The kamias trees in the back of the house are fruiting again. And if you’ve ever seen a fruiting kamias tree, you’d understand what ‘laden with fruit’ truly means. There’s fruit everywhere on the tree; on the stems, on the trunk--everywhere. The fruit could cover the tree’s entire trunk such that you’d think the tree grew gigantic green warts. They come in clusters like elongenated grapes. The potential of these juicy fruits as a cash crop could be enormous… if they didn't taste so darned acidic. I couldn’t eat one of those buggers without setting my teeth on edge. My girls love them, though. They dip them in sugar and salt in proportions that couldn’t be good for them. Maybe I’ll try to make them into kamias-ade. They have to be good for something.
With today’s horticulture, I know it would be easy to develop a less-acidic strain of kamias. All it would take is a mutant tree scientists could use as a starting point to breed the sweeter strain. Mutants are hard to find, though. Theyre one-in-a-million, random freaks of nature.
We used to have one such mutant tree. Or rather, the neighbor did. There used to be a kamias tree in the lot in front of our house whose fruit—I swear—was so sweet it tasted like balimbing. (Kamias and balimbing are cousins. Kamias is Averrhoa bilimbi while balimbing is Averrhoa carambola.) Whenever that tree fruited, it was a major event in our house. We’d go over there with plastic grocery bags and fill ‘em up with the juicy mutant fruits. Only one other neighbor knew about it and we kept the tree’s presence a secret. We didn't want word to get out that there was this tree that bore so much kamias you can’t see the trunk from the green clusters growing on it, and the fruit was sweet that you won’t believe youre eating kamias. If word got out, people from far and wide would come with their own plastic grocery bags. There won’t be enough for our insatiable greed. This tree was ours and no one else was going to touch it.
Soon we found out that the house and lot where the tree was has been bought. It was bought by an American family: a pastor and his wife and 2 kids. For some reason, no one told him about the tree; how rare and precious it was. I guess everyone thought that being American, he’d have no interest in the tree and all we had to do was ask and he’d let us in with our plastic bags to take as much as we pleased. We’ll tell him how rare it was eventually.
Oh, how right we were. He didn't have any interest in the tree at all. In fact he was so totally uninterested in the tree that he asked the carpenters who were renovating his house to chop it down. Horrors! Our tree!! I was walking home one day and saw our tree’s mutilated trunk, de-leaved, de-branched, and de-rooted, lying on the gutter near the trash cans in front of our new neighbor’s house, waiting to be hauled by the sanitation department to some dumpsite or incinerator somewhere. I had to act fast. I had to save our tree. I carried it home, dug a deep enough hole in our backyard, and stuck the trunk in. I watered like crazy. Maybe there still was time to save it.
Alas, I was hoping against hope. What I propped up in that hole was a corpse. It wasn't going to grow. Kamias is notoriously difficult to propagate from cuttings. I had a whole trunk, but that wasn't going to help. It died eventually; a testament to our unwillingness to share God’s bounty.
Before moving into our new house, I went over to have a look. The avocado and santol trees were in full fruit. So were the kamias trees. I looked hopefully at the green fruits, chock-a-block on the trunk and on the branches.
Our would be neighbors came and asked about when we’d be moving and all that, and asked if they could get some avocado and santol, a lot of which were just falling to the ground anyway. They never mentioned anything about the kamias. Could it be? I said, sure they could get some avocado and santol but be sure to leave some for us, and then walked over to the kamias tree, picked up a fruit, the largest I could find, took a tentative bite out of it…
… and it was so acidic, it can melt the sides of a battleship. Oh well. We missed our chance. I couldn’t look at the kamias trees in the backyard without thinking of what might have been. In the meantime, maybe I’d experiment on the kamias-ade thing.