(Syzygium cumini, formerly Eugenia jambolana – Family Myrtaceae)
Jambolan, Java plum, black plum
Jambu (Sanskrit), jam (Hindi), mahadan (Sri Lanka), tha-bye-byu (Burma), luk wa (Thai), jiwat/jamun (Malay), juwet (Indonesian), duhat (Philippines)
Jambolan is but one member of a large group of tropical fruits borne on trees classified in, or formerly classified in, the genus Eugenia of the Mrytaceae family and given the collective name of Eugenia Fruits.
Some of the better-known relatives include: Pitanga, Rose apple, Jambu, Jaboticaba, Grumichama, and Pitomba.
Jambolan is a fruit which grows wild in India and much of southeast Asia, but is cultivated in some countries of the region and in Hawaii.
The fruit is the size of a cherry, either white or purple in colour, with the white variety said to be the sweeter of the two.
Another difference is noted when both are made into jelly or jam. The white fruits have twice as much pectin as necessary, while the purple fruits have almost none. Therefore, equal mixes of both makes a more successful preserve but the syrup can also be used in cool drinks and sherbets.
The taste of the fresh fruit is mildly acidic and always astringent.
In many countries, the fruit is rubbed with salt to remove the astringency before being eaten fresh, but it is also cooked and added to savoury dishes.
Jambu is a name that is applied in Malaysia and Indonesia to quite different kinds of fruits. In Malaysia, the name means cultivated rather than wild, but is used most often when referring to the Jambolan fruit, as well as various rose-apples.
The same is true in Indonesia, where the word may mean several plants of other genera, including stone jambu (jambu batu), also known as guava (Psidium guajava), and the cashew fruit or ‘jambu met’ (Anacardium occidentale).
Pitomba (E. luschnathiana) is another fruit native to Brazil, and considered to be the best of the Eugenia fruits. It is small and orange in colour, much like that of an apricot, and little known outside of that country.