TARANAKI RHODODENDRON FESTIVAL October 30 – November 2, 2009
This plant is a plant of my youth. When I went to live in Singapore as a faculty wife in NTU, the Nanyang Technological University, we were very lucky we were given residences on campus, and NTU was located on what was once a jungle. There were still a jungle next to the campus. I has a blast from the past when I saw some of the plants I had seen and used when I was a child growing up in Borneo, especially with my Grand Dad in the village.
This plant is called by the white man as the Singapore Rhododendron. I LOL to myself. In the mid 1950s, Dad had a scholarship to study in London, Mum took us from Sibu town to live in the village at Lanang Road. There were no dairies, 7/11 convenient shop, and no hawker to sell us tit bits. We made our own tit bits from raiding Grand Dad's pineapple garden to dipping in his soya bean paste while it was being made.
As for this Singapore Rhododendron, my older siblings found that the black fruits of the Rhododendron was sweet. It had a funny gluey sweetness. You won't eat it today, but then, we didn't have much choice. We also peeled off the bark of the tiny twigs and ate them. The taste was a little sour. Mum didn't have to be Agatha Christie to find out we ate the fruit. You see, the dark fruits stained our lips and teeth. She would scream," You native kids, what if you kids died from the poisonous herbs? How am I going to explain to your Dad in London?"
The Malays treat it as a medicinal plant.