28 December 2007

Lessons from the Lanzones

Today, looking at all the fruits we received as gifts from friends, such as apples, pears, pomelos, dragon fruit, persimmon and grapes, I wondered why no one bothered to give out local fruits as gifts for Christmas. Even the pomelo was imported. Where were all the locally available fruit? To my knowledge, pears, apples and persimmon still do not grow in the tropical climate of the Philippines.

In my mind, I went through all our local fruits and the various ways we usually eat them at home:

- Mangosteen: We in our clan, for some reason, call this as "Mango-stan". My favorite fruit! Since I was a kid, I would feel that all that thick purple rind was such a waste for it is usually thrown away. Now we know of its natural curative properties, even for Cancer.

- Balimbing (Star fruit): As seen in the picture above, of a still unripe and green Balimbing, we still have a tree of this in Pasig. This is so good when it is ripe. Say no to the giant ones found in markets these days, they just don't have the same flavor. Say no to real-life political balimbings as well, hehe.

- Siniguelas (Spanish Plum): As we were growing up, our 'katiwala' in Binangonan would bring 'kaings' of these small fruit to our home from our farm. My mom prefers the slightly raw and crunchier fruit, I prefer the fully ripe, softer ones.

- Lanzones: You can't stop eating this once you've started. A word of advice though, don't eat it on an empty stomach, unless you're constipated. Major laxative! You can also smoke dried lanzones peels to drive away mosquitoes. No, you don't smoke it like a cigarette, you burn it and just allow it to smoke. Duh.

- Duhat (Java Plum): We had a huge tree of this in Binangonan. We would place them in a sealed container with a little rock salt and shake them vigorously, afterwhich, voila! Non-stop duhat eating. The salt hides the somewhat bitter taste while all the shaking tenderizes, and I swear, sweetens them. They make this into wine too, though I have never tried it.

- Kasuy (Cashew): I think I am allergic to the nuts, my tongue hurts for days after, but the fruits are wonderful! What is better are the young leaves of the tree. Eat them raw with some spicy, fried dish. It is bitter, but

- Pinya (Pineapple): I don't particularly like this fruit because I usually eat my fruits either first thing in the morning or right before meals, on an empty stomach, and this fruit always gives me major acid problems. I have only tried one variety of pinya that I ever liked, and that was at the Dole plantation, and it is for export only.

- Durian: Ah, the fruit you either hate or love. Well, I loooovvvve digging into them with my bare hands! I love its texture, its taste, everything about it, including its smell. Admittedly, I was impartial to this fruit, and even disapproved of its smell, that is until I tasted a fresh durian with my bare hands in Davao. Alas, the love affair commenced...

- Santol: There are sweet santol and there are sour santol. I, proudly state, that I have uses for both kinds. Unlike others who enjoy allowing the santol seed to swim gleefully in their mouths, I would rather leave some 'hacked' whole fruits in a jug of water overnight in the ref for a refreshing drink the following day. As for the sour fruits, which most people neglect because they are 'inedible', I discard the seeds, grate the inner part of the rind, ferment in salt for a few days, and cook with chilis and coconut milk for an appetizing entree. I'm serious!

- Kamias: As in the picture above, our Kamias tree grows next to our Bayabas tree, and if you look closely, can see the the fruits of the Bayabas in the background and the Kamias bunch in the foreground. My Lola used to make candies out of these Kamias fruits. As kids, we would also eat them as-is, with a pinch of MSG (Oooh, we didn't know they were bad then). Its sourness would really make our mouths water. Kamias is also wonderful as a souring agent for sinigang, provided it is done properly. I remember my lola instructing us to clean our hands with mashed-up Kamias fruits, as she often did. It was supposedly a good hand cleanser.

Bayabas (Guava) - Have you ever tried the local 'manibalang' guavas, the ones not as large as the imported varieties? Well, you should! I was mostly indoctrinated on the imported ones, which I found hard to eat with all the seeds and really, it wasn't all that tasty. On top of that, guava cooked in sinigang actually doesn't appeal to my sense of smell. That is, until I chanced upon one of the help in our Tagaytay farm meandering beneath a guava tree, muching the time away. I got curious and tried that small yellow-green orb of a fruit, and it was like..."where have you been all my life?". It has to be 'manibalang' or at that point in its maturity where it borders between being too crunchy and too soft, or just right....right? I started appreciating sinigang sa baybas as well...

- Langka (Jackfruit): Eaten ripe or... taken from the tree while still immature, chopped into bite size pieces and broiled in coconut milk. Ginataang Langka! "Kamansi" or Breadfruit is another fruit which tastes good prepared the same way as immature Langka. Try freezing ripe Langka so it stays longer. Then, when craving for some, just pull some from the freezer.

- Avocado: We have an avocado tree which we regularly take from, and anticipate all year round. The kids, wife and I love Avocado mashed with milk and sugar, then frozen. The leaves, we use for tea. I learned this from an old-timer I caught picking fresh leaves.

- Dalandan: Among all the citrus fruits, I love this the best. It is great eaten as it is, or juiced and mixed with pandan water. I swear, I can tell even while blindfolded, if the citrus scent is from a Dalandan, Pomelo, Calamansi or Orange. Its scent is definitely unique and easy on my palate --- not too tangy, not too sour.

