So I touched it. And promptly snatched my hand back. The thing felt ALIVE. Ew. Creepy.
Yitzchak told us that the "fruit" is called "Tapuach Sodom" which translates to Apple of Sodom. The moniker comes from its deceptive looks. The fruit appears to be an apple, but is empty except for the seedpod and a toxic fluid: nothing good can come from the fruit. All this hints at the deceptive nature of those who lived in the evil city of Sodom as depicted in the bible.
Yitzchak, told us that after the pod dried, the fibers attached to the seeds could be used as wicks for lighting the Chanukia, the Chanuka Menorah (candelabra). We thought the idea kind of dubious, but we were willing to see how things played out.
I couldn't help but ask Yitzchak about a seeming contradiction here: the plant is called Apple of Sodom because it is deceptive and nothing good can come of it, yet the fluffy fibers contained within the seedpod can be used for a holy purpose, for the lighting of the menora!
Yitzchak had a good answer at the ready: the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were burnt to the ground. The use of the plant mimics the sad end of those biblical cities.
I Googled the subject and discovered that Josephus mentions the plant in his writings and that it was found near Sodom. Its Latin name is Calotropis Procera. Marilyn Manson wrote a seriously creepy song called Apple of Sodom with the fade out line being: "I've got something you can never eat."
Yitzchak left the seedpod on a shelf in my kitchen next to our collection of cereal boxes. Every time someone took down a box of cereal, the darned seedpod fell and someone would have to PICK IT UP. It felt like touching a dead hand. Seriously creepy.
After a few days, it at last occurred to me that there was no law preventing me from moving the seedpod to a different home. I put it on the tray that holds my Shabbes candlesticks, atop my piano in the living room. By this time, it was clear that the seedpod had undergone a metamorphosis. The seeds were starting to loosen and the fibers were light and silky.
Tonight is the first night of Chanuka and so I told Yitzchak to have at the seedpod and see if he could make some wicks. He just finished up. They look just as good as the wicks I make from cotton every year. I can't wait to see how they burn.