from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A tendril-bearing annual Old World vine (Momordica balsamina) grown as an ornamental for its yellow flowers and orange warty fruits that open at maturity to expose red-coated seeds.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. an East Indian plant (Momordica balsamina), of the gourd family, with red or orange-yellow cucumber-shaped fruit of the size of a walnut, used as a vulnerary, and in liniments and poultices.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An annual cucurbitaceous plant of tropical regions, Momordica Balsamina, bearing a small warty fruit of a red or orange color.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a tropical Old World flowering vine with red or orange warty fruit


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  • Shelves in Mrs Albright's sitting-room, where they were handy to get at, held alum, for canker sores; cocoa butter, for the chest; paregoric, for colic and diarrhoea; laudanum, for pain; balsam apples, for poultices; bismuth, for the bowels; magneeshy (carbonate of magnesium), a light, chalky substance, wrapped in blue paper, that was an antacid and a gentle laxative; and calomel and blue mass, regarded by women of Aunt Margery's generation as infallible regulators of the liver. . . . Your druggist may have heard of balsam apples, alias balsam pears, but unless he is an elderly man, he has probably never seen one. The poultice of today has no source so picturesque as the balsam apple, a warty, oblong West Indian fruit, tropical red or orange in colour. It was used for decoration, too, a hundred years ago and more, and looked nice on a window sill with love apples turning from green to red.

    —James Thurber, 1952, 'Daguerreotype of a Lady', in The Thurber Album

    July 10, 2008