I like to think of myself as a responsible adult who sees the world through a child’s eye. People tease me for being easily excitable and having the curiosity of a cat. Well, this cat almost died one time, and I’m here to regale the cautionary tale.
In January of 2017, Sam and I traveled to Martinique with my sister and her husband. My brother in law, David, and I woke up before the others and we walked along the beach to town for croissants and breakfast fixings. If you don’t know, Martinique is located in the Caribbean but is actually an insular region of France – with the pastries to boot!
On the way to town I saw what appeared to be apple trees. To me, they looked exactly like apples and I grew up on an apple orchard. Well, I didn’t grow up on an orchard but I’ve been to the produce section at Trader Joe’s and these looked like apples!
As this was pre-croissants, the walk stirred up my appetite. So, yes, I picked one of the delicious-looking apples. I took a bite and it tasted…unusual, if a bit unripe. So I spit it out, and we continued our stroll to town. In what I assumed was completely unrelated, my throat began to burn a little. The rest of the walk to the bakery was punctuated by me stopping to gargle and spit water. Surely nothing to worry about, right? Probably just the humidity.
By the time we were in town, I was dramatically (reasonably!) gargling liters of water and spitting them onto the street, much to the disgust of the French islanders. When I got home, I looked up “green apple Martinique” and Google shot back an embarrassing number of results about la manzana de la muerte or “little apple of death,” which appeared on the list of “9 most dangerous plants in the world.” My bad.
This tree is no joke. Not only can the apple itself cause burning, indigestion, and death, the tree itself is also dangerous. If you stand under its branches while it’s raining, the rain becomes acidic and burns your skin. Think burning it down will do the job? Well, the smoke from the wood can cause you to go blind. I assume that local hotels warn tourists of this tree, but we were staying at a friend’s home and I guess no one thought to warn us about such an obvious danger.
I upped my water intake and took 3 Tums and 2 Benadryl. I thought the liquids would subdue the effects but they progressed anyway. The real mistake was blowing my nose, which generated burning throughout my entire nasal cavity. The mucous that came in contact with the skin under my nose contained enough toxins to burn the area of skin where a mustache usually is. So, for about 12 hours I walked around with a burning nose and throat looking like I used lava-wax to remove my mustache. Luckily, I think the medicines worked well to combat the other toxins in my digestive system (i.e., no diarrhea), but if you ever find yourself in this situation, the literature suggests seeking medical attention.
I’m writing this to spare you. Spare you the shame of your friends and family never letting you live down your decision to eat strange fruit and almost dying, (but more importantly, almost ruining the family vacation.)