It’s a molassen afternoon, the tour groups have all come and gone, and it’s time to venture into the dark heart of the fruit world in the humming 4 o’clock calm. John is my intrepid companion as we journey underneath the jungle canopy.
The tour tractor-trams mark the last signs of active civilisation:
the foliage starts to really take over –
leaves give way to flowers –
We wander along the path under the high jungle canopy, noticing everything slowly and remarking upon each novel plant.
I try fresh coffee for the first time (at least, the map says its coffee)-
It is like nothing I’ve ever tasted – tart, like the taste of raspberry but richer, highly aromatic, with the consistency of a puréed medjool date. Delicious.
We discover a wax apple –
The flesh was crisp like stringless celery, bursting with sweet, sour, and astringent flavours of cranberry, lemongrass, and purple bell pepper. The inside of the fruit gives way to an almost cotton candy-like texture. It is so interesting and pleasurable to examine.
Starfruit that are unfortunately not ripe enough to eat, but still beautiful to look at –
those black wings are a butterfly –
what it looks like up close (a dead specimen) –
the most alien-looking plants; I have no idea what they are called, they are like jumbo pipecleaner fronds –
and something like a cross between a lily and ylang-ylang –
the tallest stand of bamboo I have ever seen; impossible to represent justly on film –
iridescent beetles copulating –
wish I could try this one, but alas it isn’t fruiting –
a Surinam cherry –
The most beautiful miniature fairytale pumpkin shape. Incredibly complex flavour of strawberry, orange heirloom tomato, basil, and a hint of honeysuckle. Its flesh is similar in texture to that of a cherry, with a small pit as well. A magical fruit.
After a slew of more exotic plants and animals than we have ever encountered before, the path eventually leads us back out of the jungle, completing our reflective, sensory adventure with a glimpse of the tour trams.
But I can’t help but bring one fruit back for closer inspection –
Behold the lemon-lime, a most characterful of citruses (that’s what it was called on the Japanese label, but I’m not sure if it translates to English). It looks rather like an orange, with a strong lemony flavour, a hint of yuzu, and an intense bitterness that makes the culinary imagination run wild. I plant a tree of these beauties in my dream orchard.
And these were only a handful of the many strange and beautiful things we saw (wild boar included). Spent and satisfied with our successful expedition, John and I celebrate our return with a huge fresh watermelon that Mr. Hamamoto left for us on the kitchen table.
It is the sweetest, juiciest, most succulent watermelon – the perfect treat after a uniquely rewarding day.