The Mysterious Fruit
by Victoria Challancin
Last week I asked you if you recognized the fruit in the photo above, and many of you said "no" and asked me end the suspense. My husband and I found this fruit in our weekly Tianguis Organico, or Organic Market. It was completely new to me, though it was nestled among unusual fruits I did know, such as Jack Fruit, Zapote Negro, Guanabana, and Carambola (Star Fruit). Upon finding new produce, I immediately bought two to take home to try, because after all, once the vendor told me what it was, I got pretty excited. You see, for a few years now, this exotic fruit has been touted as a Superfood, with practically magical health benefits. I had great expectations.
Guanabanas, Noni, and Carambola or Star Fruit
What is this exotic specimen? Noni fruit. Noni fruit, beloved of health food fanatics, adored by whole food markets, touted by all and sundry on the internet and in magazines as being a modern cure-all for everything from cancer to HIV.
Those of you who live in or near East Asia, or have travelled there, know of Durian, the insanely popular, insanely stinky fruit so beloved in Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia. You will, no doubt, have seen the signs: "No Durian Eating Allowed" or "No Durian Permitted On Board the Plane." And even though I have eaten durian, I admit that I could never wrap myself around it and embrace it as my own. It is just stinky and unappealing to me. Sorry. There, I've said it. But Durian has nothing on Noni. Nothing at all.
As my husband and I patiently waited for it to turn pale yellow, an indication of ripeness, I began to envision it in smoothies and fruit salads, imagining smugly how we would reap the incredible health benefits and subsequently glow with newfound cellular renewal. But then I cut into it and got a whiff of the unbelievable scent of stinky blue cheese. Yes, strong, stinky cheese. And although I can remember sitting in my Italian Grandfather's lap as he fed me his beloved Limburger cheese, with me squealing at how foul it was, and begging for just one more teensy bite, I truly didn't come to love the flavor of strong cheese until I reached adulthood. And now, though I often gravitate to the strongest cheeses available, I simply don't want my fruit to smell like cheese (I want to EAT my fruit with cheese instead). And that, my friends, is what ripe noni fruit smells like: stinky cheese. And apparently, you can smell its pungent odor from about 5 meters away from the tree!
A Little Background on Noni
Member of the Coffee family of Rubiaceae
Other names: Great morinda, Indian mulberry, dog dumpling, beach mulberry, and cheese fruit
Malasia it is known as: Mengkuda
Soustheast Asia: Nhau
South Pacific (Samoa and Tonga): Nonu
Raratong and Tahiti: Nono
Marquesas Islands and Hawaii: Noni
As is often the case when doing research on the Internet, there can be some confusion and even misinformation. I have read what seem to be credible sources stating that Noni fruit is a native of the Hawaiian Islands of Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and Molokai, the Marquesas Islands, and Tahiti, which makes perfect sense to me as it flourishes all over Polynesia. I have also read in equally credible sources that it probably originated in Southeast Asia and/or India, even the north of India, and was later distributed throughout the Pacific islands by natural and man-made means (i.e. trade and travel). Wherever it originated, it now grows throughout SE Asia and is consumed as a food product and is widely used as medicine throughout the region. And, it has been discovered in the West, where it is being called a cure-all and a superfood.
Ripe and unripe noni (the lighter one is the ripe one)
I can't say that I am a fan now that I have tried it, but I am amazed at the reported benefits. Apparently it has been used for centuries for its health benefits. The following lists some of the benefits and uses I have found for Noni Fruit.
Health Benefits of Noni Fruit
- It has high nutritive value, power-packed with proteins, vitamins, and carbohydrates
- It has anti-cancer properties and anti-tumor properties, working at the cellular level
- It stimulates digestion and has laxative properties
- It is a powerful anti-inflammatory (great for joint pain)
- It has analgesic properties (morphine sulphate) which are useful in relieving chronic pains and headaches without any side effects
- It builds immunity due to its high concentration of antioxidants
- It suppresses parasitic attacks
- Helps reduce excess mucus, clear mucus blockage, and relieve season rhinitis
- Helps with recurrent respiratory infection and bronchial asthma
A Few More Interesting Facts about Noni Fruit:
- During WWII soldiers based in the Polynesian islands were taught by the native people to eat noni fruit to sustain their strength
- It was used by early Polynesians as an important food during times of famine
- Australian Aborigines ate the fruit raw with salt
- When ripe the fruit turns yellow and white, resembles a small breadfruit, and is about the size of a potato
- In the Philippines a jam is made of the fruit
- In Burma raw noni is cooked in curry
- Seeds can be roasted and eaten with salt
- Over-ripe Noni can induce vomiting
- Written documentation about the use of the fruit dates back to the late 1700s when Captain James Cook wrote about its use in Tahiti
- Traditionally, all parts of the plant were used: leaves (coughs, nausea, rheumatism, stomach ache), fruit (lumbago, asthma dysentery, toothache, stomach ulcers), fruit juice ( regulate menstrual flow), stem (jaundice, hypertension), seed (scalp insecticide, insect repellent), and flowers (sties)
- Modern uses of Noni include for ADD/ADHD, addictions, allergies, arthritis, asthma, brain problems, burns, cancer, cardiovascular conditions, infection, inflammation, jet lag, MS, muscle and joint pain, polio, sinus, and in veterinary medicine
- The bark can be scraped and pounded to form a yellow or red dye
- Roots and stems bark was typically used to treat inflammation
- Other conditions treated with noni include fevers, skin disease, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal upset, menstrual or urinary problems, diabetes, and venereal diseases
- It may smell horrible, but it is tasteless or even slightly sweet
- In Nigeria the juice and fruit is used to treat malaria, fever, jaundice, yellow fever and dysentery
Parting Shot: Angus