Tambis / Makopa / Curacao or Malay Apple

Makopa and Makopang Kalabaw (Syzygium samarangense and Syzygium malaccensis) tambis4are 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 don’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. tambis2The 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 hadn’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 Tate’s book, Tropical Fruit of the Philippines… tambis3In 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 backyard… 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.


32 Responses

  1. Hehehe, you beat me to posting this! :-)

    PhP 33/kilo? That’s almost as much as pico mangoes! But then I suppose macopas are a bit rare in the cities while they’re for the taking in rural areas. Ah, another fruit which evokes memories of childhood.

  2. Hello from Oslo, Norway… isnt it food so evocative? The photos of tambis brings me back of hot sweaty days in Cebu while am up here in the Northern Hemisphere feezing!They have makopa in the Caribbean as well I think in the Seychelles too.
    Am in Mac Store in Oslo checking my mail, got no internet connection at our flat yet!

  3. I’m on a Mac and can’t see anything on any page except the titles and comments. You came highly recommended by Pernille and I’m sad that the articles won’t load :(

  4. I love makopa! My then boyfriend, now husband of 20 yrs,
    used to bring me baskets of freshly picked fruit from
    their farm in Laguna. We just moved from Vancouver to Singapore and I am just sooo happy that makopa is
    plentiful here. It brings back memories of those
    wonderful summers! ‘course it’s great eating too:)

  5. we have a white makopa in the Philippines, we call it the “albino” tambis in our place, and you are right, it taste best when you pick it from your backyard (or over the fence from your neighbor’s backyard) :)

  6. From what I know ‘makopa’ is different from ‘tambis’.
    Makopa is bell shaped while Tambis is round shape. Tambis
    has more air inside and the seeds are bigger than Makopa.
    We have tambis in our backyard while our neighbor has
    makopa though the leaves look thesame.

  7. From what I could tell, makopa is more the luzon name and tambis the Visayan name for the same thing. However, as I mention in the post above, there are two very closely related species samaragense and malaccensis that probably explains the two types of makopa you refer to. If there is a more knowledgeable botanist out there, your comments please…

  8. mostly here in the visayas, we have 2 names for Malay Apple Makopa and Tambis. the larger bell shaped one is the Makopa and the smaller redder and more acidic one the Tambis. Teehee! i so mis my childhood days..we used to steal tambis and makopas from our neighbors and…they, the neighbors i mean, happen to be my god parents!! hehehe! ofcourse..that was then..

  9. Dear Marketman,

    Last weekend, I discovered your blog while I was endeavoring to identify what we now know is a prolific Mokopa tree in our yard. In September the tree had fluffy white flowers that were all blown off by the big typhoon (our first). Now the tree is covered with blossoms and fruit in various stages. A few pieces of fruit have have turned pink or red. I couldn’t wait to experience the taste, so I spent quite a bit of effort trying to get one down. How do local people harvest them? This Makopa was not sweet. Is it supposed to be?

    If they aren’t sweet like the Macs, Jonathans and Golden Delicious we are used to, what shall I do with them? Has anyone made into an “apple” sauce?

    I would like to ask a question about quavas. When will we see these in the market again? They were available when we arrived here from the US in late August and we enjoyed making a sauce from them. Will we have to wait until August to see them again?

    We have an Avacado tree and a Mango tree in our yard also. They both are bothered with pests of one kind or another, but the Makopa is a trouper.

    Thank you for your help in identifying the Makopa tree. I am trying to forgive you for your irreverent treatment of Passion fruit which I adore. I have even built a trellis and am looking forward to harvest time. Do you know how long from planting to harvest and how many times a year it will bear fruit?

    Peggy Whidden

  10. Peggy, Makopas ARE prolific but I have to say, a childhood acquired taste. Unfortunately, most makopas are not memorable taste-wise, in my opinion. However, having said that, to me the best makopas are crisp, just ripe (not ripe and they are a bit astringent, too ripe and they get cottony or mealy), and eaten with some rock salt. It is a Filipino/Asian thing to eat fruits with salt…perhaps the saltiness makes the fruit seem sweeter. I also lived in Indonesia for several years and saw that they enjoyed this fruit with other tropical fruits chopped up and mixed with a chilli and dried shrimp paste. As for guavas, they are in the markets now. The smaller “more native” guavas are pungent and filled with seeds, perfect for jams, jellies and soups. I have a post on guava jam and a guava sinigang soup in my archives. The larger guavas (which are usually crisp and best when served cold, in my opinion) have less seeds and are hybrids…but I find the smaller ones have for character. The passion fruit I have had here is not the best. I understand it is significantly more fragrant and tasty in other places. If you are interested in the local fruits, there is an excellent book by Doreen Fernandez called Fruits of the Philippines, that describes the fruits, gives rough seasonal information, etc. It should be available at large bookstores.

  11. did a google search on makopa (as I munch on a bowl of -just picked- makopa) and stumbled on to your site.

    The thai purple ones are Bigger and sweeter, though it may only be because there was more of the juicy part in the thai variety.

    Where was that vendor with the white hybrid? Would love to add that to my backyard!

  12. My real name is Goga Makopa. I was so surprised and excited at the same time to learn i share a name with such a wonderful, sweet and much liked fruit. I live in Malindi, Kenya, i have started looking for that sweet fruit that i share a name with. I would be so thrilled when i find it. Keep on liking Makopa.

