If you take a trip through the supermarket’s produce isle, you might be forgiven for thinking that you have an impressive variety of fruit at your fingertips. In reality, however, this is only a small offering of the wide variety of delicious and exotic fruit that Mother Nature has in store. You may be surprised to learn about all the different weird and exotic fruits from Borneo that can open up an entirely new world to you.
Durian, rambutan, langsat and purple mangosteen may be among the few that are widely known from Borneo, but there are more! Here are 10 weird and exotic fruits from Borneo you’ve probably never heard of.
1. Snake Fruits
Snake fruit grow in clusters at the base of the very short-stemmed palm tree. It got its name from its scaly skin.
There are two types of snake fruits, which are totally opposite in taste, although they look similar, with one having a sweet and tangy taste like pineapple (locally known as Salak – scientifically named as Salacca zalacca), while the other one having a very sour taste (locally known as Asam Paya – scientifically named as Zalacca conferta). Asam Paya looks more like a ruby red snake fruits while Salak is brownish-red in colour.
Interesting health benefits of salak are as eye medication (due to high content of beta-carotene), diarrhea medication, helpful diet program, good for our brain (as it is extremely rich in potassium and also pectin), for our stomach and skin.
Starfruit, also known as Carambola, is the fruit of Averrhoa carambola, a species of tree native to big part of not only Borneo, but also Asia. It is also cultivated in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Southern United States.
Starfruit is a star shaped tropical fruit with sweet and sour flavor. It is a small, bushy evergreen tree that grows very well under hot, humid, tropical conditions. It features light-green to yellow with attractive smooth waxy surface and weighs about 70-130 g.
Starfruit is packed full of antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C, bringing us more health benefits.
3. Cat's Eye Fruits
According to International Society for Horticultural Science, the Cat’s Eye Fruit or locally known mata kucing is actually a close relative of the longan (hence the similar smell and taste). There are 3 varieties of mata kuching fruit which have “warty” skins and a 4th variety which is smooth and most closely resembles the longan.
The fruit is called Cat’s Eyes because when you peel off the skin and expose the dark seed under the flesh, it looks like a cat’s eye.
Interestingly, one of the explanations for how the city of Kuching got its name is that the city started along the banks of the river where many of these mata kuching trees were growing.
Closely linked and sometimes mistaken for the rambutan, pulasan is part of the Sapindaceae family. It is a white fruit is extremely sweet with a big woody seed in the middle. The edible sarcotesta is thinner and less sweet than the rambutan, and it often adheres tightly to the seed kernel.
It reduces the body fat, so it is good for people who are obese and for those people who are trying to lose weight and maintain a healthy body. The vitamin C content gives a great boost to the immune system. It is needed for healing wounds, and for repairing and maintaining bones and teeth. Traditionally, the leaves and roots of the Pulasan tree are employed in poultices.
5. Crystal fruit
Crystal fruit, or locally named as matoa by the Indonesians, meaning ‘crystal’. A member of the sapindaceae family, the crystal fruit also known as the crystal longan or crystal lychee or dragon eyes to the locals. Its flavor is hard to define, with mix taste between lychee and rambutan fruits.
It is about the size of quail eggs with a length of 1.5 to 5 cm. It has smooth skin blackish brown colour when it ripe. The crystal fruit tree can grow to great heights (10-20 meters) with its fruits perched high atop the tree.
In Papua New Guinea, the fruit is known as Matoa Taun. Scientifically, the fruit is called Pometia Pinnata. Interestingly, hair shampoo can be made from its bark.
Botanically it is known as Artocarpus Odoratissimus and belongs to the Moraceae plant family like its related cousins the Jack fruit or Nangka, Chempedak and Breadfruit. Tarap is widely cultivated in Borneo and many “improved” varieties are known. Although it is also grown in the Philippines where it is called Marang, experts believe that Tarap is native to.
It is locally named Timadang by the Kadazan/Dusun tribe of Sabah. The fruit itself is soft and creamy. It tastes like the sweetest custard apple or sour-sop, but it is smooth, not grainy. And just a bare hint of tartness. The flesh is easily separated from the small seed with your teeth.
Rambai fruit somewhat resembling langsat, but belonging to a different family, Euphorbiaceae, is the rambai, Baccaurea motleyana. Rambai fruit hangs in long stalks from the branches in bunches, and are small and round with acid to sweet flesh.
Most of the time, the fruit is eaten fresh out of hand. However, some people would process the fruit into fruit jams, vinegar, beverages and wine.
Interestingly, the fruit tree is also valued for its shade.
Kapul, as the Kalimatan locals called it, looks like a mangosteen. its skin looks like a tree bark. There are two different flesh color for Kapul, which are yellowish and white. The locals in Sarawak named those two differently. The white flesh fruit is locally named entongon or bitongon while the yellowish flesh one is locally named Tampoi.
Its tree is dioecious (having either only male or only female flowers), and the female trees bear fruit directly on the trunk and large branches.
9. Wild Starfruits
The Wild Starfruit is scientifically called Baccaurea Angulata or Belimbing Merah. This red angular fruit growing wild in the jungles of Sarawak, is now grown in farms to meet the market demand for indigenous fruits.
Belimbing Merah derived its name from the color and shape of the fruit. In translation, it is called the red star fruit. It is also called the red raspberry. The whitish content of the fruit is the same color and taste as the rambai fruit.
A member of the Euphorbiaceaen family of which the rambai and tampoi fruits are members, the belimbing tree can tower up to 8 to 10 m. A young fruit is grape in color. When the fruit is ripe, it changes color to bright red. During the fruiting season, the fruit tree is decked and decorated with an abundant array of bright red fruits.
10. Wild Jungle Mango
The wild jungle mango fruit has the size of a coconut or a canon ball. The Ibans of Sarawak named the fruit mawang while the Bidayuhs called the fruit assem bawang. It is also known as the embawang fruit in Sabah while the local Malays, it is known as asam embang or bambangan.
A member of the anacardeaceae family, the wild jungle mango fruit or its botanical name, Mangifera Pajang Kostermans, is the biggest fruit in the genus mangifera. Interesetingly, the fruit juice contains high amount of nutraceuticals and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.