The fruits of Davao-A A +A
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
DAVAO, the most popular place in Mindanao, is not a city of legendary sights and you're unlikely to want to spend more than a few days here. That said, it’s a friendly place and a pleasant respite from the mania of big cities in Luzon (especially Manila) and Visayas (particularly Cebu). It’s got some good hotels, bargain shopping – especially for tribal handicrafts – and the fresh seafood sold in many restaurants is almost worth the trip alone.
But Davao is also the fruit basket of Mindanao. Name the fruit you like, and Davao more likely has it. Meet some of them:
Topping the list is durian, which is native to the Philippines and its neighboring countries, particularly Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The fruit has been known to the Western world for about 600 years. The 19th-century British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace famously described its flesh as “a rich custard highly flavored with almonds.”
Durian can be made into an excellent ice cream, or a cold milk shake. As a blender ingredient, though, it seems the king of fruits does not mix well with lesser commoners. The distinct durian flavor usually dominates, and in some cases mixing with other fruits accentuates the garlicky component of durian in unfavorable ways.
One known harmonious flavor with durian is coffee. Drinking coffee while eating durian is quite pleasant and invigorating – and a durian-flavored gourmet coffee would be an exotic treat. If you happen to visit Davao City, where the fruit grows abundantly, try drinking the durian coffee.
For those who want to taste durian for the first time, be sure to buy the very best. But how will you know that the durian you are buying is the real thing? Here’s a tip from the experts: “When picking a durian to buy, look at the stem, if it is dry the durian is probably old. If the stem is cut off, shake the fruit and listen for the seeds knocking around; if you hear something the pulp has probably lost some moisture and therefore not as tasty.”
Known in the science world as Citrus maxima, pomelo is actually one of the top “pasalubong” items from Davao to Cebu, Manila and other parts of the country. Evident of this is the continued existence of at least 10 fruit stands along Ponciano Street.
The pomelo is native to Southeast Asia. In Thailand, the fruit is called som-o, and is eaten raw, usually dipped into a salt, sugar and chili pepper mixture. In some parts of the region, it is a popular after lunch snack once it is sprinkled with salt and sliced hot pepper. In rural areas, children often use it as a football.
Pomelo is one fruit which has a lot of uses from the outside to the inside. While the fruit pulp is the main reason why people buy pomelo, the peel is also very useful and can be turned into marmalade. The peel can also be sued as flavoring.
Pomelo has actually found more uses in the Dabawenyo cuisine than what was traditionally practiced. Aside from being consumed raw, the fruits are now used in the preparation of juices and salads.
A Westerner, who once traveled to Asia, wrote after eating the fruit: “The pulp melts away in your mouth after the manner of a ripe peach or strawberry; it has a taste which nobody can describe any more than he can tell how a canary sings or a violet smells…”
Mangosteen is usually eaten fresh as dessert. Hold the fruit with the stem-end downward; take a sharp knife and cut around the middle completely through the rind, and lift off the top half, which leaves the fleshy segments exposed in the colorful “cup” – the bottom half of the rind. Lift out the segments by fork.
Since 2004, mangosteen has been included among an emerging category of novel functional foods sometimes called “superfruits” presumed to have a combination of: (1) appealing characteristics, such as taste, fragrance and visual qualities; (2) rich in nutrients; (3) antioxidant strength; and (4) potential impact for lowering risk against human diseases.
Mangosteen is known for its medicinal properties. In the Philippines, people employ a decoction of the leaves and bark as a febrifuge and to treat thrush, diarrhea, dysentery and urinary disorders. In Malaysia, an infusion of the leaves, combined with unripe banana and a little benzoin is applied to the wound of circumcision. A root decoction is taken to regulate menstruation.
“The rich juicy flavored mango from the Philippines is the most fantastic fruit I have ever tasted,” said Larry Stoffel, an American who is married to a Filipina. “It’s true that we import mangoes from other countries but those imports cannot duplicate the mangoes I have eaten in the Philippines.”
The Philippines is noted for its “Manila Super Mango” because of its taste which until now is “still unmatched.” Former Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Q. Montemayor said the variety has found its way in the Guinness Book of World Records as the sweetest of its kind in the world.
Ripe mangoes are eaten fresh as a dessert or processed into dried mangoes, puree, juice, concentrate, shakes, and many more. When eaten green, they are a tasty treat for lovers of sour fruits as they are usually dipped in salt, fermented fish, or shrimp (bagoong). Green mangoes are also pressed into juice and shakes.
Mango is also used to make juices, both in ripe and unripe form. Pieces of fruit can be mashed and used in ice cream or blended with milk and ice to make thick milkshakes.
In popular culture and commerce, “banana” usually refers to soft, sweet “dessert” bananas that are usually eaten raw. The bananas from a group of cultivars with firmer, starchier fruit are called plantains, and are generally used in cooking rather than eaten raw. The word “banana” is derived from the Arabic word “finger”.
In The Healthy Food Directory, author Michael Van Straten ranks banana near the top because the fruit helps alleviate 14 medical conditions. “The banana is nature’s wonder fruit and the perfect fast food,” hailed Dr. Willie T. Ong in his book, How to Live Longer.
According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, incorporating bananas in one’s day-to-day meals can actually cut stroke-related deaths by as much as 40 percent.
There are several kinds of bananas grown in the country but the most popular ones are the latundan, lakatan, and saba. These are mostly grown in the backyard or as a component in an intercropping scheme with minimum care and management. Cavendish is the export variety grown by commercial banana plantations in southern Philippines, particularly in Davao.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 14, 2012.