From the book
Fruits of Warm Climates
by Julia F. Morton
Spondias cytherea Sonn.
Pests and Diseases
An under-appreciated member of the Anacardiaceae, but deserving of
improvement, is the ambarella, Spondias dulcis Forst. (syn. S. cytherea
Sonn.). Among various colloquial names are Otaheite apple, Tahitian
quince, Polynesian plum, Jew plum and golden apple. In Malaya it is
called great hog plum or kedondong; in Indonesia, kedongdong; in
Thailand, ma-kok-farang; in Cambodia, mokak; in Vietnam, coc, pomme
cythere or Pommier de cythere. In Costa Rica, it is known as
juplón; in Colombia, hobo de racimos; in Venezuela, jobo de
India, jobo de Indio, or mango jobo; in Ecuador, manzana de oro; in
Plate XXXI: AMBARELLA, Spondias dulcis
tree is rapid-growing, attaining a height of 60 ft (18 m) in its
homeland; generally not more than 30 or 40 ft (9-12 m) in other areas.
Upright and rather rigid and symmetrical, it is a stately ornamental
with deciduous, handsome, pinnate leaves, 8 to 24 in (20-60 cm) in
length, composed of 9 to 25 glossy, elliptic or obovate-oblong leaflets
2 1/2 to 4 in (6.25-10 cm) long, finely toothed toward the apex. At the
beginning of the dry, cool season, the leaves turn bright-yellow and
fall, but the tree with its nearly smooth, light gray-brown bark and
graceful, rounded branches is not unattractive during the few weeks
that it remains bare. Small, inconspicuous, whitish flowers are borne
in large terminal panicles. They are assorted, male, female and perfect
in each cluster. Long-stalked fruits dangle in bunches of a dozen or
more; oval or somewhat irregular or knobby, and 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 in
(6.25-9 cm) long, with thin but tough skin, often russetted. While
still green and hard, the fruits fall to the ground, a few at a time,
over a period of several weeks. As they ripen, the skin and flesh turn
golden-yellow. While the fruit is still firm, the flesh is crisp, juicy
and subacid, and has a somewhat pineapple-like fragrance and flavor. If
allowed to soften, the aroma and flavor become musky and the flesh
difficult to slice because of conspicuous and tough fibers extending
from the rough ridges of the 5-celled, woody core containing 1 to 5
flat seeds. Some fruits in the South Sea Islands weigh over 1 lb (0.45
Origin and Distribution
ambarella is native from Melanesia through Polynesia and has been
introduced into tropical areas of both the Old and New World. It is
common in Malayan gardens and fairly frequent in India and Ceylon. The
fruits are sold in markets in Vietnam and elsewhere in former
Indochina. It first fruited in the Philippines in 1915. It is
cultivated in Queensland, Australia, and grown on a small scale in
Gabon and Zanzibar.
It was introduced into Jamaica in 1782 and
again 10 years later by Captain Bligh, probably from Hawaii where it
has been grown for many years. It is cultivated in Cuba, Haiti, the
Dominican Republic, and from Puerto Rico to Trinidad; also in Central
America, Venezuela, and Surinam; is rare in Brazil and other parts of
tropical America. Popenoe said there were only a few trees in the
Province of Guayas, Ecuador, in 1924.
The United States
Department of Agriculture received seeds from Liberia in 1909, though
Wester reported at that time that the tree had already been fruiting
for 4 years in Miami, Florida. In 1911, additional seeds reached
Washington from Queensland, Australia. A number of specimens are
scattered around the tip of Florida, from Palm Beach southward, but the
tree has never become common here. Some that were planted in the past
tree flourishes in humid tropical and subtropical areas, being only a
trifle tenderer than its close relative, the mango. It succeeds up to
an altitude of 2,300 ft (700 m). In Israel, the tree does not thrive,
remaining small and bearing only a few, inferior fruits.
The ambarella grows on all types of soil, including oolitic limestone
in Florida, as long as they are well-drained.
tree is easily propagated by seeds, which germinate in about 4 weeks,
or by large hardwood cuttings, or air-layers. It can be grafted on its
own rootstock, but Firminger says that in India it is usually grafted
on the native S. pinnata Kurz (see below). Wester advised: "Use
non-petioled, slender, mature, but green and smooth budwood; cut large
buds with ample wood-shield, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 in (4-4.5 cm) long; insert
the buds in the stock at a point of approximately the same age and
appearance as the scion."
may fruit when only 4 years old. Ochse recommends that the young trees
be given light shade. Mature trees are somewhat brittle and apt to be
damaged by strong winds; therefore, sheltered locations are preferred.
Hawaii, the fruit ripens from November to April; in Tahiti, from May to
July. In Florida, a single tree provides a steady supply for a family
from fall to midwinter, at a time when mangos and many other popular
fruits are out of season.
Pests and Diseases
Ochse says that in Indonesia the leaves are severely attacked by the
larvae of the kedongdong spring-beetle, Podontia affinis.
In Costa Rica, the bark is eaten by a wasp ("Congo"), causing necrosis
which leads to death. No particular insects or diseases have been
reported in Florida. In Jamaica, the tree is subject to gummosis and is
ambarella has suffered by comparison with the mango and by repetition
in literature of its inferior quality. However, taken at the proper
stage, while still firm, it is relished by many out-of-hand, and it
yields a delicious juice for cold beverages.
If the crisp sliced
flesh is stewed with a little water and sugar and then strained through
a wire sieve, it makes a most acceptable product, much like traditional
applesauce but with a richer flavor. With the addition of cinnamon or
any other spices desired, this sauce can be slowly cooked down to a
thick consistency to make a preserve very similar to apple butter.
Unripe fruits can be made into jelly, pickles or relishes, or used for
flavoring sauces, soups and stews.
Young ambarella leaves are
appealingly acid and consumed raw in southeast Asia. In Indonesia, they
are steamed and eaten as a vegetable with salted fish and rice, and
also used as seasoning for various dishes. They are sometimes cooked
with meat to tenderize it.
*According to analyses made in the Philippines and Hawaii.
|Food Value Per
100 g of Edible Portion*
Louis and Yanazawa in Hawaii reported an ascorbic acid content of 42 mg
per 100 g of raw pulp. It is a good source of iron. Unripe fruits
contain 9.76% of pectin.
The wood is light-brown and buoyant and in the Society Islands has been
used for canoes.
In Cambodia, the astringent bark is used with various species of
Terminalia as a remedy for diarrhea.
The amra, S. pinnata
Kurz (syns. Mangifera
pinnata L. f.; Pourpartia
pinnata Blanco), which some botanists consider merely a
wild form of S. dulcis,
is wild and cultivated from the Himalayas of northern India to the
Andaman Islands and is commonly cultivated throughout southeast Asia
and Malaysia. The twigs are smooth and the leaves are not toothed; the
fruit is smaller than the ambarella and inferior in quality but has the
same uses. The aromatic, acidulous leaves and flowers are employed as
flavoring and consumed raw or cooked, especially in curries. The wood
is used for making boats, floats, matches, etc. There are several
medicinal applications of the bark, root, and the gum that exudes from
Last updated: 4/23/115 by ch