GUAYABANO:  Fearsome But Pleasant-Tasting

What a treat to be vacationing in the Philippines during May!  The markets are teeming with summer fruit, among them a hardy-looking, horned, heavy, green-skinned creation called guayabano.

File created by Ton Rulkens

This fruit is said to be native to Central and South America, as well as the Carribean, but I have yet to find a local name which might help me trace the source of the Spanish guanabana, on which the Philippine name is based.  S
eeds or seedlings most probably crossed the Pacific on the Acapulco-Manila galleon trade.

Indonesians and Malays have two names for it:  Buah sirsak and nangka belanda.  Buah is generic Indo-Malay for fruit; sirsak  is probably from the Dutch zuurzack, which translates into soursop… for, indeed, the white flesh of the guyabano is sour; however, the pineapple and strawberry undertones make it pleasant to eat or drink.


Nangka belanda roughly translates into Dutch jackfruit.  Nangka (jackfruit) has been known to Indonesians for thousands of years; it is believed to have originated in the South Indian rainforests.  Since the soursop (which arrived in Southeast Asia sometime during the 16th century) looked similar, they called it nangka, but with the qualifier belanda.


Alfian Sa’at, writing in The Online, points out that the Malays (and I would say the Indonesians, too) have “a tendency to append the word belanda (meaning ‘Dutch’) to anything foreign… ”  He cited examples such as kambing belanda (Dutch goat, i.e., sheep) and ayam belanda (Dutch chicken, i.e., turkey).



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