Malay Apple is presumed to be a native of Malaysia in Southeast Asia. It is commonly cultivated from Java to the Philippines and Vietnam. It is called Malay apple in Malaysia, Jamaican apple in Jamaica and Bell apple in Nigeria.
Today, the Malay apple is cultivated in other parts of Central America, including Belize, El Salvador and Costa Rica, and much more frequently in parks and gardens in Venezuela. In Nigeria, it was introduced over 50 years ago from research findings. As a tropical apple tree, it requires ample humidity, high rainfall, and no frost (cold condition). It grows quite well in many parts of Nigeria. Once these basic conditions have been met, the Malay apple trees need little else to thrive. It can be planted in homes, parks, gardens and established as apple plantation for commercial purposes. The Malay apple tree starts producing apples three years after planting, while the temperate apple tree produces apples from the sixth year after planting.
It produces apples two or three times per tree per year. It is prolific in producing about 1,000 apples per tree per harvest as it grows older, that is about 2,000 apples per tree per year. The average yield is 21 – 85 kg per tree.
Malay apple tree grows vigorously on a range of soil types from sand to heavy clay. It tolerates moderately acidic soil, reacts unfavorably to highly alkaline situations.
Malay apple is an amazing tropical apple type. It comes in three major colours – red, green and cream with many varieties of each type. In Nigeria, the commonest is the red type. The green colour is scanty while the cream colour may not be readily available now. It has a sweet-sour taste. It is highly medicinal and nutritious. This is established in the annals of scientific research as contained in the scientific World Journal of Health Sciences and Food Chemistry.
The shelf life is three to four days. The apples stay between 17 and 19 days on the trees during harvest.
Malay apple seed is a single oblate or nearly round seed. It is light brown externally, green internally. 1.6 – 2.0 cm in width. Somewhat meaty in texture. It is polyembryonic in nature, that is more than two seedlings could be raised from a single seed. It germinates readily in two to four weeks. It has shown antibiotic activity and has some effects on blood pressure and respiration. It is medicinal in application. It is used to allay fever.
Each Malay apple must be carefully plucked from the tree and maintained in cool storage shortly thereafter. To remove from the tree, simply twist the apple’s stem. Malay apple does not store well under freezing form of refrigeration. Theshelflifeis prolonged under the chilling form of refrigeration at a specific temperature.
Malayans apply a powder of the dried leaves on a cracked tongue. A preparation of the root is a remedy foritching. Therootbarkis useful against dysentery. The juice of the crushed leaves is applied as a lotion and is added to baths. In Brazil, various parts of the plants are used as remedies for constipation, diabetes, coughs, headache etc. Seeded fruits, seeds, bark and leaves have shown antibiotic activity and have some effects on blood pressure and respiration. As a matter of fact, Malay apple is a viable business opportunity that can contribute immensely towards reducing the unemployment rate. As at 2006, Malay apple was sold for N5, regardless of the size then. Today, the small size is N50, the big size is N100 while the jumbo size is N150 each.
►Akinyemi Oluwagbenga, an agronomist wrote via email.