Makopa and Makopang Kalabaw (Syzygium samarangense and Syzygium malaccensis) are reaching their peak just about now! Another sign that Summer is here (besides schools being on holiday, lighter traffic and a rising mercury) is the arrival of a brief but impressive explosion of makopa. Our neighbor across the street has a makopa tree that is groaning with fruit so I asked if I could take these photos. Makopa is one of those tropical summer fruits that donâ€™t keep or travel well. Most of our childhood memories of eating makopa probably meant we lived near a source, usually a tree in the backyard or neighborhood.
The makopa tree is part of the myrtle or eucalyptus family. The fruit is bell shaped with a waxy skin and comes in pink, white, green and purple. It has a crisp, light (airy or spongy) white pulp that is mild in flavor. I hadnâ€™t tasted makopa for nearly twenty years when during a business trip to Indonesia I noticed one of the office workers eating an intriguing afternoon snack of chopped makopa, green mango, snake fruit, pineapple and other fruits tossed with a chilli and dried shrimp sauce/paste – yum! Makopa is native to the Malay archipelago and it is believed to have been introduced to the Philippines in prehistoric times according to Doreen Fernandezin her book Fruits of the Philippines, who writes that makopa and tambis are interchangeable terms for the same fruit. There appear to be two main types of makopa in the country, I presume one being the smaller variety and the other being the larger variety, hence the addition to Kalabaw (Water Buffalo) to the name of the latter. The tree has now spread to Indonesia, the South Pacific Islands, Hawaii, India, the West Indies and even South America.
While the fruit is mostly eaten raw here in the Philippines (sometimes with rock salt), it is sometimes used for medicinal purposes in other countries or as a salve for the skin. In Puerto Rico, it is also made into a wine according to Desmond Tateâ€™s book, Tropical Fruit of the Philippinesâ€¦ In this final photo, I spied a white makopa hybrid variety that was for sale at the market last weekend and the vendor said it was from Thailand. Marcotted and bearing fruit at just five feet in height, it was tempting to try and grow it in our small backyardâ€¦ While there is some confusion over two very similar varieties (samarangense and malaccensis), makopa in other languages is known by the names malay apple, rose apple, java apple, curacao apple, pomme de java, etc. Here in the Philippines, Visayans know this fruit as tambis, while others call it tersana, yanba or yanbu. At a Shoemart grocery today, I was amazed to find makopa for sale in the fruit section (because they don’t usually keep well)at P33 a kilo, but they looked a tad bit beaten up. Still best to pick yours straight off the backyard tree.