February 11 - An alien fruit

On our first day here, driving with Trevor, we passed a stand on the side of the road selling fruits. One of the fruits looked like a bright red pear. Trevor told us that they were otaheite apples, but I didn't catch the name and Wayne thought he had said "Ethiopie" apples (hence our earlier incorrect references to them as Ethiopian apples.) Trevor said they weren't much like the apples we knew. They had a milder flavor and were softer. He went on to describe how when he came to Kingston with his mother as a boy he would plead and plead for her to buy an apple and finally she would buy one and cut it up into slices, giving one to each child.

I was disappointed not to find otaheite apples at the supermarket, but we soon learned that some fruits (usually the local fruits that are considered in some strange sense to be low-class or something) just aren't carried there. But when we went to Papine to the market this weekend, we got our chance to taste them. From Trevor's description of them as mild and soft and my own idea that an apple should be tart and crisp, I was not expecting much from them. My best description of my surprise at biting into it is that it is an entirely alien fruit, not very comparable to anything else I've had, but also entirely delicious. The outsides are bright red and sort of like a mix between the skin of a plum and a nectarine and an apple. The insides are snow white and very juicy, but with an unusual airy quality. The taste is something like a plum and something like a pear, with a definite flavor and sweetness. They are a watery, pure tasting fruit. In the center they have an ugly brown pit that is entirely separated from the beautiful white fruit and is very easily removed. I don't know what to compare it to, as it most resembles something like an avocado pit (but less smooth) but is separated (by air) from the fruit itself.

Yesterday a young lawyer named Wayne was driving us home from our meeting at Cable & Wireless when we bought a bag of them for JA$100 ($US2) when we were stopped at a stop light. Wayne explained to us that they are called otaheite apples (pronounced "OH-TAH-EE-TEE"--I got the spelling from my little cookbook). The name, he said, comes from "O' Tahiti" (of Tahiti) because that is where they supposedly originated. How romantic.

I continue to wonder at the many varieties of absolutely delicious Jamaican produce that I have never seen before. I wonder whether the attempts to introduce otaheite apples to the international market has failed. If so, it is cannot be because the fruit has no appeal. It is both beautiful and delicious. Considering its exclusion from the supermarket, it seems almost possible that there is just a failure of imagination: how could such a lowly fruit make it on the international market?