What I Saw

28 Apr 2023

In 1599, another traveller from Utrecht, Ioannes Cotovicus, came to the island and approaching Limassol he commented:

In 1599, another traveller from Utrecht, Ioannes Cotovicus, came to the island and approaching Limassol he commented:

You may see along the shore huge heaps of carobs, piled up like hills, with which at times whole ships are loaded. Their great abundance makes them very cheap, and they are even given to animals, which fatten readily on such pleasant food. With these also, as the vulgar belief, the prodigal son of the Gospels would fain have filled his belly, and no man gave unto him. Melons, pumpkins and gourds grow in great abundance, and the choicest bananas of exquisite flavour.

The banana or musa is a tree, or rather a shrub, whose fruit is also called musa or musi, half as tall again as a man, with a green trunk and a wide stretching crown of leaves, which spread out like fingers, and are so long that they generally surpass the height of a man standing upright, and so broad that a single leaf will give one ample cover.

Some think that the ancients used to dry them and use them instead of the papyrus, for they are ribbed from top to bottom with lines, perfectly straight and exactly spaced, just as to-day parchment is ruled in Italy. The stalks are cut down every year, or if the plant dries up new shoots spring up from below. Each stalk bears fruit only once, but on each branch, there are several, ten, twenty or more. Each fruit is as large as an egg and covered with a husk or thick skin, yellowish like that of a fig. It is rather like a rose in smell, and cucumber in shape: they are green at first, but gradually as they ripen, they become of saffron or orange-yellow.

They are very sweet and pleasant to the taste, but harmful to the stomach: they fill the caverns of the brains with their fumes, are cloying, and decay rapidly; so it is only people of the poorest class who use them for food. To preserve them for any time they must be picked unripe, and buried in the sand, then they are hung up in bedrooms, or exposed to the sun, and they ripen. There are people who call them the apples of Paradise, and think them to be the same which our first father Adam ate, and so transgressed the commandment of God. There is this indeed about the fruit which I think worthy of note, or even marvellous, that if you cut it into little disks, you will see in each, veins which form on either side the image of the Crucified.

The 'What I saw...' series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus) and the Active Citizens Fund.

Discover More