The ciku is one of the sweetest and nicest fruits from Sarawak in particular and South East Asia in general.
Ciku or Sapodilla is usually consumed fresh after it has been plucked and softened or ripened to a certain softness. In fact it is a fruit which is consumed across the board - by the very poor and the very rich. It is also commercialised for its flavour in sherbets, drinks, butter and ice-creams. Very often we would put our home grown cikus or the hawker bought cikus in our rice bins for one or two days. When they soften they are ready to be eaten. We do not usually eat the unripen cikus as they are full of the sticky latex. Even when they are fully ripen and soft they still have some sticky latext especially when we do not pare off enough of the skin.
My mother once had a sticky slice of the ciku and the latex stuck onto her upper palate. She has always worn dentures in her adult life (poor dental care during the Japanese Occupation) and her dentures and the sticky latex caused her to choke. She almost died ! We felt so sorry for her then because we did not know what to do as we were still small. Ever since that episode we never bought cikus or brought them home. We were traumatised.
I found this rather huge species of ciku in the Muhibbah Tamu recently. They are bigger than the normal traditional ciku. The vendor called them RAJAH Ciku. They taste the same as the original ciku but fetch higher prices.
According to this farmer-vendor cikus are getting rarer now because the older trees are getting too old and have not been replaced by new ones in most gardens around Miri.
These fruits in the photo are easily 5 cm in diameter and weigh about 200 gm. So a kilo of them was roughly 5 fruits. They were sold at RM6 per kilo. And on the following day I could not find the fruits any more.
Some creative cooks and homemakers have also used it to make pies, syrups, sauces, jams and is fermented to get wine or vinegar. You might be surprised that in Indonesia, the young shoots are eaten either raw or after steaming with rice.
If you like chewing gum you might even be further surprised that it is the latex of the tree M.balata, that coagulates into what is known as chicle, formed the base for chewing gums before synthetic materials came to be used. I would actually prefer chicle to be used. Remember the chewing gum product Chiclets? That is where the name come from.
Medicinally in Java the ciku or sapodilla flowers are used in a powder with other ingredients that is rubbed on the stomach of women after child birth. The seeds, flowers and bark contain tannin and saponin with medicinal properties.
The elders of the Malay and Peranakan communities use the seeds in treating fever. Seeds are also diuretic. Unripe fruits are eaten to stop purging and to treat mild diarrhoea. The Chinese use the bark to treat diarrhoea .
If you remember the man who was responsible for bringing rubber to Malaysia - Henry Ridley - he wrote in his book that Manilkara kauki timber was used in coffin making in Malaya.
The ciku tree has a huge canopy and therefore uses up a lot of garden space. And I will always remember my Grand Aunt (Mrs. JB Chong) having a good ciku tree in her garden. It was a good time for many of us in the late 60's because her daughter-in-law Aunty C S Chong or Aunty Meng Toh used to invite us kids to eat cikus and rambutans. She would slice the chilled cikus nicely and we would enjoy the fruit along with their excellent rambutans. (They also have one of the biggest home refrigerators in Sibu at that time.) I believe she must have blessed many of the Methodist Children's Home children too with her fruits.
Somehow you cannot forget your generous elders who have given you lots of things to eat in your younger days. Thus I remember Aunty Meng Toh for her generosity and kindness and the Chong Villa for its fruit trees. This special property has been sold to Datuk Hii Yii Peng and Datuk Wong Tuong Kuang. It forms a special island between Queensway (Jalan THO) and Rose Lane.