© Denzil Green
Rose Apples are not apples; they are another fruit altogether that grow in the tropics.
The description of the fruit varies by variety or cultivar.
How much flavour the fruit has can depend on how much that particular cultivar was cultivated for taste.
Sometimes the fruit is egg-shaped, about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) wide and 1 ½ inches (4 cm) long, with smooth, thin, waxy, pale yellow skin with some pink flushes. There will be 1 or 2 seeds, occasionally up to 4.
Other times the fruit will be more pear or bell-shaped, or a pink or reddish skin, particularly Malaysian varieties.
The white flesh inside is crisp, faintly sweet and fragrant. Depending on the cultivar, it can be dry and woody in texture, with not much to recommend it. Other times, it can be more juicy and have a faint rosewater taste to it.
The tree is a tropical evergreen that grows up to 3 metres (10 feet) tall. It will survive temperatures down to 25 F (-4 C.)
It will grow true to seed, but the quality of fruit from trees grown from seed is unreliable as they can produce very dry, tasteless fruits.
The Rose Apple tree has glossy leaves, which are pink at first, turn pale green and then turn to dark green on top and lighter underneath. The leaves will be 4 to 9 inches (10 to 23 cm) long and 2 inches (5 cm) wide, and are very decorative.
The tree blooms with white or greenish-white flowers 2 to 4 inches wide (5 to 10 cm), and grow in clusters of 5. Bees love the flowers.
A tree requires four years of growth to start producing fruit, and then will produce only about 5 pounds (2 kg) of fruit a year.
The Rose Apple fruit is ready to pick 3 months after blossoming, when it starts to get hollow inside so that the seeds rattle around inside.
The fruit bruises easily and doesn’t store well as it goes soft quickly in storage.
Rose Apples are not grown commercially because of the low yield, bruising, and bad storage,
They are often grown in home gardens as an ornamental, and children are often allowed to pick the fruit if they wish. In Guatemala, it has been used as a hedgerow around coffee plantations, being pruned into shape.
Rose Apples can be cooked with other fruits that add some flavour, candied, or made into preserves.
The seeds are toxic and must be discarded.
Rose Apples are native to Malaysia and were introduced into Jamaica in 1762, and brought to Hawaii in 1825 from Brazil.
They were first planted in Florida sometime before 1877, and in Australia around 1896.
They are called Rose Apples in English because their fragrance reminded some people of rose water.
Rose Apples are also called “Malabar Plum”, though that name is sometimes also applied to another fruit, the Jambolan.
Called “Chom Pho” in Thailand.
Morton, Julia F. Rose Apple. In: Fruits of warm climates. 1987. p. 383–386.
Syzygium jambos. In Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) database. 1999. Retrieved December 2010 from http://www.hear.org/pier/species/syzygium_jambos.htm