Water apples, also known as watery rose apples or bell fruits, are a tropical fruit that offers a sweet flavor and impressive health benefits. In this in-depth guide, we will cover everything you need to know about water apples, from their plant description, nutritional content, taste profiles, ways to eat them, and most importantly, all the evidence-based health benefits they provide.
What are Water Apples?
Water apples go by many names like watery rose apples, bell fruits, jambu air, jambu bol, java apple, samba and jambus. They belong to the Syzygium genus and Myrtaceae plant family, which also includes guavas, cloves, and allspice.
Water apples are a fruit native to Southeast Asia and grow abundantly in areas like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other tropical countries. The evergreen water apple tree can grow over 30 feet tall in the wild. It has broad leaves and fragrant pink or white flowers that later develop into apple-shaped water fruit.
Once ripe, the bell-shaped water apple is around 5-8 centimeters wide. Their skin has a light pink-purple hue with a waxy, smooth texture. Inside, the flesh is translucent, white and crispy, with a central hollow core holding small edible seeds.
Water apples have a mild, sweet, and refreshing taste, described as a mix between an apple, pear, and watermelon. They have a high water content, making them juicy and crunchy.
Nutrition Facts and Vitamins
Water apples are an excellent source of hydration and are packed with beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
In a 100-gram serving, water apples contain:
· Calories: 68
· Water: 90%
· Carbs: 17g
· Protein: 0.6g
· Fiber: 3g
· Fat: 0.3g
Key vitamins and minerals found in water apples include:
· Vitamin C – A 100g serving contains over 88% of your daily Vitamin C needs. This potent antioxidant boosts immunity and aids collagen formation.
· Potassium – With 171mg per 100g serving, water apples provide potassium needed for heart health, fluid balance, and muscle function.
· Vitamin A – Water apples have modest vitamin A levels that promote good vision and cell growth.
· Folate – Also known as vitamin B9, folate is essential for DNA synthesis and new cell production.
· Calcium – Required for bone health and muscle contractions. Water apples provide calcium, though not in high amounts.
Along with vitamins, water apples contain polyphenols and flavonoids like quercetin, anthocyanins, tannins and ellagic acid that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
The Unique Taste and Texture
Water apples have juicy, crunchy flesh with a subtly sweet and slightly rose-flavoured taste. Their high water content (90%) gives them a thirst-quenching, cool effect when bitten into.
Most describe the water apple taste as a mix of:
· Apple – for the mildly sweet flavour
· Pear – for the grainy, crunchy texture
· Watermelon – for the thirst-quenching juiciness
· Rose – for the floral aroma and hints of rose taste
The translucent white flesh is crispy with a good amount of fiber. The texture remains consistently juicy and crunchy when raw. Water apples tend to be less sour compared to regular apples. The sweetness is understated, making them easy and refreshing to snack on.
Inside the hollow core, small, hard black seeds can be eaten or spat out. The edible seeds have a bitter, astringent taste when chewed.
While juicy and flavorful when fresh, water apples lose their appeal when cooked. The heat diminishes their delicate flavour. They are best enjoyed raw and fresh off the tree.
Ways to Eat Water Apples
Water apples are extremely versatile and can be enjoyed in both savoury and sweet preparations. Here are some of the most popular ways to eat them:
· Raw as a snack, sliced or whole with skin on
· In fruit salads along with papaya, berries, melon, apple
· Juiced fresh into a hydrating fruit drink
· Infused in water to make rose apple water
· Frozen into popsicles for a cooling summer treat
· Diced in salsas to balance heat with sweetness
· Baked into tarts, galettes, and pies
· Simmered into jam, compote, or sauce
· Pickled and fermented into vinegar
· Pureed into smoothies, lassis, or creamy desserts
· Used to flavour yogurts, oats, chia puddings, and ice cream
· Candied and crystallized into confections
· Muddled in cocktails and mocktails
With their mild sweet-tart flavour, water apples pair well with spices like cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cardamom, and vanilla. Herbs like mint, basil, and rosemary also complement them.
They can be used in both Asian and Western cuisine, from Thai salads, salsa, and chutneys to apple pies and crumbles. Their versatility makes water apples easy to incorporate into your daily diet.
Health Benefits and Medical Uses
Water apples provide an array of science-backed health benefits ranging from immunity boosts to blood sugar control and improved digestion. Their medicinal uses in Ayurveda and Siddha medicine also showcase their therapeutic properties.
Rich in Antioxidants
Water apples contain high levels of polyphenols, including flavonoids like quercetin, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and tannins, that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Antioxidants help counter oxidative stress caused by free radicals that damage cells and contribute to disease. Compounds like ellagic acid also have anticancer effects.
With 88% of your daily Vitamin C needs per 100 grams, water apples are exceptional sources of immune-enhancing vitamin C.
Vitamin C stimulates white blood cell production, fortifies your immune response, and helps rapidly heal wounds and injuries.
The high fibre content in water apples promotes good digestion and gut health. Fiber normalizes bowel movements, reduces constipation, and improves nutrient absorption.
Studies indicate water apple extracts help inhibit enzymes that break down carbohydrates, thereby slowing sugar absorption and managing blood glucose levels.
The fibre in water apples also helps regulate insulin response and sugar absorption. It helps prevent unhealthy spikes and crashes in diabetes patients.
Supports Heart Health
Water apples provide potassium that acts as a vasodilator, relaxing blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. The flavonoids also reduce inflammation in arteries and vessels.
Rich in vitamin A and antioxidants like zeaxanthin, water apples help combat oxidative damage that impairs vision and leads to macular degeneration.
Boosts Collagen Formation
Vitamin C in watered apples plays a key role in collagen production, which maintains youthful, glowing skin and strong connective tissues throughout the body.
Promotes Weight Loss
The high fibre and water content in water apples provide satiety that curbs hunger pangs and unhealthy cravings. Fiber also facilitates weight loss.
Traditional Medicinal Uses
In Ayurveda and Siddha medicine, water apple roots, barks, and fruits are used for biliousness, vomiting, diarrhea, dysentery, abdominal pain, fever, and intestinal worms.
The bark has astringent properties, while the leaves are used to treat rheumatism and neuralgia pain. Water apples are considered cooling and beneficial for pitta dosha.
How to Select and Store Water Apples
Picking perfectly ripe freshwater apples is key to enjoying their peak flavour. Here are some tips:
· Look for apples with smooth, shiny skin without blemishes
· Lighter pinkish-purple hue indicates ripeness
· Avoid bruised or punctured skin
· Choose heavy fruits that indicate juiciness
· Press gently – ripe water apples give slightly but shouldn’t be mushy
· Peak ripeness in 2 – 4 days at room temperature
· Once ripe, store refrigerated in an air-tight container
· Will keep fresh for one week in the refrigerator
· Freeze diced cubes to use long-term
While the skin is edible, you can peel water apples if preferred. Cut out the stem, make a slit in the skin, and peel away.
Water Apples: A Refreshing, Nutritious Fruit
In conclusion, water apples are a phenomenal tropical fruit that offers a sweet rose-apple flavour, juicy crunchiness, and abundant nutrients. With benefits ranging from immunity and digestion support to blood sugar and heart health, water apples deserve a spot in your daily diet. Their versatility allows for many culinary uses, from salads to desserts. Look for peak-season water apples in the summer and fall to enjoy their refreshing magic.