Photo from Tsibog.com
Part of the fun in getting ready for New Year’s Eve is to come up with 12 round fruits, each to signify a month of the year. Ideally, there should be 12 different fruits — grapes, oranges, clementines, cantaloupe, pomelo, watermelon, chico…
It’s a tough challenge, so at times, half the fruits in a Filipino’s New Years Fruit Basket or dinner table are likely to be not really round such as mangoes, pears and apples. But the fruit that Filipinos most associate with the celebration of the New Year and which will be always found in a fruit basket are ubas (grapes), preferably the big imported varieties to add a special touch to New Year’s celebrations. For Filipinos having round fruits on the dinner table are supposedly harbingers of good luck for the rest of the new year…
Long live Philippine festive traditions!
Duhat is cultivated throughout the Philippines. Also known as Java plum, the fruit may have been introduced in the Philippine from the Malayan peninsula. The fruit also grows in Indo-Malayan regions and was introduced into other tropical countries.
The fruit is oval to elliptic, around 1.5 to 3.5 centimetres long, dark-purple or nearly black, luscious, fleshy and edible. It contains a single large seed and the juice of the fruit stains the tongue and mouth a garish purple pink. The fruit is seasonal and often comes with the first monsoon rains in August and September. A popular fruit in the Philippines, the ripe ones are eaten outright or with a pinch of salt. Duhat juice is considered as tasty as grape juice. The juice is delicious and is often used as basis or substitute for grapes in local red wine. Analyses of the fruit show that it is a good source of calcium and iron.
Interest in duhat has been revived in recent years on account of their suggested value in the treatment of diabetes. Studies, however, remain inconclusive. No matter, for the true-blue Pinoy a bowl of duhat is a source of pleasure, reminding one of the cool monsoon rains, breezy winds and the end of a hot, long summer.
Mabuhay ang duhat!
A tree reaching a height of 10 meters, makopa (Syzygium malaccense or Malay apple) is cultivated in many Southeast Asian countries for its fleshy, edible fruit.
The makopa fruit is a shiny, oblong or pear-shaped, white splashed, striped with pink, or crimson to purplish colors. The fruit is either seedless or one-seeded. The flesh is white, pithy, juicy but rather bland or tasteless. Some varieties though have a pleasant sweetish flavour.
In the Philippines, makopa is best known as a summer fruit and is often eaten right after picking it from the tree. With its slightly tangy, sweetish taste, kids sometimes strung the small makopa fruits into edible garlands. The fruit is also a perfect ingredient in a fresh salad of chopped makopa, green mango, pineapple and tropical fruits tossed with a chilli and dried shrimp sauce/paste.
If there’s a Top 10 list of fav fruits in the Philippines, lanzones (Lansium domesticum) will easily land on the top 5.
This roundish, seasonal fruit contains a sweet translucent pulp that is surprisingly tasty and makes one to eat more than a handful. The lanzones tree is actually grown throughout the entire Southeast Asian ranging from Southern India to the Philippines. In the Philippines, the lanzones tree is grown mostly on the southern Luzon provinces of Paete, Laguna, where the conditions are favorable to the tree’s survival and flowering.
In Northern Mindanao, the provinces of Butuan, Cagayan de Oro and Camiguin are also known for other lanzones varieites. The Camiguin variety is particularly well-known for larger fruits with a sweet and succulent pulp.
Peeling the fruit takes some practice and the trick is to press the ends to expose the pulpy cores. Avoid biting on the small seed which leaves a bitter after taste. The rainy season of July and August are usually the best time for lanzones when high humidity ripens the fruit on trees.
The fruit also spawned several popular tales in Philippine mythology with stories of poisoned fruits, hence the name ‘lanzones’ which sounds like ‘lason’ or poison in Filipino. More like tall wives’ tales, the fruit is a perennial favorite for locals and visitors alike.
Mabuhay ang lanzones!
It has been said that the best mangoes (mangga in Filipino) in the Philippines can be found in Cebu. True or not, Cebu has a reputation of growing some of the best, sweetest and juiciest varieties of the Philippine mango. And there was a time when the province was amongst the biggest exporters (mainly to Japan) of the bigger, quality varieties that even locals have a hard time getting their hands on.
There are many varieties of mangoes in the Philippines and it has been reported that a book of records (Guinness?) had once described the Philippine variety called “Carabao” as the sweetest in the world.
An all-season fruit, mangoes are available in the Philippines throughout the whole year. But mango aficionados tell of the importance of picking or harvesting the fruit at the right way and time. Mangoes mature after three months and a half from the time its flower blooms. According to mango insiders, the fruit is at its best when carefully handpicked while still green and harvested between 9am- 3pm to prevent rapid exudation of the latex.
In any case, the mango is a versatile fruit and is used in a variety of Philippine desserts such as pies, sherbets, ice cream, candies and preserves. Visitors are advised to try the Philippine mango, the best of which contain a sliver-thin seed, juicy flesh and the sweetest, perhaps, the world over.
Mabuhay ang Mangga!