One of the fashionable colors of Spring 2011, Pantone suggests, will be the company’s own 18-4039, otherwise known as Blue Curacao. (via Intlxpatr) According to Pantone’s press release, the color “pays homage to the 2010 Color of the Year, Turquoise” and “evokes thoughts of tropical destinations”.

The blue and the tropic destination are nearly synonymous. Blue Curaçao is a spirit, a tongue-stainingly blue drink whose vivid color belies a more gentle citrus flavor. The drink itself comes from the Caribbean, known for its turquoise waters and pleasant beaches. It is made from the bitter citrus fruit called curaçao. The fruit is a descendent of the Seville orange, beloved of British marmalades. It grew even more bitter in the thin soil of the island to which it was transplanted by its Spanish immigrants.

That island is in the Caribbean, and goes by the same name as the fruit. Both drink and fruit are named after the island, although the origin of the island’s name is not known to the authors of the OED. It is regularly mispelled as curaçoa in English, as evidenced by the earliest uses of it which the OED records. (1810 R. J. Thornton Family Herbal 658 “The unripe fruit dried, are called Curaçoa oranges.”; 1813 T. Moore Twopenny Post Bag (L.), “And it pleased me to think at a house that you know Were such good mutton cutlets and strong curaçoa.”) The OED consciously the issue of whether the drink is named is named after the island or the fruit.

Whoever last edited the Wiktionary entry for it proposes it is a Dutch word, from the Portuguese curação, a restorative, or a cure. It’s plausible, thought I would love to see more evidence for it.

The island itself is where my interest in the word began, thanks to a little snippet in The Economist last month. That little announcement said that Curaçao the island was no longer part of the Netherlands Antilles: it, along with San Maarten, had become a nation in its own right on the 10th of October. It’s a new nation-state, with vivid blues, oranges, and a liquor to be its ambassadors.


Sometimes, I will learn a new word or concept and then see it everywhere. “Jostaberry” hasn’t been like that. Attuned, I looked out for it all over Taste of London and grocery shopping this week, but to no avail. (To be fair, none of these places sold aniseed either, which I had thought a staple spice.)

Jostaberries made no appearance because their commercial cultivation is, worldwide, negligible. The only places I have located which sell related products are things like jostaberry wine or jam on a few farms in Canada and the U.S. Jostaberries must be more widely cultivated than they used to be, however, a growing interest in the thirty-three years since hybridization created them.

The jostaberry is a hybrid between the gooseberry and the blackcurrant, plump, deep ruby-purple oblong spheroids which grow more like gooseberries but without the thorns, and taste sweeter, more like black currants. (Photo) Their North American relatives the Worcesterberry – I am not making this up – tastes more like a gooseberry, apparently. (See? You can mail-order them in the U.S.)

Developed over the course of the mid-twentieth century in Germany, the jostaberry was commercially released by the Max Plank Institute in Cologne in 1977. The institute continued to work on refining the hybrid. I note, as evidence of this, a 2000 article in Vol. 538 of the Acta Horticulturae entitled, “Progress in breeding Ribes X Nidigrolaria Jostaberries adapted to mechanical harvesting”. The “Josta” in the name comes from a verbal fusion of the German words for blackcurrant and gooseberry, respectively, “Johannisbeere” and “Stachelbeere”.

Their existence arrived in my life fully-formed. In the current issue of Olive (July 2010), an article on “British Fruit” helpfully notes that Jostaberries are in season in Britain in June through September, as if all readers of the magazine might nod to themselves and say, “Ah yes. I wondered when my local shops might be stocking jostaberries”.

Olive‘s advice is only helpful if one can figure out how to track them down. I could grow them myself, but I’ve read that it can be a good four-or-so years before they bear reliable fruit. I would really love to try some sooner than that. In theory I can: they are, after all, in season right now.


For all the hunting in the blockbuster movie Avatar, there isn’t a lot of eating. There isn’t a lot of agriculture either. Indeed, the only formal cultivation of native crops seems to be done by the humans, next to their base. If the native people, the Na’vi, are cultivating anything, it isn’t within several miles of their home.