  13. FYI, makopa and tambis are two different fruits. Makopa is the one which is dark red and starchy when ripe. Tambis is the one which is pink when ripe, white when unripe and is rather crunchy when bitten. However, these fruits belong to one genus, Syzygium, and different species (which I am not sure of…)

  14. i can’t seemed to find this makopa plant here in the west coast. i was looking for a makopa tree to plant here but i just can’t seemed to find my luck. next week i am going to san francisco by way of the west coast area. i will be driving through the coast of santa barbara, then monterey then san jose to the heart of san francisco.
    nmaybe they do not know makopa fruit here .
    does it go by another name .
    or perhaps i am just lokking at the wrong places.
    do you know where i can get a makopa tree so i can plant them in my backyard.

  15. I’m just wandering if there is makopa, tambis tree available somewhere here in US where we could order. If there is, please let me know. Thank you.


  16. Tambis & Makopa are not the same fruits! In the Visayas, Philippines, we have both. They may come from the same family but are definitely two different fruits. Makopa has a smoother skin while Tambis’shallow furrows are more pronounced. Makopa’s fruit is finer but has a faint tart taste. Tambis fruit is coarser & no tartness. Makopa has a deeper red color. Tambis is lighter like pinkish red.

  17. I wonder if any of you guys would share me how to make a jam out of this tropical fruit, Makopa. We have one tree in our garden really teeming with fruits. It would be a waste if I will just throw some in the waste bin. Please help.

  18. I’m doing my thesis proposal right now and my subject is about the medicinal use of makopa..I thought makopa and tambis were the same, now I’m confused but I think the darker one is the real makopa. I’m having a hard time to find this fruit in my place and I need it as soon as possible. Guys if know a place where i can find it please reply to this comment. I live in Cebu right now. Thanks in advance.

  19. We have like this kind of tree in our backyard but less fruit but as I remember, in our neighbor’s backyard, you can almost never see the leaves–because of the fruits. Sometimes, we just shake the tree and bravo maybe a basket of “tambis” will be harvested! Hai, how I wish those memories will happen again.


  20. In bicol at the back of my grandmother’s house there was a tree with similar fruit but is green in color and my cousins call it zambo. Nobody seems to knows if it was planted or if it grew by itself. So I’m wondering if there is a native variety in the P.I.

  21. hello..im taking up BS FOOD TECHNOLOGY at Camarines Sur State Agricultural College…
    may i know how to make macopa wine?
    pls. send me the procedure

  22. hi, just wanna let u know guys, the pix shown here are not that of makopa but of tambis…im eating makopa this time and just browsed the net for its english term, then wondered why tambis is in the pix…anyway, wish u could feature the true makopa pic here…its deep purple in color by the way. tambis is pinkish and crunchy, best eaten with vinegar and salt…

  23. i was also eating “tambis” when i googled the term..and whalla.. im in this site..i was just eating the green/white one.. i think they are right.. the purple one is called the makopa..the pinkish one is called tambis..but then again…what do you call the white/light green fuit that i am eating.. its almost ripe..its turns really light green when ripe.. i have eaten the tambis..its pinkish small and when ripe,it is almost red in color.. while the makopa..ive seen it..really bigger than the tambis..but really doesnt look tasty.. it kinda look like bruises..thats why i dont want to take a bite..

  24. hi mr MM.i love ur site. i come from bohol. macopa is different from tambis thats for sure. we have a neighbor they have one. maybe almost 100 years old now. the color is dark red. the shape is similar to that green tambis you have on the pic. i reckon is the pure breed. i went abroad for 10 years when i return they prune it and i was so sad because it alters the shape of the tree from the way i used to like it. it doesnt bear fruits like i used to remember it. the branches are full of it. my mother has said the tree was nagtampo daw dahil the tree was prune severely. i remember i had tasted it then and it was out of this world. so sweet and full of flavor. i had tasted similar in thailand but nothing compare to my neighbors. i have never seen or knew anyone in my village has planted this tree. next time i come home i will ask my neighbor where did they get or their parents got this variety. and if i see it fruits i will take a picture.
    and i also think that the green tambis on the photo is a macopa. in fact i have a tree in my own yard but dont seem to grow big. perhaps its the soil. i will investigate when i come home next.

    the shape and color of the tambis is much the same from your photo. in my parents home they have one tree nearly 50 years old. produce beautiful fruits and plentiful of it. almost all the houses in our neighborhood/town has a tree of tambis but not macopa.

  25. Hi! I`m living in Norway, am 56 years old. It`s so nostalgic to see those pictures, the tambis and makopa.True,they are different from each other, but of the same family. In Leyte where I grew up , we can still find those fruits.I like both, for old memories sake. It makes me more eager to come hometo my beloved country, the Philippines.

  26. Hooray, I finally get closer to knowing the name of the fruits I picked when my family lived in Cavite City, Luzon, Philippines. The tree in the courtyard at Maria Rojas compound was just big enough to climb in, and the fruit started out greenish to yellowish white, showing pink on the undersides as they began to ripen. They were crisp, tangy, and the more pinkish ones (and the pinker parts of the ripening ones) were very sweet. Almost cherry like? I would love to know of Philippino uses of this fruit, particularly preserves, jam, etc.



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