Friday, May 2, 2008

Sineguelas, Food of the Gods

The heat of summer is nearing its peak and the leafy greens and water dependent vegetables that were so abundant and robust just weeks ago are now disappearing from the markets. However, a few fruits are ripening now in an annual effort to propagate themselves and seed the countryside before the rainy season.

Sineguelas are one of those “childhood memory fruits” in the Philippines. Sineguelas (Spondias purpurea) or Spanish Plum in English, is a native to Mexico and the western coast of Central and South America. Brought over by the Spaniards, it has taken very well to the Philippine archipelago and thrives here.

The fruit are approximately 1 to 1.5 inches in length and start off purplish or maroon green and ripen to a yellow or dark red state. The skin is taut and shiny and the flesh firm when unripe and slightly astringent (many of my relatives prefer them green hard eaten with salt) When they are ripe Sineguelas are more like the plum I am familiar with, sweet, juicy, with a large pit.

They are in season from April to June or so but they seem to peak in May. In my family, they are considered like manna, food from the gods. There is an almost sacramental aura about them in our household and neighborhood. My wife assures me the best Sineguelas are grown in Siaton, and that they grow nowhere else quite as well as at home. I asked why she thought so. She remarked that while they will grow anywhere in the Philippines the limestone (coral) bluffs along the sea are ideal growing conditions for larger and more prolific fruit production. This leads me to surmise they like well drained neutral acidic soils.

In any event, we have made no less than three trips to Siaton from Dumaguete to pick bushels of these little fruits. Ading’s family has a large plantation of Sineguelas on their large property over looking the sea. They bring them back and prefer to eat them when they are green hard and sour. Dipped in sea salt and eaten until there are no more to eat. The almost mystical attraction to these fruits is baffling to me, but then they are not part of my growing up.

When friends come to visit us, they are given without asking a large bag of Sineguelas to take home. It is like that, sharing something of great value which seems to make the eating of them all the more precious.

The season is just about over now, peaking this month in Siaton, we will have to wait another year to again go sineguelas crazy and eat until sickened by these strange little gems.

1 comment:

alindanaw... said...

First saw this fruit when a Filipino collegue brought some to Malaysia many years ago. But on my many visits to the Philippines I didn't see any until this last trip. Saw many in the market in Pagadian and a tree with a few remaining fruits was pointed out to me! But those in your photos look more gorgeous! Cheers :)