Thursday, March 24, 2011

Monkeying Around

She wanted me to make earrings out of the seeds, but as I stared at the cut fruit I couldn’t imagine wearing those almond-shaped monkey fruit seeds. Anushka, an 8th grader at Banani, was now staring expectantly at the opened fruit. We had come to the kitchen of the senior dorms after a brief bird walk. I had been teaching Anushka the names of a few of the birds: Blue Waxbills and indigobirds, wagtails and whydahs. She had picked this fruit off the ground, trying to convince me that we should open it and see what’s inside. Her curiosity reminded me of me. Secretly, I wanted to know what was inside too.

I didn’t know how to make earrings anyways, much less have the tools for it. But as I held the two halves of rotten smelling fruit in my hand, it dawned on me that I could scrape out the fruit, leaving the hard shell like a bowl which could then be painted. I had been keeping my eye out for some sort of arts and crafts project to do with my dorm, and this was a place to start.

Let me tell you about monkey fruit. They are smooth and circular and green, and very hard to pick off trees. It takes them a long time to ripen and fall on the ground, and even then they can break or rot or are taken by the monkeys, who have long sharp teeth capable of breaking the thick woody shell which protects the fruit. Once the shell is opened, you will find fleshy yellow to brown fruit with an outer layer of meaty skin and almond-like seeds. You can’t open it with a kitchen knife. You could open it by smashing it on the ground, but that would break the shell, which was the only part I really wanted. So Anushka and I had taken the fruit to the workshop where a staff member ran the fruit through a table saw, cutting it neatly in half (fruit juice flying everywhere).

I took my idea to some of the other service youth and we decided to invent a contraption for picking more monkey fruit. Using a broken broomstick handle, we cut a notch around the top and secured a noose-shaped wire to it. Using our invention, we could loop the noose around the highest of monkey fruits and with a mighty tug, bring them down to the ground. After a morning of monkeying around, we returned with 19 fruits, which will become bowls and maracas/shakers for arts and crafts projects. I’ll let you know how they turn out….

Two of the youth with our monkey fruit picker

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