- Kaimito: Has everyone tried Kaimito? Chilled? As is? I really like this fruit, I can gobble up several pieces at a sitting. The tree in our backyard is testament to our prolific want of the fruit. You can still see wooden stairs, sungkit and nets leaning against our trees.

And there are others: tiyesa, marang, mabolo (which I still need to try) and all the rest of the clan... I love you all!

Considering that the mango and watermelon are probably out of season, I just tried imagining how good and juicy they tasted when they were still around during this past year.

I enjoy discovering new fruit varieties, specially the ones endemic to a certain location. I once met a certain Dr. Coronel who was an expert in Philippine trees and fruits. He operates a nursery in Los Banos. It was there that I formulated the concept that what is good for you to eat depends on what grows where you live and what is available at that point in time. Watermelons, for example, seem to do a good job of replenishing lost body fluids and minerals during the summer months, when they are naturally available.

Back in Subic Bay, there was this tree that bore fruits similar to a longan. Upon opening, you were greeted with a large seed with thin-paperlike sweet flesh covering it. That was the edible part. I saw the monkeys eating it, so I ate it too. I later learned of the tree's name, which escapes me now, and that it only bore fruit every five years. Lucky me, I thought.

I just noticed that my grnadmother's old cacao tree is packed with fruits. I was told that one could eat the flesh like a santol. I think I'll go and try some...

Yum....eaten just like Santol.

Oh, and the lesson from the Lanzones?

Not so long ago, when I learned that it took at least 15 to 20 years for a Lanzones seedling to bear fruit, I quickly remarked that it was not worth the wait to plant them. Even the economics probably wouldn't work out. I was then told, "It is not for us, but for our children. If everyone thought that way, we wouldn't be enjoying Lanzones right now."

Aha! I was dumbfounded. Barado! Guilty! Guilty!

(Topmost photo: Cacao/Cocoa Fruit; All photos taken from my Lola's backyard. Sorry, no picture of the Lanzones, we don't have a tree of it.)


squaretyre said...

cacao fruit? that is a revelation! i should try it some time. on avocado, the stain from the sap of its seed is indelible; when i was a kid, using a needle i'd "tattoo" nametags on my t-shirts with it. on your theory of "eating what you grow, because it's what your body needs" there is a corollary. like, when i was on assignment in saudi arabia i tried very hard to eat pinoy until it occurred to me that eating local was the only way to go. as with plants, so it is with people - if uprooted, you must learn to live in accordance with your new environment. and so it was that i felt better after going arabic. back in phils, we were back to eating green mangoes to cure prickly heat (bungang araw). in other words, your theory has basis in fact.

Ang Kuwago said...

Bro. squaretyre,

The cacao fruit is eaten like santol and even tastes similar to it, being slightly sour and sweet at the same time. Their fermented seeds are made into chocolate. Makes you wonder why the Philippines has not been able to rival other countries like Switzerland and Belgium in concocting the world's best chocolate treats. Soil? Supply? Formula? Food for thought.

Eating green mangoes to cure prickly heat? That's probably why they say tamarind broth (sinigang) cools the body during the summer months. Maybe sour fruit generally do.

FilMasons NSW said...

Yeah you're right Kuyang. Unless all the local fruits were destined for export.

Having lived here in Australia for more than 20 years, I do missed all our fruits, like the lanzones (which is so expensive here!). Unfortunately one can not "import" them personally, quarantine is so strict here protecting the native flora and fauna from external diseases.

I still yearn for our Papaya or pawpaw(which a brod here grows in his backyard), kaimito or start apple and custard apple or atis (which btw can be bought here cheaply and they are so huge).

Maybe if one is on fruit and veggies diet, one can be truly healthy. I am trying that now, by detoxing my body and eating mostly fruits. One of which is mango, which is in season now here.

Thank God for those farmers who grows tropical fruits here!

Ang Kuwago said...

Maybe that is also why I thought of writing about our fruits, Kuyang. I was eating all those imported fruits, then I realized that nothing really compares to our local fruits. The satisfaction derived from eating our home-grown fruits is something else, isn't it?

And you do tend to appreciate something more when it isn't readily available, as in the case of our countrymen who are away from the Phils, right?

When you visit the Phils, I am sure you will be looking for all these fruits, haha. Let's hope they will be in season.

Bro. Kuwago

Anonymous said...

What native fauna eat (consume) the Mangosteen Fruit?

Anonymous said...

uhmm... i just wanna ask more about the lanzones.. pls. gve me more information about it.. it's our topic in our investigatory project. specially the mosquito repelant.. how was it done? the complete details pls.. thank you.. pls reply as soon as possible.. thnx.. i hope u could help.. thnx again..=D

Ang Kuwago said...

To use the lanzones as a mosquito repeller, you need to first sun dry its rind. Afterwhich, you can light it up and smoke it to repel the mosquitoes.

Hope this is what you need....

Anonymous said...

thnx again..=D
ur a great help 2 us..
can i ask another one??
wat r the diff. uses of lanzones' parts?
hope u could help us again..
plllsss.. thnx..