Friday, October 2, 2009

A Description of the Principal Fruits of Siam.

The Figs of India, which the Siameses do call Clouey-ngouan-tchang, Elephant’s Trunks, have not the taste of our Figs, and, in my mind, they are not so good. Thus the Melons of Siam are not true Melons, but the Fruit of a Tree known in the Isles of America under the name of Papayer. I have not eaten of this Fruit. But to return to the Fig, it is of the size and shape of a Sausage. Its green Skin, which waxes yellow and spotted with black in its maturity, is easily separated from its soft and clammy pulp, and ’tis that which has given it the name of Fig; but in the midst of its pulp there is no vacuity, nor any of those kernels which do make as it as it were a little gravel in our Figs, when they are a little dry’d. Its taste is strong, and it has something of sharpness and sweetness both together.

The Bananas, which the Siamese do call Clouey-ngaa-tchang, or Elephant’s Tooth, is almost the same thing as the Fig, save that it is greener and longer, and that it has Angles, and Faces or flat Sides, which are re-united point-wise at both ends. These Fruits do hang like Nosegays, or rather like great Bunches of Grapes, from the top of the Trunk of the Trees which bear them. The Figs grow hard in the Fire, the Bananas which are not altogether so delicate raw, do wax soft again, do there lose their sweetness, and do acquire the taste of our Pippins ripen’d on the Apple Tree.

The Goyaye (in Siamese Louc-Kiac, Louc signifies Son, Kiac is the name of the Goyavier) is about the size of a middling Apple. Its Skin is of a grayish green, like that of certain Pears: under this Skin is a pulp of the consistence of that of the Citron, but not so white. When it is put into the mouth, it savors the Strawberry; but this Strawberry taste soon loses itself, because it becomes too strong. This pulp, which exceeds not the thickness of a Crown-piece, contains a liquid substance like Broth, but grayish, and which would not be less pleasant to eat than the pulp, if it was not mix’d with an innumerable number of small kernels so hard, that it would be difficult to chew them.

The Jacques, in Siamese Ca-noun, are of the shape of a great Melon ill rounded. Under a grayish Skin fashioned like Chagrin, they have a very great number of kernels, or stones; stones, if we consider their magnitude, which is almost like a Pigeon’s Egg: kernels, by the thin and smooth wood which incloses them. These stones therefore or kernels being broil’d or boil’d, differ not from our Chestnuts either in taste or consistence, excepting that they are, in my opinion, more delicate. At one end they stick to a pulp which invelops them all, and separates them one from the other. It is easily torn off, according to the course of its fibres; it is yellow, juicy, clammy, and glutinous, of a sweet taste, and strong smell. It is not possible to chew it, they only suck it.

They gave us a Fruit like Plums, and we at the first appearance were deceived. It had the pulp and taste of a Medler, and sometimes two, sometimes three stones, but bigger, flatter, and smoother, than the Medler has them. This Fruit is called Moussida in Siamese.

The Ox-heart was so named by reason of its size and shape. The Skin thereof is thin, and this Fruit is soft, because that on the inside it is only a kind of white Cream, and of a very agreeable taste. The Siamese do call it Mancout.

The Durian, in Siamese Tourrion, which is a Fruit very much esteem’d in the Indies, appear’d insupportable to me for its ill smell. This Fruit is of the size of our Melons cover’d with a prickly Coat like our Chestnuts. It has also, like the Jacques, several stones, but as big as Eggs, in which is contained what they eat, in the inside of which there is also another stone. The fewer there is of these stones in a Durian, the more pleasant the Fruit is. There never is less than three.

The Mango, in Siamese Ma-mouan, participates at first of the taste of the Peach and the Apricot; toward the end this taste waxes stronger, and less agreeable. The Mango’s are highly esteem’d, I have seen some as big as a Child’s hand, they are flat and oval, but pointed at the two ends almost like our Almonds. Their Skin is of the consistency of that of our Peaches, of colour inclining to yellow; but their meat is only a pulp which must be suck’d, and which quits not a great flat stone which it envelops.

I have not seen the Mangoustan, which is said to be much better than the Mango’s.

The Siameses have some sharp Fruits which quench the thirst, and which upon this account appear’d unto me the most agreeable of all. They are small as Plums, and have a stone encompast with a white pulp, which easily melts in the mouth.

The Tamarinde is also sharp. ‘Tis a Fruit enclosed in a shell like an Almond and then several of these Fruits are likewise included in a Cod. I preserved some, and found the Syrup thereof very pleasant during my return; but by little and little it lost its sharpness, and there remain’d only the taste of the Pimpernel. The Tree which bears it, and which is very large, has a Leaf resembling Pimpernel.

From this Country I brought several sorts of liquid Sweet-meats, which were come from China to Siam about two years, and they ceased not to keep very well to Paris. The Syrup especially was very good, and had nothing of Candy, notwithstanding the heat of the Climats through which it had passed. These Sweet-meats had perhaps been made with Sugar-candy, whith is the sole Purifier that the Orientals have. I refer my self to the Confectioners.

I speak not of the Sugar-canes wherewith Siam abounds, nor of the Pepper, because I saw none thereof. The King of Siam, they say, has caused an hundred thousand thereof to be planted. ‘Tis a Plant which needs Props like the Vine, and the Pepper hangs thereon also by little Bunches, like to those of Currents.

The Ananas, in Siamese Saparot, has the meat white, and the taste of our Peaches. Its meat is mixed with little wood, not a wood which separates, as there is in our nuts, but with a wood that adheres thereto, and which is only the meat over-hardned; and it is at the Center that it begins to grown hard. The Ananas is believed unwholsom, because that its juice, they say, corrodes Iron. It is yellow when it is ripe, and then to smell it without opening it, it has the scent of a roasted Apple. Its Figure is like a great Pine Apple, it has little rindes curiously ranged, under which, to behold them, one would think that the kernels are. The Plant which produces it bears it at the top of its stalk, which is not three foot high. The Ananas keeps directly upon the little end; and at the great end there is a tuft of Leaves, like little Corn-flags, short, bent outwards, and toothed. Sometimes from the body of this Fruit, and at the sides, there grows like Wens; one or two other little Ananas, which have also their Tufts. Now every Tuft cut and put in the ground, may produce another Ananas, but every Plant bears only one, and bears no more than one.

The Coco, in Siamese Ma-praou, is a kind of Filbert, but much bigger indeed than a Filbert, as may be seen by those Cups of Coco which they sell us. ‘Tis the wood thereof which is naturally cover’d like that of our Nuts, with a brou or green bark an inch thick, and full of fibres, whereof Cordages may be made. In the wood of the Coco is a very pleasant liquor, and the wood therefore is so full, that it spurts a great way when it is pierced. As this Fruit ripens, this liquor congeals at the extremities, that is to say near the wood, and there forms a Nut very white, and of a very good taste; the water which is not yet congealed remains still at the Center of the Fruit, and at length it all congeals.

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