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At long last, we are now enjoying the fruits of our little rambutan tree. The first harvest is nothing to shout about — just a measly 20 pieces or so — but the numbers don’t matter for now. What’s important is that the tree has started bearing fruit and that the fruits are sweet and succulent, with the flesh easily separating from the seed as it belongs to the ‘Anak Sekolah’ variety. ‘Anak sekolah’ which literally means ‘student’, is technically known as R191, known for fruits that are “roundish and red in colour” with flesh that is “firm, medium sweet and not watery” (source: Department of Agriculture, Sarawak).

So how does one eat this strange- looking hairy red little fruit?

First of all, you have to get past the hairy outer shell by breaking it into two in order to get to the treasure waiting inside. You can do this by twisting the fruit (if you are strong enough) OR by making a small cut into the hairy exterior with your nail (not recommended because the sap will go under your nail and make it look dark and dirty) OR you can use a small knife (a bread knife, paring knife or, perhaps, even a fork) to do the cutting.

Once you’ve split the skin open, you can now nibble on the sweet, juicy white meat inside. But do take care not to bite into the seed that’s in the middle.

Rambutan season usually starts in July and peaks in August. The fruits are best eaten within a day or two after harvest.

It’s been 2 months since I last posted a photo of the hairy green fruits of the three-year old rambutan sapling in front of my house. Those very same fruits have gotten larger and are now slowly metamorphosing into their familiar come-and-eat-me red colour.

I took this photo with my Nikon D40 camera and its 18-55mm kit lens, as my 18-135mm lens is off to the Nikon service centre due to focusing problems. I just hope that the warranty covers whatever it is that has gone wrong!

I have fond memories of growing up with trees — climbing trees and picking fruits from trees.

I remember picking star apples (Cebuano: kaimito) when I was about 6 years old. I don’t remember much about how I actually ‘helped’ in the picking, but I remember eating them fresh from the tree.

When I was about 8, I remember waiting for my older brother to come down from this huge guava tree in our backyard and coming back with a haul so huge, we had more than enough to make several jars of guava jelly.

When I was 14 or 15, we had so many papaya trees that I actually got sick of eating papayas, since we had more papayas than we could eat!

And of course, we always had camachile and mansanitas trees. The camachile trees were too thorny to climb, but my playmates and I loved the challenge of picking the fruits with whatever long sticks that we could lay our hands on. I never really cared for mansanitas but I always found it a lot of fun picking the fruits, as I could just jump up and grab hold of one of the lower branches, and then pull it down so I could reach the rest of the branch to get some of the fruit.

I especially remember this guava tree in front of our house, back when I was just 9 or 10 years old (we moved a few times when I was small, so this is different from the guava jelly tree). I always remember with so much fondness how I used to climb that tree and recline on one of the branches while munching on the fruits, absent-mindedly peeling off bits and pieces of the tree’s bark.

I’ve always wished that my children can experience some of the magic of climbing trees, picking some fruits with their bare hands and tasting the extraordinary sweetness of those freshly plucked fruits. They’ve spent all their lives in the city and, although KL is very green, they’ve had very few chances of actually climbing trees (especially fruit-bearing trees) and eating fruits that they picked with their bare hands.

So I told DH about this wish. But didn’t really give that much thought to it.

Then in the morning of my birthday in 2005, I looked out the window and saw him digging a deep hole in front of our house. He was planting a rambutan tree for me! I’d have to say that was the best gift that he’s ever given to me in our 10+ years of marriage. It was as though he gave me back a part of my childhood, even if my childhood didn’t actually involve any rambutan trees.

The tree was grown from a graft (they call it tot in Malaysia, I have no idea why), so even though it was less than 4 feet high, it was already about 2 years old when he planted it.

And the thing is, rambutan trees start to bear fruit after only 3 years. So imagine my excitement last year, when my rambutan tree bore flowers for the very first time. Excitement quickly turned to disappointment, however, when the flowers fell off after just a day.

So the days and weeks and months passed by. I dared not hope too much, for fear of getting disappointed again. So I just passed by my rambutan tree without much thought, day in and day out.

Then a few days ago, Lola told me that my tree has flowers! So I went to check on the tree and saw these:-

They’re tiny flowers that have developed into tiny green buds that will soon grow into the hairy fruits that RoundBoy loves so much. And there were bunches and bunches of them.

I’ve been checking on them everyday and they’re still there, rain or no rain, wind or no wind.

So I guess the kids will finally get to pick some rambutan fruits this year! Right in front of our house!

I just hope that we get to pick them before the neighbourhood kids or some other passers-by do…