Laurel Hanson ’23: Book VIII, Chapter III (Of the Tree Called Caimito and of Its Fruits)

Book VIII, Chapter III

Of the tree called caimito (star-apple), and of its fruits and differentiations, and of the new form or differentiated shape its leaf has from all other trees.

Translated by Laurel Hanson ’23

The caimito tree is recognizable throughout the world, even by those who have only seen it once, because it has almost-round leaves, one part of which is green and the other part of which appears as if it were dry or scorched. Therefore, even when it is among very dense foliage, it is recognizable and different from the rest. The tree bears a purple fruit that is longer than it is wide, such as is the length of a finger from joint to joint. Not as thick as one’s finger, though, but rather only a little more so than the shaft of a vulture’s feather. On the inside, it is milky-white and juicy. When eaten, the inside is like milk, but more viscous, and juicy and sticky. These trees on this island of Hispaniola and others bear this fruit, as I have described. On the Mainland, the fruit of the caimito is round and the size of a small toy ball or a little smaller. This is the difference that exists between this fruit here and the caimitos on the Mainland, as all other aspects of the tree, the leaf, and everything that has been described are the same. The fruit is healthy and easy to digest, and the plazas of Santo Domingo sell many while they last. The wood of this tree is strong and good for carving if it is cut when the moon is waning and left to cure for a few months. It should not be carved green, according to carpenters and the masters of that art. The leaves of this tree have one very unique property, which is that the part of them that appears dry (and is not) and tawny, is somewhat fuzzy, and anyone who makes a habit of using that part to scrub their teeth will clean them and leave them very white.

Image: Lithograph of the Chrysophyllum cainito by Pierre Joseph de Pannemaeker from l’Illustration Horticole published in Brussels in 1885.