the conversation I had with the sellers. I said, “Why do not you cultivate the trees? That’d be a lot easier in the long run than combing the entire thick jungle to harvest them.” They only smiled.

I only hope this is a sustainable practice, that they do not harvest all but leave them to be eaten by animals. Monkeys, bats, bears and birds are the true gardeners of the jungle. And the Kalimantan jungle is indeed an Eden, albeit vast thick and balmy.

Here we are at the end of the story. Thank you for reading this. I purposely omit some details to encourage interactivity. Feedback, dear readers. So if you have anything to say, please take some time to write in Comments. 

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