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Morton, J. 1987. Water Apple. p. 382–383. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.


Water Apple

Syzygium aqueum Alst.

Eugenia aquea Burm. f.




The water apple is the least of the small group of somewhat similar fruits of the genus Syzygium (family Myrtaceae). This species, S. aqueum Alst. (syn. Eugenia aquea Burm. f.), also known as watery rose apple, is distinguished in Malaya as jambu chili, jambu ayer, jambu ayer mawar, or jambu penawar; in Indonesia as djamboo aer, djamboo wer, or djamboo wir. In the Philippines, it is called tambis; in Thailand, it is chom-phu-pa.

Description

The tree may reach 10 or even 32 ft (3-10 m); has a short, crooked trunk branching close to the ground, and a nonsymmetrical, open crown. The opposite leaves, on very short, thick petioles, are obovate- or elliptic-oblong, cordate at the base and clasping the twig; blunt and notched or short-pointed at the apex; 2 to 10 in (5-25 cm) long, 1 to 6 3/8 in (2.5-16 cm) wide; dull, light-green above, yellowish-green beneath; leathery; not aromatic or only slightly so when crushed. Flowers, faintly fragrant, are home in loose terminal or axillary clusters of 3 to 7, mostly hidden by the foliage. The 4-parted calyx and 4 petals are pale-yellow, yellowish-white or pinkish and there are numerous concolorous stamens to 3/4 in (2 cm) long. Thin-skinned and shining, the fruit varies from white, to light-red or red, is pear-shaped with a narrow neck and broad apex; 5/8 to 3/4 in (1.6-2 cm) long, 1 to 1 1/3 in (2.5-3.4 cm) wide. The apex is concave; bears the thick calyx segments and the protruding, slender, bristle-like style. The flesh is white or pink, mildly fragrant, dry or juicy, crisp or spongy, and usually of sweetish but faint flavor. There may be 3 to 6 small seeds, frequently only 1 or 2, but generally the fruits are seedless.

Origin and Distribution

The water apple occurs naturally from southern India to eastern Malaysia. It is commonly cultivated in India, southeastern Asia, and Indonesia. In the Philippines, it grows as though wild in the Provinces of Mindanao, Basilan, Dinagat and Samar. It has never been widely distributed but is occasionally grown in Trinidad and Hawaii. It was introduced into Puerto Rico in 1927 but survived only a few years.

Varieties

In Indonesia, two forms are recognized–one white-fruited and the other red, the color of the latter developing from the base upward. Much variation is seen in the fruits from different trees in Malaya and the flavor of some types is quite acid.

Climate

The water apple is suited only to low altitudes in the tropics and areas where there is rainfall fairly well spaced throughout the year.

Propagation

The tree may be air-layered or budded onto rootstocks of Eugenia javanica Lam. or E. densiflora A. DC. Experiments in Hawaii proved that cuttings can be successfully rooted.

Culture

Little cultural attention has been given the water apple. In Indonesia, when it is set out in orchards, it is spaced at a 20 to 26 ft (6-8 m) distance from tree-to-tree.

Season

In Malaya there are two crops a year, one in the spring and a second in the fall. In Indonesia, the tree frequently blooms in July and again in September, the fruits ripening in August and November.

Food Uses

The water apple is mainly consumed by children, the appeal being largely its thirst-relieving character. In Indonesia, the fruits are sold in markets in piles or skewered on slender bamboo sticks. Superior types are sometimes served sliced in salads. According to early writings, a water apple salad is a ceremonial dish for new mothers.

Other Uses

Wood: The wood is hard and is fashioned into small pieces of handicraft.

Medicinal Uses: A decoction of the astringent bark is a local application on thrush.