When will our giant mountain apple tree fruit?
We have a beautiful tree that we’ve watched grow from 3 feet to over 12 in the last few years. A few flowers, but never any fruit. It’s said it can grow up to 60 feet tall with trunk circumference of 15 feet. ARGH!
The Mountain Apple, known as ‘Ōhia ‘Ai in Polynesian, is scientifically named Syzygium malaccense (L.) Merr. & Perry and belongs to the Myrtaceae or Myrtle family. It was introduced to to Hawaii as a canoe crop by early Polynesians.
About ‘Ōhia ‘Ai
‘Ōhi’a ‘ai is a fast growing tree found in shady valleys. Its glossy leaves makes this tree very attractive. The flowers are most impressive with their blazing pink blossoms, appearing as tufts that fan out like “pom-poms” in spring and summer. The fruit is about as large as a medium-sized tomato and bell-shaped with very thin, deep crimson skin. The inside of the ‘ōhi’a’ai fruit is white, sweet, and refreshingly crisp.
With the wood of the mountain apple, the Hawaiians build beams for their hale (houses). From the bark they make medicines. The ‘ōhi’a ‘ai bark and leaves are pounded and used for curing throat and lung complaints. A red dye can be extracted from the bark to decorate kapa (bark cloth).
Of scientific interest, the Hawaiian taxonomy for the ‘ōhi’a ‘ai and other ‘ōhi’a trees (‘ōhi’a lehua, ‘ōhi’a ‘ahihi, ‘ōhi’a hā) parallels that of modern scientific taxonomy. All four of these ‘ōhi’a trees belong to two closely related genera (Syzygium and Metrosideros).
How to Use Mountain Apples
Mountain apples, with their sweet and floral taste and pear-like essence, are traditionally consumed in various ways. They can be eaten fresh, just like any other apple, with their thin, edible skin and crisp flesh. They lack a core, having only a seed or two in the center, which makes them easier to consume entirely.
In terms of culinary uses, sliced mountain apples can be added to granola or yogurt bowls, salads, or enjoyed with peanut butter. They can also be diced into chunks for breakfast dishes like yogurt or oatmeal or thinly sliced for drinks and sandwiches. Mountain apples are also delightful in cooked dishes; they can be sautéed and added to pork dishes, used as toppings for biscuits or pancakes, baked into cakes, pies, and tarts, and made into jellies or candy apples. Moreover, the fruit’s juice adds a pear-flavored twist to beverages and is a great addition to cocktails like sangria and appletinis.