Friday, January 09, 2009

Binjai - A Forgotten Fruit

This is the binjai - a fruit that is almost forgotten by most people when foreign imported mangoes took the local market by storm in the 80's.

The binjai is a sourish fruit of the mango family. It is grown wild in most places in the Rejang and the river mouth areas of the Baram and Limbang rivers. The fruit is still occasionally found in Bintulu. Brunei continues to produce this fruit for the local market. Apparently there is still a good market for this fruit in KK.

Recently I found several trees growing in a relative's farm. He claimed that his grandfather was the one who took the seeds from second division where the Skrang River flowed in pristine conditions a long time ago and planted them. So his binjai fruit trees must have been more than 50 years old. He occasionally sells them in the Brunei open air market at Brunei $2.00 each.

This fruit is usually eaten as part of the rice and fish lunch or dinner. My family would eat it as a appetiser (sliced thinly and mixed with a good sambal or rojak sauce).

Interesting many people also call the fruit "buah tusu lanjut" and it generally amuses a lot of men when it is seen and bought in the market or tamu.

According to the Wikipedia the fruit is scientifically called "Mangifera caesia" and is known also as the Malaysian Mango. It is locally called Binjai in the Malay language. It is a species of mango widely cultivated in areas of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. The tree lives in lowlands or gentle slopes on sandy clay soils. It grows up to 30 m (100 ft) tall with a dense crown of round-shaped leaves. The flowers are purple or pink, 0.7 cm long with five sepals. The fruit is a large, edible, elliptical drupe 10-15 cm (4-6 in) long and 6-8 cm (2-3 in) wide. The skin is thin and brown with darker patches, and the flesh is yellow-white, mushy, and strongly odorous with an acid-sweet or sour taste.

The Binjai is believed to originate from the island of Borneo, but is commonly grown elsewhere for its edible fruit. The tree is one of the most common and valuable mango species in western Malaysia, where it is cultivated extensively in orchards. It is also widely grown in Bali, Sumatra, and Borneo. The fruit can be eaten dipped in chili and dark soy sauce. The wood is used for light construction. Binjai is almost always propagated by seed. The tree requires rainfall that is distributed evenly throughout the year.

Why not grow this fruit in your garden before it becomes an endangered species?

Other references
Kwan, TY. "Sightings: A Mysterious Tree Bears Fruit". Green Dot Internet Services.
"IUCN Red List - Mangifera caesia". International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
"Anacardiaceae". Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

11 memories:

Robert Rizal Abdullah said...

Dear Chang Yi,

In my long house, Lachau, Pantu, it is also called "buah gelu'" pronounced "geluk". The fruit grew wild in the Klingkang Range.

I remembered in the 60s, during a third term school holiday in TLS, I went back home (the only time I went home in my 5 years in TLS).

My friends took me to the Klingkang Range to look for the binjai/tusu lanjut/gelu' fruits which were said to be in season.

Unfortunately, it was nearing the end of the season. We didn't find many. The fruit bats must had eaten them - judging by the skins and seeds strewn on the ground.

The fruits were sour but once you start eating them, you will find it hard to stop - akin to eating "assam paya".

sarawakiana said...

Thanks for the extra info. It is good that we all share good information about Sarawak and its fruits in this way.

Yes once we start eating the binjai fruit we cannot stop eating. And if the belacan is good it is even better. I understand that there are still a lot of wild binjai fruit trees around. But no one seem to be really collecting the fruits.

May be the local fruits should be supported and fertilized so that bats will once more come back and help pollinate more durians. Once our forests are all gone the ecological balance will be disturbed and fewer fruits will be around to provide us with a good organic diet.

Have you found binjai in West Malaysia?

Robert Rizal Abdullah said...

I have never tried searching for them here as I was never really attracted by the taste.

But according to Uki, the fruits are available in the pasar tani/minggu.

sarawakiana said...

May be when someone finds out that it is good for high blood pressure or it is a cure for some kind of ailments this fruit will become as popular as the mengkudu.

One never knows. We Malaysians do have a lot of backyard plants which are good natural cures. And I subscribe to these local knowledge and thank our forebears for them.

We have a headache plant which is better than penadol.

rainstorm said...

Came across this fruit when i went back to KB recently. The smells put me off !

CUMI & CIKI said...

hi, i visit your blog now and then. It's very informative and so enjoyable to read. There's so much i've learned about East Malaysia (and then some). Keep up the good writing and documenting all the almost forgotten things!
Several months ago, i stopped by a highway rest area in the peninsular and came across these fruits which i thought were large cikus. There was a cardboard sign saying "Binjal Masam Manis" and i thought it was another local word for ciku. I took a picture of it to remind myself to look into this. Today i saw the picture again and googled the name. It brought me back to you and i've just been educated about 'binjal'. thanks!

CUMI & CIKI said...

oopss... i meant binjai

effingoode said...

hey guys

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Zara Attimo said...

I really love this fruit. I would eat it just by itself because I love the sour taste but unfortunately, it is rare to find in Singapore.

Zara Attimo said...

I really love this fruit. I would eat it just by itself because I love the sour taste but unfortunately, it is rare to find in Singapore.


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