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In celebration of fruits

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

by Lye Tuck-Po
16 September 2023

It's the Batek's fruit season right now. There are innumerable species of fruits known and harvested by the Batek, and which they eagerly look forward to. The fruit season is the most anticipated time of the year.
This is from my fieldnotes (1996):
The start of my fieldwork coincided with the start of the 1995 fruit season. I could not help but notice how pervasive the talk about fruits was. Everyday, people discussed one or more of the following:
  • what’s ripe

  • what fruits might be ripe

  • where one had seen a particular fruit

  • what stage of ripening that fruit might be in

  • what fruits are not yet ripe but will be soon, and when that might be

  • organising a work party to go collect fruits

  • encouraging a camp-mate to join in collecting fruits

  • where one could move camp in anticipation of fruits in that location

  • reporting to others where one had seen fruits, in what condition

  • discussing how best to harvest particular fruit

Such talk receded as time went on and the season came to an end. . .Talk started up again in January. . .I had noticed (had also been told) that the flowers were blooming. Indeed, as my photos show, at that time of the year the women were eagerly collecting flowers for bodily decoration. I was swapping news with Sǝtsɛt and he said, yes, this flowering season looks very promising. Many flowers had come out. In fact, he had noticed that the blossoms of some seasonal fruits were emerging. He mentioned one particular fruit—tawɛs. taʔSudep interrupted: “Tawɛs occurs already?” Sǝtsɛt said yes, he had seen it that day or just recently. So there was anticipation in the air. The air was also festive because in the Tembeling campsites, there were a number of girls and young women who oohed and aahed over the flowers and often went out collecting them. By the time I rejoined the Kechau group in March, the conversation had moved on to thinking about when the fruit season was coming and how big this one’s going to be. Mixed in with excitement at the prospect of a big season (because so many flowers had bloomed) was discomfort at the rain. And wondering if the rain will spoil it. In April ʔeyPalik and ʔeyHamɨʔ were saying the fruit season would be late this year. Whenever it rained through the day and evening, ʔeyHamɨʔ would wonder aloud what was going on, why is there so much rain, will this spoil the crop?
Fruit trees are markers of land, history, time, resource management units, and identity. They add diversity to resources. They are important for, & therefore attract animals (like the gibbons).
Strictly speaking, there are fruits all year round. But many of these are like snacks for children. They are more useful as food for animals like the gibbons.
The fruits that Batek like are the seasonal ones that come into season around July - October. All recognised fruits have names, including the ones that are eaten only by animals. Every year the Batek monitor the plants to check whether there will be a season, but some years are pretty terrible. For example, last year (2022) there were no fruits. I’m guessing botanists would classify some of these as semi-domesticated species—they grow naturally in the forest and are not obviously cultivated or managed, but spatial distributions suggest that demography is affected by harvesting practices.
To celebrate, here are some photos of fruits that I've taken in the past.
baniŋ, a forest ginger. Photo taken in 2014
baniŋ, a forest ginger. Photo taken in 2014
tampuy (Baccaurea griffithii). Photo from 1996
tampuy (Baccaurea griffithii). Photo from 1996
ʔɨʔəʔ̃, a forest rambutan. Photo taken in 2014
ʔɨʔəʔ̃, a forest rambutan. Photo taken in 2014
Dɨrian haliʔ, a “wild” durian. Photo taken in 2014
Dɨrian haliʔ, a “wild” durian. Photo taken in 2014

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Sep 16, 2023

That "wild" durian is some piece of work...alien from outer space, infant stage!

Sep 16, 2023
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