Ambrella (aka the Malay Apple or the Golden Apple) is a tropical tree found around the equator. It is known as an edible fruit which contains a fibrous pit. Most people do not know this fruit as “ambrella”, as there are many regional names for it. In Trinidad and Tobago is is called Pomme cythere, a Juplon in Costa Rica, Jew plum in Jamaica, Jobo Indio in Venezuela, and caja-manga in Brazil.
This tree is native to Melanesia through to Polynesia. It has been introduced into tropical areas all around the world, but for some reason, it is not a popular fruit worldwide. It was introduced into Jamaica in 1782, and is cultivated in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Venezuela. Although the United States Department of Agriculture first received the Ambrella’s seeds from Liberia in 1909, it has yet to become popular in the USA.
The Ambrella tree is fast growing, and can reach up to 18 metres in its native homeland. However, it only reaches between 9 to 12 metres in other regions. It is a deciduous tree with pinnate leaes that are about 20 to 60 cm long, and produces small white flowers in its terminal panicles. Its oval fruits are about 6.25 to 9 cm long, and are produced in bunches of 12 or more. Over a period of several weeks, the fruit of this tree fall to the ground while they are still hard and green. As they ripen, they turn golden-yellow.
Ambrellas are used as a source of food, particularly in Asia. When eaten raw, the fruit’s flesh is slightly sour and crunchy. In Malaysia and Indonesia, Ambrellas are eaten with shrimp paste and in a salad called rojak. It can also be found in its juiced form, going under the name, “umbra juice” in Malaysia. In Singapore, the juice is called balonglong juice. This juice is also common in Jamaica. Other uses in this region include cooking the fruit to make it into a preserve. It has a consistency that is similar to apple butter, sauce flavouring, stews, and soups.
In West Java, the young leaves of the Ambrella tree are used for seasoning pepes. The Vietnamese do not consider the ambrellas a regular ‘table’ fruit. They only eat this fruit as a snake when it is unripe. The Vietnamese eat it as if they would eat green mangoes – they slice it and dip it into a mixture of sugar, salt, and fresh chili; or in shrimp paste.