Gazo: It’s santol season!-A A +A
By Betsy Gazo
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
NOW’S the season for santol, that thick-skinned round yellow fruit that we love to split open between our hands and knees to get at the large, fuzzy, sweet-tart seeds at the core. We also love to eat the flesh by dabbing it in some rock salt.
The Bangkok variety is a popular treat because of its thick flesh, yet, when it comes to santol, no variety has beaten our very own Lizares santols. Small with thin flesh, the seeds are really sweet. The sweetness is attributed to the practice of Lizares matriarch Tana Dikang of digging “a small canal along the farthest branch of the tree and dropping into the excavation molasses during the tree’s flowering stage.” (Appetite Magazine, August 2009)
The santol (Sandoricum koetjape) thrives in the tropics where the climate is humid. It is native to Malaysia, Cambodia, and Southern Laos but is well-established in the secondary forests of the Philippines after its introduction here. It is high in carbohydrates with a fair amount of iron but is low in calcium. It also has vitamin B! Did you know that santol’s bark contains an extract that is used as a tonic for childbirth in Malaysia? he bark is also effective against ringworm while the leaves are sudorific (sweat-inducing) when applied to the skin. Well, then, santol is not only a delicious fruit but is also a medicinal one.
We have three santol trees in the backyard and these have been bearing fruit profusely. A lot of the fruits just end up on the ground to rot because we’d be too busy to gather them. Two of the trees are decades old but the fruits are too sour to eat. These used to have sweet ones until one pregnant maid cast a covetous glance at the tree and yearned for the fruit. It must be true, then, what they say about making “panamkon” on the fruits of certain trees. Now, the only tree that bore good enough fruits is young. Our handyman asked if he can bring home some and that “some” turned out to be half a sack full. Seeing someone else enjoying the fruit of our land gave me the idea to make preserves out of the santol fruits.
Based on an old cookbook, what I did was wash the fruits and blanch them for 10 minutes. Blanching will make it easy to peel the fruit. Peel thinly (the skin would have turned soft if blanched thoroughly), halve the fruit, and scoop out the seeds. I set the seeds aside for later cooking. I soaked the flesh in water for two days, changing the water every day. Then, I blanched the fruit halves for 5 minutes before chopping them. With a 1:3/4 ratio, I cooked the fruit (1) in sugar (3/4). I wanted firmness so I omitted water. For a softer pulp, cook with water.
I cooked the seeds with the same fruit-to-sugar ratio. While the candied seeds had a delightfully sweet and sour flavor, the candied flesh has a kind of gentle tartness pushing through the sugary taste that makes santol a good candidate for chutney. A little spice, vinegar and raisins will give you an interesting accompaniment to fried fish or a meat dish.
Tana Dikang’s famous santol jam is made by soaking the peeled fruit in lime overnight with a kilogram of fruit to two tablespoons of lime. Drain and boil fruit in water until soft. Reduce water and add sugar which will enable to induce liquid out of the fruit. This will be the syrup. Cool before serving.
Knowing how to preserve fruit and vegetables will assure a family that food will always be available on the table. When the hands are busy, hunger will flee. Good food also means good health and inexpensive, abundant santol will make a good addition to your diet. The Ifugaos use santol for diarrhea. It has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. An intoxicating drink may be even be prepared by fermenting it. The lumber was used in making wooden religious images. In fact, we still have a wooden Sacred Heart statue that is very old. Believe it or not, the santol also repels termites though I’m not sure how this works. What I know is that our santol trees make good shade trees and have helped in filtering the air and controlling floods in the backyard.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 17, 2012.