The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Wed, 03/04/2009 4:05 PM
What would durian ("thorny fruit" in Indonesian) be without its thorns, or rambutan ("hairy fruit") be without its curls?
New names will be needed for the new varieties of fruit that will be released this year by the Mekarsari tourism park in Jonggol, West Java, the head of the park's special project development division said recently.
Reza Tirtawinata said Mekarsari researchers would soon give Jakartans and other visitors a chance to savor new kinds of fruits, such as durian without thorns, skinless jackfruit, round jackfruit, red mangosteens, small-seeded longans, and new varieties of guava and pineapple this year.
By July 2009, the fruit center will have released pineapples without the small sharp black seeds that can distract from the pleasure of eating the fruit, while thorn-free durians and hairless rambutans will be introduced in October 2009, he said.
The new fruits are the results of years of research, Reza added.
The 264-hectare park, located east of Jakarta, has a collection of 78 fruit families comprising 400 species and 1,700 varieties of fruits. The tourism park is also a fruit research and conservation center.
The fruit research center develops selected seeds of many kinds of tropical fruits, from the usual fare on fruit trays like dragon fruit, banana, pineapple, durian, to fruits from ancient times, like buni (Antidesma thwaitesianum), menteng (Bacaurea racemosa), kecapi (Sandoricum koetjape), bisbul (Diospyros blancoi), kepel (Stelechocarpus burahol) and many others.
"This conservation of fruits is based on a 1987 gubernatorial decree on rare plant cultivation," Reza said.
"The benefit of fruits does not always have to be from fresh fruit; people can also draw the benefits from processed fruit, such as fruit chips, or as ingredients in many kinds of medicines."
The fruit expert said, "For instance, let's take sirsak *soursop*. It has anticancer properties."
"The fruit can heal seven kinds of cancer. People might not need chemotherapy anymore."
He gave another example of the medicinal benefits of fruits.
"Mangosteen can function as contraception. Substances in the fruit can prevent pregnancy."
Mekarsari was established in 1992 by the Purna Bhakti Foundation, chaired at the time by Tien Soeharto, wife of the country's former president.
After the first lady passed away, the park was directed by the eldest daughter of the president, and then by the youngest daughter, Siti Hutami, who is now the president director of the company.
In late 1990s and early 2000s, the park went through several land dispute cases in which residents living within the park's territory - measuring 600 hectares, of which only 264 hectares are active - claimed they had not received the appropriate settlement.
Now the park, owned by the Soeharto family, enjoys high profit levels, with up to 1.6 million visitors last year, and 1.4 million in 2007.
Kusumo Tjahjanto, head of the business development division, said Mekarsari had plans to target 1.7 million visitors this year. One of the plans is to develop a water park billed as the biggest in the country. (iwp)