I couldn’t resist after spotting them overhanging into my mum’s garden. The deep red clusters were irresistible.
“Bertha!” my mum called. “Bring a pole!” Within minutes, the lovely clusters were on the grass. Brushing off the black ants whose nests had been ruined by Bertha, they now made a beeline to escape… up her arms. Being a farmer, she made quick work of plucking the fruit and getting rid of the ants. Within minutes, the rambutans were in a plastic container in the kitchen.
“The ants are coming! Quick! Get down!” Hee shouted to me. I was below her and clambered down. She swung down immediately from branch to branch. The ants were the big, red ones and their bites stung. The black ants didn’t bite and their domain was the chiku tree then. But the red ants made their nests in the rambutan tree.
Safe from their reach under the tree, we tucked into our little harvest. The rambutans were the nicest in the neighbourhood. Everyone knew that the flesh did not cling to the seeds and they were actually slightly crunchy. Each time we harvested, five families benefitted and gladly so.
Thirty plus years on, there are no more fruit trees left. Our rambutan tree gave out its finest and most bountiful harvest the year my eldest brother got married, thirty plus years ago. That year, the rambutans were the sweetest ever. After that, there were no more rambutans or so few that we did not even consider it a yield. It had given its all in the year of the first wedding among us siblings. It felt like the tree was behaving like The Giving Tree. Subsequently, the old tree was chopped down, which I felt was a pity as it had become more than a tree and almost like a playmate through the years of adventures I, and my helper, had clambering up and down that tree, plucking rambutans. I never needed to buy rambutans then and have not bought any since as none ever came close to the taste of the ones we had.
Now, tucking into the fruit that we had helped ourselves to, the flesh too did not cling to the seed and it was also a little crunchy. An offspring of the old tree? Perhaps.