The fruit I know as sawo, which is the Indonesian name for it, other people will probably recognize as the sapodilla, chicle, zapotillo or even some other name.

Having lived in the tropics for nearly half my life, I find the fruit that are available on mainland Europe rather dull and regular. I'm spoiled in that way, I know, but there's nothing like a batch of rambutan, salak or mangistan1 or a plate of durian or manga1 to finish off a good meal. Not that I don't like oranges, pears, cherries, strawberries or other fruit readily available in the local supermarkets, but there's just nothing that comes close to some tropical fruit.

One of my favorites is the sawo fruit. It looks somewhat like the kiwi fruit - nearly the same size and shape and just a tad darker. I have seen it described as "tasting like cinnamon flavored brown sugar". If ripe enough the fruit is very sweet and quite juicy. Definitely one to try if you ever get the chance.

The three seedlings I have growing in my room at the moment are courtesy of the bats living in the vicinity of the Julia Beach Inn in Kuta, Bali. While whiling away the last week of our summer vacation in 2000, we were staying at the Julia Beach Inn, our regular stay when we went on holidays during the years we lived in Indonesia, years ago.

Shadowing the parking lot was the same sawo tree I had sometimes climbed in when I was still a kid. The season for sawo fruit had not yet begun, so it wasn't possible to buy them in the supermarkets or the pasar yet, while salak, kleng-keng and durian and a couple of others were readily available. I had planned to bring home as many different seeds as I could, so I could try and enlarge my collection of tropical plants at home (then consisting only of a single manga tree-let and a couple of banana plants). So I collected the seeds of the fruit we bought and ate, but every time I walked under the sawo tree on my way to the beach or one of the numerous stalls, I wished I could bring some seeds from that tree home.

One evening we returned from having dinner at one of the local restaurants and I was waiting beneath the tree when I noticed something dropping a few meters away from me. I walked over and picked up a half eaten, not yet fully ripe, sawo fruit. I took it with me and added the seeds to my growing collection. The next morning I went through the collecting bin the gardener used to dispose of the vegetational debris and sure enough I found more half-eaten sawo fruit. Which I of course then put to better use than feeding the flames.

I'm pretty sure it was a bat or bats that dropped the fruit, even though I didn't see them that night. Bats are pretty common in Indonesia (and in most parts of the world), and Bali is no different. Besides, it was the perfect time for bats to be feeding and the marks on the fruit looked like they were made by the claws and mouth of a bat, instead of by the claws and beak of a bird.

1 The English seem to prefer "mangosteen" and "mango"

July 24, 2001

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