Strange Fruit

I’m pretty sure that Billie Holiday had other things on her mind when she sang Strange Fruit. But then I guess she never encountered sapodilla (in Thai, ละมุด [pronounced “la-mut”] – and for my Latin readers, it’s Manilkara zapota).


The fruit, it is believed, originated in central America and was brought to SE Asia by the Portuguese.

It contains four or so inedible seeds, and the flesh is a strange brown colour. The texture is slightly sandy – rather like an over-ripe pear – and the taste is sweet with a slight hint of acid. It also has a distinctive smell, rather fermented. Some say it smells like malt, but I think it smells like liquor.


And lest anyone suspect that I have shown any disrespect to Billie Holiday, here are a few interesting (to me at least) facts about her song:

  • The original poem was written by an American Jew who subsequently adopted two sons of the Rosenbergs, murdered (the Rosenbergs, that is) by the American establishment for disagreeing with its fascistical politics.
  • Holiday had great trouble getting the song recorded, and eventually (in seach of a record company) performed an a cappella version to Billy Crystal’s uncle. He (the uncle, that is) was brought to tears by the performance. (And who wouldn’t be?) He was eventually able to arrange for a special release of the song.
  • In 1999 Time magazine declared it the “song of the century”.


I doubt you’ll find sapodilla in a supermarket near you any time soon, but if you do, give it a try.

Durian is not the only fruit.



1 comment so far

  1. K on

    We ate this fruit a lot in India. In Bengali we call it “Sobeda” or “Sofeda” and I just love it. The sandy texture and the strong flavour that I enjoy most. I even buy it in London, in the Asian shops. Btw.. when I was a kid, always planted the seeds after eating the Sobeda and new trees grown. So we had plenty of Sobeda around mostly late summer and monsoon season.

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