In January, in certain parts of the rainforest of the Ilha Grande, it smells predominantly of schnapps. At times the fragrance of a fine, exotic type of fruit wafts into your nostrils, at others it’s as if something has gone wrong during the distillation, and the aroma slips from sweet towards rotten. Now, it’s reminiscent of an experimental cocktail, then it’s like the remnants of alcohol left over from the night before, sometimes flambéed with schnapps and then rapidly vomited through the nostrils. You imagine that you are in god’s great distillery with its tavern annexe, where you are privy to alcohol being processed in an entire gamut of ways, from cultivated sips to brutal excess. This omnipresent liquorish aroma is thanks to the thousands of jackfruits lying around: fruits that are all at the peak of their ripeness and have fallen from the trees and are so large and heavy that one should not be found standing at the wrong place at the wrong moment. Once the fruit are lying around smashed on the forest floor, all types of insects and birds and other forest denizens begin to feast on its sweet meat, whether it is dried up or spoiled, or gleaming white or metallic grey or black. Where the fruits have not fallen down from the trees, it is merrily gobbled up by various little animals up in the branches. With astounding precision, beaks and claws make holes and cuts, rhombuses and triangles in the flesh of the fruit – as though they wish not to destroy the beauty of the fruit by tearing it apart in an unsystematic fashion. Few other fruit emit quite such a persistent odour – at least, we do not notice it being replicated in quite the same intensity in the smaller brothers and sisters of the jackfruit. And it apparently helps here, too, to vomit than to spill: in any case, Artocarpus heterophyllus has its origin in the Western Ghats of India – and, today, one must take good care in the Brazilian coastal forests not to be felled by the fruit.
First Publication: 28-6-2013