There’s one major exception to the lack of food in this film, and it’s early on. The main character, Jake Sully, tests out his new native body for the first time, his avatar. Delighting in his functional legs, he breaks free of his hospital bed and runs out, across the base, and into cultivated native crops. There, another character tests his reflexes by tossing him a native fruit. If I remember correctly, the fruit is purple, laced with green, clearly marked as alien.

Sully catches it and, assuming it to be edible, bites into the juicy fruit and grins. Is it delight in the new taste experience, or the thrill of having command of his new body? How can taste experiences even be the same, when the body is almost entirely that of an alien species?

The fruit he catches is a “kxener”. (The plural is “kener”.) Kxener is one of two Na’vi fruit-words in the publicly-available vocabulary lists compiled from books which supplement the movie. The other is “kì’ong”. I can’t tell you what it refers to since I don’t have a copy of Avatar: The Field Guide to Pandora, but that there are only two fruit-or-vegetable words is telling of how little the non-meat edibles were fleshed out on the planet Pandora.

The Na’vi language, of which these two fruit-or-vegetable words are a part, was designed for the movie by linguist Paul Frommer. Since no one speaks it fluently, it’s technically an extinct language, although it already has more people interested in it than other dying languages, such as the remaining ten speakers of S’aoch in Cambodia. I’m not helping the disparity with this entry, however useful it is as another example of how hard it is to build up richly-textured artificial worlds.


This weekend, my thing-a-day calendar told me about an unfamiliar fruit. “Cultivation of the tropical fruit noni is the most important industry on the French Polynesian island of Maupiti”, explained the Island-themed calendar.

What was news to me is a multi-million dollar industry to other people. Maupiti’s poplation of c. 1200 people is only a small proportion of the world’s noni-cultivators. The fruit, also known as the Indian mulberry, morinda (after its Latin name), canary wood, or cheese fruit (!) is grown from India to Hawaii.

Early transliterations of it wrote the word as “none”, which is more entertaining, if less intuitive for correct pronunciation. See, for example, J. Macrae, Journal. 13 May 1825 in With Lord Byron at Sandwich Islands (1922). 26 “They also cultivate a plant which they name None, for the sake of its fruit, which yields their favorite yellow dye for the tapa cloths.” Tapa cloth is made from the bark of the paper mulberry.

The internet, full of cheerleading for its disputed health benefits, tells me that it’s a trendy fruit – or at least, it was in 2007 when a glut of sites and commentary on it were posted. Search for the fruit by name and you’ll find dozens of them, if you’re interested in what it supposedly accomplishes, from curing cancer to colds.

In any event, newly-sensitized to its existence, I now expect to see noni products everywhere in trendy health food shops. It’s a pity that descriptions of it don’t make it sound more appealing. At least its smell is far worse than its taste.

P. S. My favorite annual fundraiser, which supports the UN World Food Program, is now on, from today until December 25th. It’s a raffle full of amazing and varied food-related prizes, with each ticket going towards a specific prize so you won’t win anything you don’t want or can’t have realistically shipped. More details on Menu for Hope are available from its organizer at Chez Pim.


The lanepi is a bright red, round fruit with leaves or a crown sprouting vigorously from its top. Is it large? Is it small? Is it tasty? Is it poisonous? Unless its creators made those decisions, there is even less to know about lanepi than there is to know about the odorra pod.

The lanepi is one of a number fruits invented for the purpose of studying how language evolves with use. It’s part of a small, invented language which is deals entirely with discussions of these fruits – lanepi, mola, neluka, and kapihu. The “alien language” project, run by the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, Department of Linguistics and English Language, at the University of Edinburgh, is conceived with Darwinism as its model. Specifically, it addresses how language changes when passed from one user to another and so on.

The impetus to normalize unknown words and contextualize them in the known is demonstrated by a post on the project at The Lousy Linguist. Chris, the blogger there, in a post entitled “Martian Fruit“, imagines these fruits in use: “some yummy neluka pie, fresh kapihu, or baked lanepi with cinnamon” or a “a stiff vodka & mola juice cocktail .” I suspect he was predisposed to think of them as Martian thanks to that “alien” label on the language in the project.

Does lanepi even go with cinnamon? There’s no way of knowing – unless the inventors of the fruit and its language decide to tell us more about it.

My thanks to Steve of Glossographia for bringing the story (and thus the fruit) to my attention in the first place.

*© S. Worthen 2009