ABIU - THE EMPORER'S GOLDEN FRUIT
(One of a series of articles about growing fruit trees
in Samoa, written by Digby Gotts and published in the 'Samoa Observer'
between December 2000 and April 2001)
These bright yellow fruit, usually Apiu in Samoa, are starting to appear
in the Fugalei Market in ever increasing numbers as more people discover
the sweet flavour. The best fruit should be 3-4 inches across, with no
marks on the skin and a green cap around the stem of not more than one-third
of the fruit. They are generally eaten fresh by cutting them in half and
scooping the flesh out with a spoon. If you munch straight into the fruit
there is sticky latex in the skin that makes the lips a bit sticky, great
for kissing, but best avoided when you only want the fruit. Australians
prefer adding a little lemon juice to lift the acidity, but I have noticed
that Samoans prefer the plain sweetness without the acid bite.
This tree is a native of Brazil, where it grows in the under story of
the rainforest. It can grow to 7 meters high but it is best to cut off
the high and vertical branches, encouraging branching low down. It can
produce 3-4 crops a year in Samoa, and should be fed 4 times a year with
about half-kilo of NPK.
Nafanua has introduced two varieties, one of which produces consistently
large round fruit and the other produces slightly smaller egg shaped fruit.
These top quality fruits can only be obtained from grafting pieces from
these Nafanua trees onto abiu seedlings and encouraging the grafted piece
to survive by cutting out the seedling growth. As abiu grow well from
seed, many people haven’t bothered to buy grafted trees of either
of these varieties and have grown their own from seed. Seedling trees
will produce fruit in 2-3 years after planting out but in the same way
that children are never the same as their parents, the fruit from seedling
trees is often smaller or not as tasty.
There are several problem pests of abiu, mainly fruit fly and fruit piercing
moth. When these are in high numbers you may need to protect your fruit
with newspaper bags or nets over the trees. Trapping can reduce fruit
fly damage significantly. A simple trap can be made by cutting the top
off a plastic lemonade bottle, and sticking it back upside down into the
bottle. Add a little beer or vegemite in water for bait, hang the bottle
in your tree, and the flies will drown trying to get a drink. If you start
to catch bees, reduce the size of the hole so bees don’t go in and
die, as they are your main helper with your fruit trees.
The other marketing issue is that rough handling easily bruises the fruit,
leaving unsightly brown areas in the flesh and slight brown markings on
the skin. This is the main reason these fruits have never really “taken
off” in the big markets overseas as too much handling results in
too many damaged fruit. The one exception to this is when a smart agent
in Perth, Australia, started airfreighting the fruit to Malaysia, selling
it under the name “Emperor’s Golden Fruit” for about
10 tala each. The royal connection and the high price pulled in many people
with spare cash and made some growers very happy for a while. Then the
Malaysian economy crashed and fruit sales disappeared, as there was no
So if you haven’t yet delighted in this rich caramel flavoured
fruit, be brave and try some at the market next time you see them. Or
come out to Nafanua to buy a young tree.