Oman’s varied landscape made it possible for different fruit trees to thrive in different parts of the country. These fruit trees are not only eaten raw but are also often used for cooking and medicine.
Of the many different fruits grown in Oman, ‘Pimper’ or Gau is one of the local favourites that is yet to grow in popularity fully.
Known scientifically as Cordia myxa, the fruit tree is also called Assyrian plum, lasura, laveda and pidar tracing its origin back in Asia. Still, it has then spread all over the world including Oman.
It is also called ‘al Gouj’ in Bahrain, and it is from a species of flowering plant in the borage family, Boraginaceae.
The pimper tree is called by this name because its ripe fruits make a strong sound when they hit the ground. Its fruits are of a single-core and sweet in taste, somewhat similar in shape to the figs and contain a gelatinous substance that is usually used to treat some diseases.
According to blogger Craig Hepworth who manages the blog page Florida Fruit Geek, “the fruit has two distinct layers of flesh, an outer layer just under the skin and an inner jelly-like layer surrounding the seed. The outer flesh has a soft, melting texture, almost the consistency of mango, with wonderful sweet flavours of cherry, watermelon and bubblegum. In the inner layer of flesh around the seed, things get even more flavourful — and also kind of strange.”
He added, “In that layer, the sweetness and flavour become more intense, like a cherry-watermelon candy. But the texture of that inner layer is like no other fruit I’ve ever eaten. It’s jelly, but with a kind of thick, glue-like stickiness. Despite the odd texture, that flesh is so tasty I found myself sucking every last bit of it off the tiny, flattened seed.
Hepworth noted that after eating the fruit, one is left with the “twin sensations of stickiness... and a bit of coating on my tongue that both lasted a couple of minutes before they went away. “
While the pimper flower which is usually white blooms from March to April, the fruit usually doesn’t appear until July and August. The fruit starts pale brown or even pink but darkens as it ripens.
Pimper is one of the few fruit trees which survives temperatures frequently rising to 49°C. It can also tolerate sandy and even high PH soil without the need for fertiliser.
Sitting under the canopy of the Pimper tree is relaxing. More than its strange and memorable taste, it has been used by different Omani families to treat indigestion including cough.
While pimper is able to withstand the challenging climate of Oman, some Omanis noted that they feel its count is going down as there is a lack of interest in cultivating the plants unlike places like Kuwait and Bahrain.
Omanis used pimper fruits in different ways to make different things such as jams, healthy juice as well as pickles. Additionally, they used to dry the leaves of the fruit and use them as Pimper vegetable seasoning.
Many years ago, the people of Al Mudhaibi used to cultivate pimper but eventually, they stopped planting it contributing to its demise as a good source of unusual but great flavour.