One evening wandering around Kandy, Sri Lanka, Rob and I noticed a small juice shop. I’d been wanting to try a Wood Apple juice, the pulverized beverage of a sweet and funky fruit with a flavor like tamarind cream cheese. We ordered our drinks and sat down in the corner of the busy shop to wait.
Suddenly, a green bucket swooped out of a square hole in the ceiling above the payment counter. Without missing a beat, the juice guy pulled out three glasses of different colored liquid. He put the empty glasses in the bucket, shouted something, and the bucket zoomed out of sight. Rob and I started laughing. We’d heard of hole-in-the-walls, but holes-in-the-ceiling were something new!
Wood Apple is the English term for the Limonia acidissima, also commonly known as Elephant-fruit or Monkey-fruit. In Sri Lankan Sinhalese, its called divul, but has many other names in the more than 30 languages spoken in India. It’s perfectly round and varies between the size of a baseball and a softball. The shell is hard enough it could probably be used that way. The interior is filled with a soft brown mush dotted with flat light colored seeds.
The odor of the Wood Apple lingers only in the mottled shell, which looks like a moldy dinosaur egg. The first time I ate it, I didn’t connect the sour smell left on my hands with the fruit. Only after eating it a few times and noticing the lingering odor of the men’s locker room did I even think to lift the fruit to my nose and take a whiff.
It’s certainly not as aromatic as a durian, but possibly more unpleasant. Sour feet and blue cheese come to mind, but without the exciting promise of durian’s heavenly custard. Ayurvedic medicine believes wood apple is cooling and a good balance for pitta doshas, those who already have a fiery temperament. Instead of eating mangosteen with durian, why not pair two stinky fruits together?
Regardless of the smell I enjoy Wood Apple, especially when its blended with jaggery or dates into a frothy, creamy drink. Sweet and sour with a hint of funk, Wood Apple juice is a delicious afternoon snack, especially when served from the ceiling.
Here’s a video of the bucket action: