Transmissions from Hawaii: A Fruitful Adventure
I love fruit, and my mission in Hawaii is to eat as much of it as I can. You’ll recall that botanically, a fruit is the fleshy, seed-container of a plant. While fruits all share the same basic parts, the variation is fascinating and delicious.
I saw rambutans (Nephelium lappaceum) at a fruit stand, and their wacky spikes got me to bite. Though the exterior looks a bit like a large, spikey raspberry, it’s totally different. A raspberry is a collection of small fruits that are all pressed together on one central axis. Each tiny fruit contains a seed, which can give raspberries a little crunch. However, the rambutan breaks open to reveal translucent, gelly ball inside. Inside a fleshy layer is a single large seed, about the size and shale of an almond. The appearance is reminiscent of a lychee, but the rambutan tastes better in my opinion because it has less of a perfume flavor. It turns out that the rambutan is very like a lychee as they are both in the Soapberry family, Sapindaceae.
Returning from the beach, someone had a basket of starfruit out for sale along the road, three for a dollar. The star fruit gets its unique shape from the configuration of the female parts of the flower. The female parts of a flower are called “carpels.” Carpels contain the ovules that become seeds when fertilized, and develop into fruits surrounding the seeds. The starfruit is composed of five carpels around a central axis that give it the five-sided star shape.
Star fruit, Averrhoa carambola.
Starfruit in cross-section with the separation between carpels visible as the darker areas. There is a seed in one of the carpels.