By Tan It Koon
After so many years, I was glad to revisit the McRitchie Reservoir one morning last week. At the top of a slope, a tree immediately attracted my attention. It has many attractive, large, bright scarlet colour “flowers” hanging on its branches. I have never seen such “flowers.” On closer look, however, the thick “flower petals” appear to be more like the outer coats of black colour seeds which have dropped on the grass-covered ground below. Can you recall seeing this plant and knowing its name from the photos I took that morning?
The plant has a scientific name, Sterculia monosperma. It is a deciduous tropical nut-bearing tree of the genus Sterculia. Its common name in Chinese: 蘋婆; pinyin: píngpó; in Thai: เกาลัดไทย), and is also known as Chinese chestnut, Thai chestnut, seven sisters’ fruit, and phoenix eye fruit.
The ripe nuts are edible. They may be eaten plain, roasted, boiled with water and salt, or used to prepare dishes, such as sauteed with chicken. In China, these nuts are one of the traditional foods of the Qixi Festival, the ‘night of the seven,’ also known as the ‘anniversary of the seventh sister’ (七姐誕). Qixi is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month. The pods containing the nuts have a striking red color when ripe, and the nuts are much darker —their husk or pericarps is almost black— and smaller than the familiar chestnuts of genus Castanea. The pellicle is brown and smooth, and the fruit is yellowish.
Please enjoy the videos which provide more information and show how the nuts may be cooked and eaten.
Dr. Tan It Koon 陈一军 博 士
Prior to retirement, Dr Tan It Koon was, among many appointments, Head of Clinical Biochemistry of SGH’s Dept of Pathology. He served on the Executive Board of the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and the WHO Expert Panel on Healthcare Laboratories. He received the Inaugural Award for Distinguished Contributions to Clinical Biochemistry of the Asian & Pacific Federation of Clinical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine, for which he was the Founding President.
On the artistic side, Dr Tan was the Deputy Chairman of the National Theatre Trust and Chairman of its Cultural Committee, looking after six music and dance affiliated groups. He was also Chairman for Grants and Scholarships of Spore Cultural Foundation, Member of the Ministry of Culture Committee for the “Music For Everyone” series of concerts, and Member of the Singapore Dance Theatre Board of Management. He was also President, Forum of Fine Arts and President, Southeast Asian Association of Art. Dr Tan has performed in solo, duet, two-pianos, and an orchestra in public concerts and radio/TV recording programmes.
Dr Tan received the National Day Awards, PBM and PPA, for his contribution to cultural and community development and excellence in public administration respectively.