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The Kedondong is a tropical fruit that grows in equatorial climates throughout the world. It changes in flavor and texture depending on its degree of ripeness. When unripe the fruit is hard and sour with olive green skin, gradually transforming into a golden yellow as it matures. When the fruit is this color and the flesh is firm it is delicious eaten out-of-hand, with a delightfully floral aroma and a taste similar to pineapple. Its texture is wet, crisp, and gently acidic, with russeted skin that is thin and glossy. Though most Kedondongs are golden yellow when ripe it is common for them to vary in color, so ripeness can also be determined by smell and feel. As the knobby fruit ages and softens its long fibers toughen, making slicing difficult. Kedondongs also become especially pungent in this overripe state. Kedondongs visually resemble their close cousin, the mango. While they are similarly ovular, with up to five flat seeds, they are significantly smaller, and only grow between 2 ½ to 3 ½ inches long. The ripe flesh is a lovely buttery yellow. In its native environment a Kedondong can weigh over a pound.
The Kedondong’s season of availability varies depending on where it is grown. Fruit from Hawaii is available between November and April, while that from Tahiti is harvested between May and July.
Known scientifically as Spondias dulcis, Kedondongs belong to the Anacardiaceae, or sumac, family, along with plants such as pistachio, cashew, and Kaffir plum. While Indonesians know the fruit as Kedondong, the Chinese of Singapore call it buah long long, the Vietnamese refer to it as qu cóc, Trinidadians and Costa Ricans call it pomme cythere, Jamaicans call it June plum, and those in the Dominican Republic refer to it as manzana de oro, or golden apple. It is also known by the name ambarella. The Kedondong grows on trees which can grow as high as 60 feet, though outside of its native range it typically only grows to 30 or 40 feet. The fruits hang from tree limbs in bunches of twelve or more and fall to the ground while still unripe.
One Kedondong has an average of 57 calories and a whopping 85% of the vitamin C needed in a 2,000 calorie diet.
As written above, a ripe Kedondong can be savored out-of-hand. Many prefer its flavor unadorned while Sri Lankans enjoy dusting slices with chili powder and salt and Malaysians and Indonesians eat the fruit with fish sauce. Ripe fruit can be transformed into a delicious sauce by boiling slices in water and sugar and pushed through a sieve. This delectable side, like a rich cousin to applesauce, can also be spiced with cinnamon and cooked down into a fruit butter. The fruits can also be juiced (in Jamaica ginger and sugar is added) or cooked in coconut curries (as is done in southern India). When the fruit is tart and unripe it can be enjoyed in a number of preserved foods such as pickles, jellies, and relishes. Immature Kedondongs can also be put in soups and sauces to impart their flavor while cooking. Some also relish unripe Kedondongs with just a pinch of salt. Kedondong pairs beautifully with a number of foods and flavorings such as apple, Asian pear, coconut, pineapple, lemon, jiggery, cumin, and culantro. The Kedondong can be processed like a mango by slicing it along its large flat seeds. Its thin skin is edible but tough and often discarded. If fruits need to continue ripening leave them at room temperature until the desired texture and fruit color are achieved. Ripe fruits can be refrigerated (at temperatures at or above 41°F) for up to two weeks, though when left in cold storage they will lose their golden color. If fruit is refrigerated it should be taken out at an hour before serving. Kedondongs kept below 41°F will spoil.
Many parts of the Kedondong tree are used in the areas across the world where it is grown. In southern Asia the tree’s deliciously acidic young leaves are eaten plain, while Indonesians use them as a seasoning and also steam them like spinach. The tree’s bark is astringent and used by Cambodians with other medicinal herbs to treat diarrhea. Ayurveda, the traditional folk medicine of India, incorporates all aerial parts of the tree for patients with maladies such as diabetes, urinary tract infections, and earaches. The tree’s blond and buoyant wood is used to build canoes in the Society Islands.
The Kedondong is native to the Pacific regions of Melanesia and Polynesia. It also grows well in many tropical and subtropical areas elsewhere in the world and can be found in markets throughout southeastern Asia. The Kedondong is also found in Zanzibar, Gabon, and Australia. In the western hemisphere Kedondong is cultivated in Hawaii, Jamaica (where it was introduced in 1782) and other parts of the Caribbean, as well as in pockets throughout Central and South America. Interestingly the original name of Bangkok, “Bang Makok,” translates into “river town where Kedondongs grow.”