© Chad Clark 5-8-01
I've found the centre of fruit as late
Is the centre of truth today
Cut the apple in two
Oh I pray it isn't true
I've got something you can never eat
Thus sings Marilyn Manson in his song "Apple of Sodom", dedicated to the actress Fiona Apple. He sounds a little spurned. Obviously didnt score there. Thats the trouble with the Apple of Sodom it promises all but just doesnt come through. Theoretically put on earth to punish the inhabitants of the twin towns of Sodom and Gomorrah and tease the children of Israel, this fruit has all the appearances of a juicy little apple. When plucked from the branch, however, it explodes like a puff ball and turns to dust in your hand.
The story of Solamum Sodomaeum started back in the desolated area at the southern end of the Dead Sea in Israel, where the notoriously sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were thought to exist. This area of the Great Rift Valley was once a fertile area extending from the Jordan River valley in Israel all the way to the Zambezi River system in East Africa. During the Middle Bronze Age, fresh water flowed into the Dead Sea in sufficient quantities to sustain agriculture and thus was an ideal spot for five biblical cities to flourish until around 2000 BC, when a catastrophic earthquake devastated the area and four of the five cities therein. The petroleum and gases existing underground in this region would have contributed to the imagery of the fire and brimstone which destroyed Admah, Zeboiim, Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness and wholehearted pursuit of and dedication to pleasures of the flesh. Apparently God spared the fifth city of Zoar to which his innocent servant Lot, nephew of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham, had fled to escape from all this debauchery.These towns are now probably covered by the shallow waters south of Al-Lisan, a peninsula at the southern end of the Dead Sea, and their epitath was a gigantic tree left growing in their place. This tree bore a fruit which, when picked, would turn to smoke and ashes in the hand. This was a legacy from God of His eternal displeasure with those who would succumb to such dire physical temptations.
In fact, the Apple of Sodom belongs to the same family as the potato and tomato. A native of South Africa, the tree is a woody perennial which forms dense thickets. It usually grows up to two metres high, unless at the gates of Sodom and Gomorrah of course, and has greenish purple stems containing a poisonous bitter milky fluid. The oval leaves are up to 15cm long and both stem and leaves are covered in the same type of curved spikes.
Their purple flowers are 2 cm across and appear in late spring with five petals arranged in a star shape around a yellow centre. The round tomato like fruit is 3 cm across, green at first, turning yellow and finally black when it ripens. It contains a noxious gas and hundreds of round, flattened, light brown feathered seeds. These seeds fall close to the parent plant and can lay dormant for many years. Eventually theyre carried by the wind or get stuck in the coats of animals for dispersal. The fibre of these feathered seeds can be spun into a very fine silk for decoration, or otherwise a few million feathers can used as a stuffing for pillows.
About the only thing attracted to the Sodom Apple, apart from erring Israelites, are blue spiders and our old friend the scorpion who savagely tear at the stem and leaves in some kind of manic retribution. Since it doesnt do them any good, nobody knows why they attack it in such a way. Perhaps, like Marilyn, they were spurned too.